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Scottish nationalist leader awarded more than £512,000 after winning court case

Press TV – August 24, 2019

Alex Salmond’s legal victory against the government has been widely seen as yet another victory by Scottish nationalists against an establishment hell-bent on stopping them.

Scotland’s former First Minister had been accused of “inappropriate conduct” during the time he led the Scottish government.

The Scottish government has reportedly paid Salmond more than £512,000 to cover his legal costs after he successfully contested charges of sexual misconduct in court.

Although the case against him effectively collapsed in January, the government has now formally admitted defeat by awarding Salmond the large sum on an “agent and client” basis.

This is a punitive award used by the courts to recognize the fact that the losing party to litigation has caused the other party “unnecessary expenses”.

The Scottish parliament (Holyrood) has reportedly set up an enquiry to look into the huge expenses incurred investigating Salmond and the subsequent pay out after he won his court case.

The official enquiry was set up in the wake of reports that the Scottish government had spent nearly £750,000 (excluding internal costs) trying to defend its flawed legal case against Salmond.

This massive sum, combined with the substantial payment to Salmond, has raised questions about the nature of the enquiry into Salmond’s alleged “misconduct” and whether the case was politically motivated.

The former British diplomat, and supporter of Scottish independence, Craig Murray, alludes to this possibility in his latest post on his popular and respected blog.

For their part, the Scottish Conservative Party has seen fit to go on the political offensive, possibly with a view to deflect potential revelations that they had had a hand in forcing through a botched legal case against Salmond.

Donald Cameron, a Scottish Conservative member of Holyrood, has said it is “outrageous” that so much money had been spent on the case.

Salmond, who was the leader of the pro-independence Scottish National Party (SNP) for over 20 years, still faces a separate trial centred on 14 alleged offences, including two of attempted rape, nine of sexual assault, two of indecent assault and one of breach of the peace.

But in view of the former First Minister’s latest legal victory, it is fair to ask whether the separate charges against him could also be “flawed” and possibly politically motivated.

The legal and criminal cases against Salmond have raised suspicions in the Scottish nationalist community that the British establishment is trying to arrest the momentum toward Scottish independence, by any means necessary, including “flawed” legal procedures.

Salmond is widely seen as the most effective proponent of Scottish independence, as demonstrated by his two highly successful stints as leader of the SNP, first from 1990 to 2000 and then from 2004 to 2014.

August 24, 2019 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception | , | Leave a comment

Long Before Epstein: Sex Traffickers & Spy Agencies

By Elizabeth Vos | Consortium News | August 23, 2019

The alleged use of sexual blackmail by spy agencies is hardly unique to the case of Jeffrey Epstein. Although the agencies involved as well as their alleged motivations and methods differ with each case, the crime of child trafficking with ties to intelligence agencies or those protected by them has been around for decades.

Some cases include the 1950s -1970s Kincora scandal and the 1981 Peter Hayman affair, both in the U.K.; and the Finders’ cult and the Franklin scandal in the U.S. in the late 1980s. Just as these cases did not end in convictions, the pedophile and accused child-trafficker Jeffrey Epstein remained at arms’ length for years.

“For almost two decades, for some nebulous reason, whether to do with ties to foreign intelligence, his billions of dollars, or his social connections, Epstein, whose alleged sexual sickness and horrific assaults on women without means or ability to protect themselves… remained untouchable,” journalist Vicky Ward wrote in The Daily Beast in July.

The protection of sex traffickers by intelligence agencies is especially interesting in the wake of  Epstein’s death. Like others, Epstein had long been purported to have links with spy agencies. Such allegations documented by Whitney Webb in her multi-part series were recently published in Mintpress News.

Webb states that Epstein was the current face of an extensive system of abuse with ties to both organized crime and intelligence interests. She told CNLive! that: “According to Nigel Rosser, a British journalist who wrote in the Evening Standard in 2001, Epstein apparently for much of the 1990s claimed that he used to work for the CIA.”

Vicky Ward, who wrote on Epstein for Vanity Fair before his first arrest, and claimed the magazine killed one of her pieces after Epstein intervened with editor Graydon Carter, said in a Tweet that one of Epstein’s clients was Adnan Khashoggi, an arms dealer who was pivotal in the Iran Contra scandal and was on the Mossad (the Israeli intelligence agency) payroll. This was also noted in a book “By Way of Deception” by former Mossad agent Victor Ostrovsky.

The Times of Israel reported that Epstein was an “active business partner with former prime minister Ehud Barak” until 2015, adding: “Barak formed a limited partnership company in Israel in 2015, called Sum (E.B.) to invest in a high-tech startup…. A large part of the money used by Sum to buy the start-up stock was supplied by Epstein.”

Webb wrote he “was a long-time friend of Barak, who has long-standing and deep ties to Israel’s intelligence community.” On the board of their company sat Pinchas Bukhris, a former commander of the IDF cyber unit 8200.

Epstein’s allegedly protected status was revealed by Alexander Acosta, the former U.S. attorney in Miami who gave Epstein an infamously lenient plea deal in 2007. Acosta, who was forced to resign as President Donald Trump’s labor secretary because of that deal,  reportedly said of the case: “I was told Epstein ‘belonged to intelligence’ and to leave it alone.”

Alexander Acosta: “Told to leave it alone.” (Flickr/Gage Skidmore)

Kincora Boy’s Home

Several cases in the unsavory history linking intelligence agencies and sex scandals put the allegations against Epstein in context. Among these was the U.K. Kincora Boy’s Home, where at least 29 boys were reported to have been targeted at the Belfast, Northern Ireland, facility from the mid-1950s until the late 1970s, until it was shut in 1980. It also involved the alleged protection of child sexual abusers at the home and among their clients.

