Archive | February 11th, 2016

Russia has offered US ‘concrete plan’ to end Syrian crisis

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Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has revealed the US is studying Moscow’s “concrete” plan to end the war in Syria, while expressing concerns that rhetoric over the humanitarian issue is hindering efforts to resolve the crisis in the Arab country.

“During our contacts with Washington, we have proposed an absolutely concrete plan which they are now studying… I hope the simple proposals the plan contains will not take too much time for Washington to consider,” Lavrov told the Russian daily MK in an interview, while stressing that he could not elaborate on the details of the plan.

The interview, which comes ahead of Diplomat Day in Russia, largely dealt with the “information war” Russia has been embroiled in, according to Lavrov. Russia’s top diplomat said the stand-off goes beyond Eastern Europe, with the settlement of the Syrian crisis seemingly falling prey to it as well.

“They’ve tried to turn the humanitarian situation in Syria into almost a measure of the ability to take further steps towards reaching a political settlement [of the crisis], making its resolution a preliminary precondition for starting any meaningful talks between the Syrians,” Lavrov said, adding that Moscow is now increasingly being accused of aggravating the situation by conducting its air campaign against terrorist groups in the Arab country.

Russia has even had to compile a report for the UN explaining who was behind the humanitarian crisis in Syria, he revealed.

The situation has been further aggravated by selective, incomplete coverage of the humanitarian crisis by the Western media, according to the official.

“Just for how long can you talk about 40,000 civilians in Madaya not getting enough food, medicine, and other basic necessities because they are surrounded by government troops, and at the same time turn a blind eye to the fact that 200,000 people have been surrounded by Islamic State fighters and other militants in the city of Deir ez-Zor?” Lavrov said.

The city of Deir ez-Zor is an enclave in eastern Syria controlled by government troops and surrounded by Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) jihadists. Russia’s Defense Ministry delivered humanitarian aid to the besieged city in January.

“We started to airdrop humanitarian aid in such [besieged] settlements while being backed and accompanied by Syrian air forces. We were immediately blamed for dropping the cargo blindly, without guarantees that the aid would get into safe hands on the ground. One can invent any reason [for accusations],” Lavrov said.

Lavrov and Kerry agreed in a telephone call last week on plans to convene a meeting of the International Syria Support Group (ISSG) in Munich on February 11, when the sides are to consider “all the aspects of the Syrian settlement.”

The two top diplomats also urged both Bashar Assad and the opposition forces “to ensure humanitarian access… to the areas of the country blocked both by the government troops and the armed opposition units,” the Russian foreign ministry said, adding that Washington and Moscow will look into possibly coordinating their actions to deliver humanitarian aid to certain areas of Syria.

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JEREMY SALT ON ANTI SYRIA PROPAGANDA ESCALATION

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Comment from geopolitical analyst Jeremy Salt on the appalling propaganda piece in the Guardian entitled: UN report: Syrian Government actions amount to extermination
[note holocaust association already introduced by Samantha Powers in relation to #Madaya propaganda storm]
Samantha Powers words
“I have looked through the report, it has all the characteristics of previous UN Human Rights reports on Syria. The timing is extremely suspect – released just as the Syrian army closes in on Aleppo.
We have seen a great spike in propaganda in the past few days, against Russian air strikes and over the number of civilians building up on the Syrian border, said to be 35,000, but 70,000 are said to be coming and yesterday the Turkish deputy PM spoke of 600,000 on the way.  All this can be seen as the possible prelude to establishing a buffer zone – we can’t look after any more in Turkey, so the only answer is to look after them inside Syria ….
The UN Human Rights Council speaks of 500 interviews. There is no mention of who these people are, how the UN HRC got their names and where they were interviewed. The HRC’s answer is that names cannot be released but at the same time we cannot accept as credible any report that does not/will not provide such information.
There is absolutely no means of verifying it and given the HRC’s previous record,  its word cannot be trusted. You might remember Navi Pillai’s hysterical statements about Syria when she was head of this council . I had a run-in with one of the committee members when i criticised a report on Syria for the same reasons I am giving here. It made many lurid accusations without providing a skerrick of reliable information. In a very heated discussion she admitted what was not in the report, that most of the people interviewed were in Turkey or Jordan, and, I would imagine,  in the refugee camps.
I have no doubt that being in a Syrian prison is very unpleasant experience, perhaps as unpleasant as being in prison at Abu Ghraib, but extermination is an extremely powerful word and to make an accusation of a policy of extermination without providing the evidence anyone would need to know to back it up, exposes, I think, the true agenda of this group of people.
Watch how its now going to be used by governments and groups like HRW. ” ~ Jeremy Salt

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New US Spy Satellite Lifts Off as Obama Criticizes N. Korean Launch

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Sputnik 

Days after criticizing North Korea for launching a satellite into space, the United States sent its own, brand new military satellite into orbit Wednesday morning.