The Irish Times wrote that “destitute boys were systematically sodomised by members of Kincora staff and were supplied for abuse to prominent figures in unionist politics. The abusers – among them MPs, councillors, leading Orangemen and other influential individuals – became potentially important intelligence assets.”

The Belfast Telegraph also quoted former Labour Party MP Ken Livingstone, who said: “MI5 weren’t just aware of child abuse at Kincora Boys’ Home – they were monitoring it. They were getting pictures of a judge in one case, politicians, a lot of the establishment of Northern Ireland going in and abusing these boys.”

Three staff were eventually convicted of sexually abusing minors, which included the housemaster William McGrath, a loyalist “Orangeman” and allegedly an MI5 agent, according to the Belfast Telegraph in July 2014.

Although the U.K.’s Historical Institutional Abuse inquiry ultimately found  “no credible evidence” to support the allegations, two former U.K. intelligence officers maintained their claim of MI5’s involvement: Brian Gemmell says he alerted MI5 to the abuse at Kincora and was told to stop his investigation; and a former army intelligence officer, Colin Wallace, “consistently claimed that MI5, RUC special branch and military intelligence knew about the abuse at Kincora and used it to blackmail the pedophile ring to spy on hardline loyalists,” according to The Guardian.

The Irish outlet, An Phoblacht, wrote: “The systematic abuse of young boys in the Home and the part played by the British intelligence organisations to keep the scandal under wraps ensured that one side of the murky world of Unionist paramilitarism and its links to the crown forces was kept out of the public domain for years.”

In the U.S., the New York State Select Committee On Crime in 1982  investigated nationwide networks of trafficking underage sex workers and producing child pornography. Dale Smith, a committee investigator, noted that call services using minors also profited from “sidelines,” besides the income from peddling prostitution.  Smith said they sold information “on the sexual proclivities of the clients to agents of foreign intelligence.” Presumably, this information could be used to blackmail those in positions of power. Smith added that one call service sold information to “British and Israeli intelligence.”

The Hayman Affair

Another U.K. scandal included allegations that Sir Peter Hayman,  a British diplomat and deputy director of MI6, was a member of the Pedophile Information Exchange (PIE).

 London headquarters of British Secret Intelligence Service.
(Laurie Nevay, CC BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons)

Police discovered that two of the roughly dozen pedophiles in his circle had been writing to each other about their interest in “the extreme sexual torture and murder of children,” according to the The Daily Mail.

In 2015, The Guardian reported that former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher had been “adamant that officials should not publicly name” Hayman, “even after she had been fully briefed on his activities…. formerly secret papers released to the National Archives shows.”

Still, Hayman was unmasked as a subscriber to PIE in 1981 by M.P. Geoffrey Dickens, who also reportedly raised the national security risk of Hayman’s proclivities, implying they were a potential source of blackmail sought by intelligence agencies.

The British tabloid The Mirror reported that intelligence agencies, including the KGB and CIA, kept their own dossiers on U.K. establishment figures involved with PIE and the abuse of minors, to blackmail the targets in exchange for information.

Hayman was never charged for his association with PIE: The U.K. attorney general at the time, Sir Michael Havers, defended the decision and denied claims that Heyman was given special treatment.

Labour Party MP Barbara Castle allegedly gave a dossier she compiled on pedophiles in positions of power to U.K. journalist Don Hale in 1984 when he was editor of the Brury Messenger. Hale alleged that soon afterward, police from the “Special Branch, the division responsible for matters of national security,” raided his office and removed the Castle dossier. They then threatened him with a “D-notice,” which prevented him from publishing the story on the threat of up to 10 years in prison.

The Finders Cult

Another group accused of trafficking children, which had links to intelligence agencies, was the “Finders” cult. In 1987, The Washington Post reported that two members were arrested in connection with the alleged abuse of six children. Investigators found materials in Madison County, Virginia, which they said linked to a “commune called the Finders.”

Besides nude photographs of children, a Customs Service memo written by special agent Ramon Martinez refers to files “relating to the activities of the organization in different parts of the world, including “London, Germany, the Bahamas, Japan, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Africa, Costa Rica, and Europe.”

Martinez’s memo notes that a Finders’ telex ordered the purchase of two children in Hong Kong. Another expressed interest in “bank secrecy situations.” The memo also documents high-tech transfers to the U.K., numerous properties under the Finders’ control, the group’s interest in terrorism, explosives, and the evasion of law enforcement.

Martinez describes the swift end to his investigation. He wrote that on April 12, 1987, he arrived at the Metropolitan Police Department and was told that all the data was turned over to the State Department which, in turn, advised MPD that “all travel and use of passports by the holders was within the law and no action would be taken. Then he was told that the investigation into the Finders had become a CIA internal matter. The MPD report was classified, not available for review” and “No further action will be taken.”

Martinez was not the only person with unanswered questions. The U.S.News & World Report wrote that N. Carolina Rep. Charlie Rose (Dem.), chair of the House Administration Committee, and Florida’s Rep. Tom Lewis (Rep.) asked “Could our own government have something to do with this Finders organization and turned their backs on these children? That’s what the evidence points to,” says Lewis, adding that “I can tell you that we’ve got a lot of people scrambling, and that wouldn’t be happening if there was nothing here.”

The leniency shown by the State Department and the fact that the CIA would designate the investigation of the Finders group as “an internal matter” raises serious questions. What motive might have driven the CIA to associate with or protect a child abuse ring?

Harry S. Truman State Department building. (Paco8191, CC BY 3.0, Wikimedia Commons)

The Franklin Scandal

The Franklin Scandal erupted in 1988, centering on a child-trafficking ring operating in Omaha, Nebraska, by Lawrence E. King Jr., a former vice chairman of the National Black Republican Council: It was alleged that children were provided to politicians in Washington, D.C., and elsewhere, among other illegal activities.

The late former state Sen. John Decamp alleged in his book “The Franklin Coverup” that a special committee of the Nebraska Legislature launched a probe to investigate the affair, which involved King being indicted for embezzling money from the Franklin Credit Union. The committee hired former Lincoln, Nebraska, police officer Jerry Lowe, whose reports  suggested that King was involved in “guns and money transfers to Nicaragua,” and was linked with the CIA.

James Flanery, an investigative reporter at The World Herald who reported on the scandal,  told associates that King was “running guns and money into Nicaragua,” and that the CIA was heavily involved.”

Like many scandals before and since, the Franklin case ended with no prosecution of the perpetrators. However, Paul Bonacci, one of the alleged victims, was indicted for perjury. He had alleged that he was sexually abused as a minor in Nebraska and around the country where he was flown by Lawrence King.

In 1999, the Omaha World Herald reported Bonacci was awarded $1 million in damages due to his lawsuit against King and other alleged perpetrators. Decamp, who was Bonacci’s attorney, told the newspaper “Obviously, you don’t award $1 million if you don’t think he (Bonacci) was telling the truth.”

Given the history of child trafficking rings that were allegedly connected with or enjoyed the protection of intelligence services, it is possible that similar claims about Jeffrey Epstein are something the authorities, though unlikely given these other instances, should investigate.

Elizabeth Vos is a freelance reporter and regular contributor to Consortium News. 

August 24, 2019 Posted by | Corruption | , , , , | 1 Comment

Epstein: The Maxwell Connection

By George Galloway | RT | August 21, 2019

As Jeffrey Epstein’s accomplice Ghislaine Maxwell appears to have fallen off the face of the Earth, it’s little remembered in the media how I fought a long war against her father Robert and the part I played in his downfall.

It would be scarcely worth recalling at this distance if it did not shed light, or rather a cloud of suspicion, over Maxwell’s favourite child Ghislaine, now at the centre of a dark and fascinating story as bizarre as any which enveloped her late father.

I first met Robert Maxwell when he was an enormously powerful and fiercely intimidating media mogul in the early 1980s. It was in the green room of the BBC’s then flagship program Question Time, hosted by Sir Robin Day – then the doyen of BBC grandees.

“Ah, Mr Galway (sic),” boomed Mr Maxwell, “the PLO man.” At which point he punched me so hard in the solar plexus I doubled over, tears in my eyes. As was the wont of the British establishment at the time, my fellow participants and Sir Robin himself averted their eyes and pretended not to see.

At the time and for nearly a decade, I was closely associated with the then-British satirical magazine Private Eye, writing regularly and providing stories and leads for others, regularly attending the legendary Private Eye lunches at the Soho waterie The Coach and Horses, presided over by the founder and editor of the magazine, Richard Ingrams.

About a year after Maxwell striking his first blow, I submitted a story to Private Eye which, embellished by others, was published and upon which he sued and fought an epic court battle with us. He won.

Although the editor Richard Ingrams spent a night in the cells for refusing to name me as the source, it was soon obvious to Maxwell that it was me and we began a war of attrition which lasted until his death.

In October of 1991, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author and celebrity journalist Seymour Hersh caused to be delivered to my home late one Saturday night a file of papers, a synopsis of a book he had written in which he made serious allegations against Maxwell. So fearsome was Maxwell’s power at the time, he had obtained pre-publication injunctions against anyone publishing any word of it, against anyone printing it, against anyone distributing it, against anyone selling it. In Britain, the Hersh book did not exist.

But I – as a member of the British Parliament – enjoyed the ancient right of legal privilege on anything I said in the Parliament or published on the Order Paper. Moreover, so could anyone else reporting fairly anything I said or wrote there. And so I did.

Inter-alia I accused Maxwell of being a thief, of stealing his own employee’s pension funds, of being an agent of the Israeli intelligence service Mossad, and of betraying the whereabouts in London of the brave Israeli Jewish whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu, causing him to be kidnapped, drugged, and delivered, his jaws wired like Hannibal Lector to ensure his silence, to Israel where he eventually served decades in solitary confinement and even now is not free to talk or travel.

My allegations exploded like a nuclear bomb in the life of Robert Maxwell.

He ordered his journalistic minions (whose pensions he had stolen) to “Piss all over Galloway” and micturate they promptly did.

On the front page of all SIX of his national newspapers, they called me “a jackal” of “scavenging in the dung-heap” a “friend of Arab terrorists” (“Ah, Mr Galway (sic) the PLO man”) and above all of having lied and lied about their proprietor.

Within weeks, the missing pensions were exposed, Maxwell was dead, having fallen, jumped, or been pushed off the back of his yacht – the Lady Ghislaine – off the Canary islands, and Maxwell was given a full Israeli-state funeral on the Mount of Olives presided over by the Israeli president, prime minister and no less than seven former and serving heads of the Mossad. In the eulogy, tribute was paid to the “extraordinary service” Mr Maxwell had given to Israel. The full story of which exact “services” he had provided were buried with him in Jerusalem.

The fateful yacht was called the Lady Ghislaine because his daughter was his favourite child (other daughters were available) and she was his favourite child for a reason. Of all her siblings, Ghislaine Maxwell was the one who was most like him.

Ghislaine Maxwell’s father’s body was lost to the deep and murky waters of international intrigue. Where she will turn up is as yet unknown. What “extraordinary service” she performed and for whom equally remains to be seen.

August 22, 2019 Posted by | Corruption, Deception | , , | 5 Comments

Australia joins US-led anti-Iran flotilla… in the name of national security & economic interests

RT | August 21, 2019

Australia will send a frigate and a spy plane in support of Washington’s dubious initiative to boost security in the Straits of Hormuz by filling it with foreign warships, increasing the risk of miscalculations and provocations.

“The government has decided that it is in Australia’s national interest to work with our international partners to contribute,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Wednesday morning. “Our contribution will be limited in scope and it will be time-bound.”

Following the US and UK lead, the former British colony will reinforce the sparse coalition with a P-8A Poseidon maritime surveillance plane this year and will dispatch a frigate next January for at least six months’ patrol, foreign affairs minister Marise Payne and defense minister Linda Reynolds said in a statement.

Besides this ‘limited’ contribution, Canberra also agreed to provide intelligence and other assistance, as the US faces an uphill battle trying to muster support for its “maritime policing” initiative. Previously, only the UK and Israel had volunteered to battle the much-hyped Iranian threat, following a series of mysterious attacks on oil tankers that were pinned on Tehran and reciprocal vessel seizures by Iran and the UK.

The Islamic Republic, meanwhile, believes the US is simply trying to enforce its unilateral oil sanctions through military pressure after failing to do it via political extortion.

August 20, 2019 Posted by | Militarism | , , , , | 4 Comments

Why the World Is Watching the Fate of an Iranian Tanker in the Mediterranean

Will the Greeks seize it on a US warrant?

By Vijay Prashad – Monthly Review – August 19, 2019

At 11:30 p.m. on August 18, the Iranian tanker Adrian Darya 1 left the shores of Gibraltar at the mouth of the Mediterranean Sea. This ship had been detained 46 days ago by British Royal Marines and Gibraltar’s officials. The British claimed that the ship—then named Grace 1—was taking its cargo of 2.1 million barrels of oil to Syria. There are European Union sanctions against trade with the Syrian government. It is based on these sanctions that the British seized the Iranian vessel.

Last Thursday, on August 15, Gibraltar’s Chief Minister Fabian Picardo ordered the release of the ship after the Iranian authorities said it would not be going to Syria. The immediate destination for Adrian Darya 1 is the Greek port of Kalamata.

Sanctions on Iran

The British, it is clear, seized the Iranian tanker at the urging of the United States. There was no previous British warning that it might enter in such a muscular way into the U.S. attempt to suffocate Iran. Even the location of the seizure unnecessarily raised tensions for the United Kingdom. The waters around Gibraltar are contested between Britain and Spain, with the latter making noises about a formal complaint about the British action.

Gibraltar’s government has been trying to find a middle course between the claims of Britain and Spain. It seeks some form of independence, although with close ties with both its large neighbor and its formal occupant. When the UK asked Gibraltar’s authorities to get involved in the seizure of the Iranian tanker, Gibraltar’s government complied because the request was in line with European Union sanctions against trade with the Syrian government.

In Gibraltar’s courts, the British were largely silent. The case against the Iranian vessel was made by the United States, which changed the basis for the seizure. The U.S. argued that the vessel had to remain impounded as part of its new and harsh sanctions regime against Iran. When Gibraltar was preparing to release the ship, the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., issued a warrant for the ship. This emergency warrant alleged that the ship was owned by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and therefore must not be allowed to sail.

Gibraltar did not agree. The U.S. tried to use its 1977 International Emergency Economic Powers Act, and the new sanctions regime by the Trump administration. None of this appealed to the judiciary in Gibraltar. The government of Gibraltar said that it did not accept the new U.S. sanctions regime on Iran. It had held the vessel based on the European Union sanctions on Syria, not on any EU sanctions on Iran. Therefore, it has allowed Adrian Darya 1 to sail.

Iran’s Reaction

New statistics show that Iran’s economy has been decelerating at a rapid pace. The numbers from the Statistical Center of Iran show that Iran’s GDP shrank by 4.9 percent in 2018-19. Economic growth is slipping backwards, as the sectors of oil, industry, and agriculture post negative numbers. Inflation continues, with the inflation rate now at the highest it has been in a quarter of a century. Iranian traders have been moving their goods to Iraq, which results in the rise of prices within Iran. Most stunningly, the prices of non-trade goods and services—such as health and housing—are rising. All this has put enormous pressure on the government of Hassan Rouhani, although his spokesman Ali Rabiei said on Monday that Iran’s economy is experiencing “positive signs.”

Confidence from the Iranian government is remarkable. Officials in Tehran refuse to be cowed by the pressure from Washington, D.C. When the Adrian Darya 1 left Gibraltar, senior Iranian parliamentarian Alaeddin Boroujerdi said that its release was a result of “the revolutionary diplomacy of resistance.” He pointed to the seizure by Iran of the British ship Stena Impero, which continues to be detained in Iran. The British ship, Boroujerdi said, was being held for its violation of basic maritime rules in the Strait of Hormuz. The seizure of the Iranian ship—he pointed out—“was an act of piracy by England.”

Based on this assessment that the UK had indulged in piracy at the urging of the United States, Iran’s chief judge Ebrahim Raeisi said that the release of Adrian Darya 1 is not sufficient. Compensation must be paid to Iran. What compensation will be demanded from the UK is not clear, and it is further unclear where Iran will formally raise the issue of compensation. Iranian diplomats say that they might approach the United Nations based on the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Will Greece Hold the Tanker?

Within the Trump administration there is appetite to further block the passage of Adrian Darya 1, and make it a flashpoint toward war. That is what Trump’s adviser John Bolton indicated when Gibraltar held the ship. Make your move, he seemed to suggest to Tehran. Iran told the U.S.—through the Swiss authorities—that it must allow the ship free passage. If the Adrian Darya 1 is blocked, it would set a terrible precedent for international shipping.

When the tanker enters Kalamata, it will likely take on a new crew and then set its next destination. There is no indication as to what the ship will do with its 2.1 million barrels of crude oil. It is likely that it will unload its cargo onto another ship in international waters.

Last week, the U.S. government asked Greece to contribute to its naval force in the Persian Gulf. Greece, with its new conservative prime minister, declined—as did France and Germany—to this new U.S. initiative. The Greek government, led by Kyriakos Mitsotakis, is eager for a close relationship with Washington, but it is not willing to enter a frontal clash with Iran. Greece is already in a heated situation with Turkey. To rattle Iran would only further complicate Greece’s fragile dance in the eastern Mediterranean. *

Greece, unlike the U.S., has taken the position that Iran has “the right to develop nuclear technology for peaceful purposes alone.” This is Iran’s position. The United States, as Professor Seyed Mohammad Marandi told Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research, opposes even a peaceful nuclear project for Iran. This is why Trump walked out of the 2015 nuclear deal. This is precisely why the U.S. has been putting immense pressure on Iranian shipping. And this is what led us to the story of the Adrian Darya 1.

*[Actually it is because of its “heated situation with Turkey” that Greece has sought US support at a high cost.] 

August 20, 2019 Posted by | Economics | , , , | 1 Comment

Iran official calls for compensation for tanker seizure

Press TV – August 20, 2019

Judiciary chief Ebrahim Raisi says Iran should be compensated for the seizure of an oil supertanker off the coast of Gibraltar after it was released on Thursday.

Britain’s naval forces seized the Grace 1 and its cargo of 2.1 million barrels of oil in the Strait of Gibraltar on July 4 under the pretext that the vessel might be carrying crude oil to Syria in violation of EU sanctions on Damascus.

Iran says the UK’s reason for confiscation is not valid because Tehran is not a member of the EU and therefore its sanctions do not apply to the country. Moreover, the tanker was never headed to Syria, according to Iranian officials.

The tanker, renamed the Adrian Darya 1, left anchorage off Gibraltar on Sunday after being released.

Raisi, however, said the release is not enough and Iran has to be compensated by those behind the seizure which Iranian officials have described as “state piracy”.

“The amount of time that it was seized will not be compensated just by it being freed,” the judiciary chief was quoted as saying Monday. “Damages must be paid so that it becomes a lesson for all those who act contrary to international regulations,” he added.

Reports said the vessel was heading to Greece after the release which Washington called unfortunate and warned Mediterranean ports against receiving it.

Iran has warned the US against trying to seize the vessel again. Since Gibraltar released the tanker on Thursday, Washington had launched a flurry of efforts to keep the tanker from leaving.

The US Justice Department even issued a warrant on Friday to seize the tanker, claiming that it had links to Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), which the US has designated a terrorist organization.

The Gibraltar government ignored the warrant, noting that the IRGC is not blacklisted in Gibraltar, the UK or in most of the EU generally.

“It’s unfortunate that that happened,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Fox News Channel about the ship’s release.

The US State Department said Washington had conveyed its “strong position” to the Greek government, as well as to all ports in the Mediterranean about facilitating the tanker.

Iran’s Navy commander Rear Admiral Hossein Khanzadi said on Sunday his force is ready to send a flotilla to escort the tanker.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi also warned of “heavy consequences” if the United States renewed its seizure request.

“Such an action, and even the talk of it would endanger shipping safety in open seas,” he said.

“Iran has issued the necessary warnings through official channels, especially the Swiss embassy, to American officials not to commit such an error because it would have heavy consequences,” Mousavi added.

The Swiss embassy in Tehran represents US interests in the Islamic Republic in the absence of diplomatic relations between Iran and the United States after the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Tensions have escalated since US President Donald Trump pulled out of a 2015 nuclear deal with Iran in May last year. Washington wants to reduce Iran’s oil exports to zero under unilateral sanctions which it imposed on Tehran.

The tanker’s seizure is seen in line with Washington’s “maximum pressure” campaign to bend Iran. When the ship was originally seized, Spanish and even Gibraltar officials admitted that it had come on the US request.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Monday because of US sanctions, Iran could not disclose where the oil would go.

Iranian MP Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh called on Britain to help the tanker reach its destination.

Iran still holds in its custody a British-flagged tanker which the IRGC impounded on July 19 for “violating international maritime law” in the Persian Gulf.

“The crisis with Britain is not over. Britain has the primary responsibility for ending the oil tanker crisis,” said Falahatpisheh who is the head of the Iranian parliament’s national security and foreign affairs committee.

“Until the Iranian oil tanker arrives at its destination the British must help end the crisis,” he said.

August 20, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , | 3 Comments

FCO Speeds Up Planning to Move UK Embassy to Jerusalem

By Craig Murray | August 18, 2019

Following US National Security Adviser John Bolton’s talks with Boris Johnson and his ministers in London last week, FCO officials have been asked to speed up contingency planning for the UK to move its Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, with an eye to an “early announcement” post Brexit.

The UK is currently bound by an EU common foreign policy position not to follow the United States in moving its Embassy to Jerusalem. As things stand, that prohibition will fall on 1 November. FCO officials had previously been asked to produce a contingency plan, but this involved the construction of a £14 million new Embassy and a four year timescale. They have now been asked to go back and look at a quick fix involving moving the Ambassador and immediate staff to Jerusalem and renaming the Consulate already there as the Embassy. This could be speedily announced, and then implemented in about a year.

Johnson heads the most radically pro-Israel cabinet in UK history and the symbolic gesture of rejection of Palestinian rights is naturally appealing to his major ministers Patel, Javid and Raab. They also see three other political benefits. Firstly, they anticipate that Labour opposition to the move can be used to yet again raise accusations of “anti-semitism” against Jeremy Corbyn. Secondly, it provides good “red meat” to Brexiteer support in marking a clear and, they believe, popular break from EU foreign policy, at no economic cost. Thirdly, it seals the special link between the Trump and Johnson administrations and sets the UK apart from other NATO allies.

Bolton also discussed the possibility of UK support for Israeli annexation of areas of the West Bank to “solve” the illegality of Israeli settlements on occupied territory. My FCO sources believe this is going to be much more difficult politically for the Cabinet to agree than simply moving the Embassy, due to lack of support on their own backbenches.

This is an insight into the future of British foreign policy if the Johnson government, and the UK, both survive. In the massive defeat of the UK at the UN General Assembly two months ago over the illegal occupation of the Chagos Islands, the UK was in a voting block with only the USA, Israel, Australia, Hungary and the Maldives, against the rest of the world. The Maldives had a particular maritime interest there, but the leadership of the others – Donald Trump, Viktor Orban, Scott Morrison, Benjamin Netanyahu and now Boris Johnson – constitute a distinct and extreme right wing bloc. These are very worrying times indeed.

August 18, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Iran made ‘no commitments’ over released tanker, Syria ‘wasn’t its destination’

RT | August 16, 2019

Iran has made no commitments to gain the release of its tanker from detention in Gibraltar, an Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman said on Friday.

“Iran has given no assurances over the ‘Grace 1’ not going to Syria to secure its release,” a state broadcaster’s website quoted Abbas Mousavi as saying. “The tanker’s destination was not Syria… and even if it was, it did not concern anyone else.”

Fabian Picardo, chief minister for the British territory, said the detention order was lifted after written assurances from Tehran that the ship would not discharge oil in Syria in violation of EU sanctions.

The tanker carrying Iranian oil is preparing to set sail into the Mediterranean, the deputy head of Iran’s Ports and Maritime Organization, Jalil Eslami, said on Friday. The ‘Grace 1’ will be renamed and switch to the Iranian flag for its onward journey, Eslami told state television.

August 16, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , | Leave a comment

How the OPCW’s investigation of the Douma incident was nobbled

By Paul McKeigue, David Miller, Jake Mason, Piers Robinson Members of Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media

The creation in 2014 of a new mechanism – the “Fact-Finding Mission in Syria” (FFM) – to investigate alleged chemical attacks allowed the OPCW to bypass the procedures laid down in the Chemical Weapons Convention for investigations of alleged use, and to set its own rules for these investigations.

The roles of the Director-General and the newly appointed director of the Investigation and Identification Team (IIT) are mostly ceremonial. The effective boss of the OPCW is the Chief of Cabinet Sébastien Braha, a French diplomat, and the Principal Investigator of the IIT is Elise Coté, a Canadian diplomat. Although these individuals have obvious conflicts of interest in relation to Syria, the OPCW lacks any procedure for managing such situations.

The Technical Secretariat’s excuse for suppression of the Engineering Assessment – that evidence that the cylinders were manually placed rather than dropped from the air is “outside of the mandate and methodology of the FFM” – is fallacious and contradicts OPCW’s published reports on the Douma incident.

It was already clear from open-source evidence, as we pointed out in an earlier briefing note, that the Interim and Final Reports of the FFM on the Douma incident had been nobbled.* Our sources have now filled in some of the details of this process. Specifically:

  • By mid-June 2018 there would have been ample time to draft an interim report that summarized the analysis of witness testimony, open-source images, on-site inspections and lab results. We have learned that the original draft of the interim report, which had noted inconsistencies in the evidence of a chemical attack, was revised by a process that was not transparent to FFM team members to become the published Interim Report released on 6 July 2018 that included only the laboratory results.
  • After the release of the Interim Report, the investigation proceeded in secrecy with all FFM team members who had deployed to Douma excluded. It was nominally led by Sami Barrek who as FFM Team Leader had left Damascus before the on-site inspections began. These FFM team members do not know who wrote the document that was released as the “Final Report of the FFM”.
  • We have learned from multiple sources that the second stage of the investigation involved consultation with Len Phillips, the previous leader of FFM Team Alpha who worked in the OPCW during this period as a self-employed consultant.

From examination of three earlier FFM reports on incidents in 2015 or 2017 where Phillips was the Team Leader, it is clear that these reports also excluded or ignored evidence that these alleged chemical attacks had been staged. Specifically:

  • The FFM report on the alleged chlorine attacks in Idlib between 16 March and 20 May 2015 omitted the crucial fact, later noted by the Joint Investigative Mechanism, that the refrigerant canisters allegedly used as components of chemical munitions could not have been repurposed.
  • The FFM report on the alleged sarin attack in Khan Sheikhoun on 4 April 2017 omitted the information, later noted by the Joint Investigative Mechanism which had access to the same records, that the recorded hospital admission times of at least 100 patients were too early for them to have reached hospital if they had become casualties at the time the attack was alleged to have occurred.
  • The FFM investigation of the alleged chlorine attack in Ltamenah on 25 March 2017, reported on 13 June 2018, led it to discover a previously unrecorded sarin attack nearby the day before, and to prompt the White Helmets to provide, eleven months later, munition parts that tested positive for intact sarin. The report failed to explain or even comment on how intact sarin could have persisted for so long in the open.

This indicates that the suppression of the Engineering Assessment of the Douma incident was not an isolated aberration. In this context it is relevant that the opposition-linked NGOs on which the FFM has relied for evidence since 2014 have dubious provenance, and at least some of them have been set up under UK tutelage.

The credibility of the OPCW cannot be restored simply by finding some way to reverse what were purported to be the findings of the FFM on the Douma incident, but only by an independent re-examination of all its previous investigations of alleged chemical attacks in Syria, and a radical reform of its governance and procedures.

To resolve the discrepancy between the conclusions of the internal Engineering Assessment and those of the Final Report, a first step would be to make public the assessments of the external engineering experts on whom the Final Report relied. The engineering assessments were based on observations of the cylinders and measurements at the locations where they were found.

As the cylinders, tagged and sealed by the OPCW inspectors, are in the custody of the Syrian government, it is feasible to undertake an independent study to determine whether the conclusions of earlier engineering assessments can be replicated. For such a study to be credible, it would have to be undertaken by a panel independent of OPCW, in accordance with methods for reproducible research.

This is the Summary of a long work first published by Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media earlier this year, to read the full report click here.

*The term ‘nobbled’ is used here to describe illegal or unfair interference. The term was originally used to describe actions designed to prevent a horse from winning a race.

August 15, 2019 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, False Flag Terrorism | , | 2 Comments

US Axis of Aggression in Gulf

By Finian Cunningham | Strategic Culture Foundation | August 15, 2019

When Washington announced a few weeks ago the formation of a maritime “international coalition” to “protect shipping” in the Persian Gulf, many observers were skeptical. Now skepticism has rightly turned to alarm, as the proposed US-led “coalition” transpires to comprise a grand total of just three nations: the US, Britain and Israel.

The term “coalition” has always been a weasel word used by Washington to give its military operations around the world a veneer of international consensus and moral authority. If the US goes ahead with deploying forces in the Persian Gulf the guise of “coalition” is threadbare. It will be seen for what it is: naked aggression.

Iran promptly warned that if the US, Britain and Israel move on their intention to deploy in the Persian Gulf, it will not hesitate to defend itself from a “clear threat”.

Britain has ordered this week another warship, HMS Kent, to the Gulf. The move, significantly, occurred as Trump’s hawkish national security advisor John Bolton was in London for two-day official meetings with PM Boris Johnson and other senior ministers. Bolton praised Britain’s decision to join the US-led Operation Sentinel mission, rather than an alternative proposed European naval mission. It’s not clear if HMS Kent is simply replacing another British warship in the Gulf, HMS Duncan, or if this is a further buildup in force. Either way, the line up of US, Britain and reportedly Israel is a foreboding potential offensive.

Israeli leaders have in the recent past repeatedly called for military attacks on Iran, claiming without evidence that the Islamic Republic is secretly building nuclear weapons, thus allegedly posing an existential threat to the Jewish state, despite the latter possessing an estimated 200-300 nuclear warheads.

Given the Trump administration’s manic hostility towards Tehran, which it labels a “terrorist regime”, and given the long history of US-British treachery against Iran, it is understandable the alarm being aroused if Washington, London and Tel Aviv proceed with their flotilla in the Gulf.

Major General Hossein Salami, commander-in-chief of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, slammed the proposed US-led trio of forces as a “coalition of demons”.

Iranian defense minister Brigadier General Amir Hatami warned that any such US deployment involving Israel in a waterway contiguous with Iran’s southern coast would have “disastrous consequences for the region”. Tehran would view it as an act of war.

Will Washington light the fuse? President Donald Trump and his psychotic war advisor John Bolton have certainly talked tough on several occasions over recent weeks about attacking Iran and “destroying” the Persian nation with overwhelming force. Combined with the depraved Israeli prime minster Benjamin Netanyahu and the lackey British premier Boris Johnson, the “axis of insanity” is perplexing.

However, Trump’s threats have often turned out to be empty. Washington has said before it would “defend” its interests when cargo ships were sabotaged in recent weeks. Iran was blamed by the US without evidence for the sabotage incidents, but Washington’s bellicose rhetoric didn’t materialize in military action. Even when Iran shot down a US $220-million spy drone over its territory on June 20, Trump balked at ordering “retaliatory” air strikes.

Another deterring factor is Iran’s formidable anti-ship missiles and air defenses which are augmented by the latest Russian technology, as documented by John Helmer.

There is thus a fair chance that the Trump administration will back off from its plans for a maritime incursion in the Persian Gulf. Even the intellectually challenged White House must know that any such move – especially involving a blatant axis of aggression of the US, Britain and Israel – will be tantamount to declaring war. The consequences for the war-torn region, the global economy and world peace would indeed be potentially calamitous. Surely, the unhinged American, British and Israeli leaders know this?

International consensus and world opinion may also be a vital check on the US-led folly of antagonizing Iran. The refusal by Germany, France and other European nations to participate in the US maritime force dealt a significant blow to Washington’s subterfuge of forming a coalition camouflage for its aggression against Iran.

The Americans were infuriated. US officials have reportedly lobbied the Berlin government to change its mind, to no avail. One American official was reported to have complained: “German officials keep telling us that they’re on our side, but they have to side with Iran on nuclear related issues because of the nuclear deal. Iran is attacking tankers which has nothing to do with the deal. So what’s Germany’s excuse for not siding with us this time?”

Richard Grenell, the pesky US ambassador in Berlin, displayed exasperation over Germany’s rebuff to the naval coalition plan, dubbed Operation Sentinel. Employing his best double-think, Grenell said: “German participation would help deescalate the situation. The Iranians would see a united West.”

This comes against a background of various rows between the Trump administration and Berlin, including on NATO spending, trade tariffs and the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project with Russia.

Washington is peeved by the Europeans and Germany in particular for not giving its purported naval coalition in the Gulf the desired appearance of international mandate.

As Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif remarked, the US is “isolated”, apart from having the British and Israelis riding shotgun on its now-evident adventure of aggression. From political, legal and moral viewpoints, it will be difficult for the Trump administration to proceed with its plan to “protect shipping” in the Persian Gulf because it is abundantly clear that the plan is a flagrant war footing.

If the US and its allies were genuine about forming a protection arrangement for commercial shipping routes through the Strait of Hormuz in the Gulf – where 20-30 per cent of globally shipped oil passes each day – then they would do well to take on board the Russian proposal presented at the UN on August 8.

Dmitry Polyansky, Russia’s acting envoy to the UN, set forth a multilateral security concept. He emphasized that the partnership would be a genuine international coalition acting within the framework of the UN Security Council. The proposal, which China has backed, would include all stakeholders for the safety of shipping through the vital Persian Gulf, including Iran. This is surely the way to go towards de-escalating the dangerous tensions in the region. The key is that any such initiative must be formulated in keeping with UN principles and international law. It is not for one, two or three nations to assume the role of naval “policemen” in an area of international waterways. Even if we take Washington’s rhetoric about “protecting shipping” at face value, its deployment of force in the Gulf is an illegitimate assumption of power. It is outside UN principles and without Security Council mandate. In a word, illegal.

European and Asian nations would be advised to back the Russian initiative in order to maintain peace in the Gulf. By contrast, Washington’s plans are a reckless and reprehensible provocation for war.

August 15, 2019 Posted by | Militarism, Wars for Israel | , , , | Leave a comment

Gibraltar releases Iran-operated tanker despite US pressure: Paper reports

Press TV August 15, 2019

Gibraltar’s government has reportedly released an Iranian-operated supertanker, which was seized by British marines in the Strait of Gibraltar on July 4, despite pressure from the United States for the vessel’s continued detainment.

“Authorities in Gibraltar have released the Iranian supertanker Grace 1, which was seized on July 4 on suspicion it was shipping 2.1 million barrels of crude oil to Syria in breach of EU sanctions,” Reuters quoted the Gibraltar Chronicle as reporting on Thursday.

According to the report, the chief justice of Gibraltar’s supreme court, Anthony Dudley, said there was no US application currently before the court.

The Gibraltar Chronicle also claimed that the decision to release the Grace 1 tanker came after receiving formal written assurances from the Iranian government that it would not discharge its cargo in Syria.

Iran has strictly rejected claims that the vessel was ever carrying crude to the Arab country.

Spain’s Foreign Ministry reported after the incident that the UK had seized the vessel at the request of the US, which has been trying to trouble Iran’s international oil vessels as part of its campaign of economic pressure against the Islamic Republic.

Earlier on Thursday, Gibraltar said that the US had applied to seize the Iranian-operated oil tanker after British media reported that the vessel’s release was imminent following a set of diplomatic exchanges between Tehran and London.

“The US Department of Justice has applied to seize the Grace 1 on a number of allegations which are now being considered,” the Gibraltar government said in a statement.

It added that the “matter will return to the Supreme Court of Gibraltar at 4 p.m. (1400 GMT) today.”

A diplomatic dispute broke out between Iran and the UK on July 4, when Britain’s naval forces unlawfully seized Grace 1 and its cargo of 2.1 million barrels of oil in the Strait of Gibraltar under the pretext that the supertanker had been suspected of carrying crude to Syria in violation of the European Union’s unilateral sanctions against the Arab country.

However, reports show the confiscation took place upon a call by the US.

Tehran rejected London’s claim that the tanker was heading to Syria, slamming the seizure as “maritime piracy.”

Iran’s Ports and Maritime Organization said Tuesday that Britain was expected to soon free Grace 1, after the two sides exchanged certain documents to pave the way for the supertanker’s release.

August 15, 2019 Posted by | War Crimes | , , | 2 Comments

Corbynite Chris Williamson MP sues Labour for ‘re-suspension’ over alleged anti-Semitism

RT | August 14, 2019

Left-wing MP Chris Williamson is suing Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party over their decision to reimpose his suspension following allegations of anti-Semitism. A crowdfunding page has been set-up to help with his legal fees.

Williamson, the MP for Derby North and key ally of Labour leader Corbyn, is challenging the party’s right to withdraw the whip from him (i.e., suspend him) just two days after he was reinstated following a disciplinary hearing.

The 62 year-old has taken to social media to thank supporters who have contributed to cover court costs to help “overturn the unconstitutional decision to ‘re-suspend’ me from the party I love.”

Williamson has lodged legal papers which have been put before a court and sent to Labour’s general secretary, Jennie Formby. The party is expected to defend its decision, which could lead to a highly embarrassing court case.

Labour had originally handed Williamson a reprimand over remarks he made suggesting that the party had been “too apologetic” over the anti-Semitism “crisis” that has dogged it over many months.

It comes a week after Williamson was forced to change the venue of an event he had been due to speak at in Brighton, after hotel staff were allegedly subjected to social media abuse and threats of violence.

August 14, 2019 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , | Leave a comment