The National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) is the agency in charge of the United States’ fleet of spy satellites, and early Wednesday morning, the NRO sent its latest above stratosphere. The NROL-45 satellite was sent into space on the back of a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV rocket launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base.

The NRO already has three additional launches scheduled for the upcoming year. Two will lift off in May and June, both from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The third will launch from Vandenberg in December.

The NRO will not say, specifically, what kind of operations these satellites will be conducting. Its payload remains classified, and a statement on the ULA’s website vaguely describes NROL-45 as being necessary for the “support of national defense.”

The timing of this launch is surprising given Washington’s condemnation of a North Korean satellite launch on Sunday.

The United States views any rocket launch by Pyongyang as a veiled attempt to perfect its ballistic missile technology. In the wake of Sunday’s launch, President Obama reaffirmed America’s commitment to defending South Korea.

“The United States stands in solidarity with the ROK [South Korea] and will take the necessary steps to fulfill our ironclad commitment to defend the ROK and our other allies in the region,” Obama told South Korean president Park Geun-hye on Monday night.

“Our concern though is that they do a space-launch but really it’s the same technology to develop ICBMs [intercontinental ballistic missiles],” a US official said earlier this month, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Leaders from South Korea, Japan, and the US have already agreed to pursue stricture United Nations sanctions against Pyongyang over Sunday’s launch.

“[The sides] agreed to closely cooperate to make sure that the Security Council can adopt a resolution for strong and effective sanctions on North Korea,” said a press service for South Korean President Park.

It’s hard to imagine that the NRO’s series of satellite launches will elicit a similar reaction from Washington’s allies.

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Petition calls for Obama to be tried for ‘war crimes’ in The Hague

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RT 

A petition accusing Barack Obama of war crimes and demanding he be prosecuted has been published on the White House website. It has already gained about 4,000 signatures.

“We demand conviction of a war criminal Barack Obama and trial in the International Criminal Court in [The] Hague. He is guilty of crimes not only against the USA citizens, but against the whole world,” the petition states.

The authors also note that “one of the most dreadful prisons in history – Guantanamo – continues to function.”

The US added to the de-stabilization of the situation in the Middle East, too, the petition’s authors state.

“Libya was destroyed as a result of Obama’s aggression. In Syria, Obama’s agents train, fund and organize terrorist groups, deceitfully naming them ‘moderate opposition,’ who, among other things, bear a relation to Al-Qaeda, implicated in crimes against the American people.”

Last but not least, the petition accuses the US government of constant illegal surveillance.

“Secret services collect the Americans’ personal data information on a 24-hour basis under the canopy battling terrorism, using electronic surveillance tools on political undesirables, effectively stomping on the Americans’ right for privacy.”

If the petition – published on Monday – gets 100,000 votes by March 9, the White House administration will have to respond to it.

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Turkey’s Revival of a Dirty ‘Deep State’

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By Jonathan Marshall 

Turkey’s embattled President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is resurrecting the “deep state” alliance of secret intelligence operatives and extreme rightists that he so notably challenged just a few years ago while putting hundreds of military officers and other opponents on trial for conspiring against Turkish democracy. In a remarkable about-face, Erdogan is now emulating the ruthless tactics of previous authoritarian rulers at the expense of Turkey’s evolution as a liberal state.

Like many of his secular predecessors, Erdogan has reverted to waging an all-out war against radical Kurdish separatists, the PKK. He is dramatically expanding the once discredited National Intelligence Agency, which in years past recruited Mafia criminals and right-wing terrorists to murder Kurdish leaders, left-wing activists and intellectuals. And he appears to be forging an alliance with ultranationalist members of the National Action Party (MHP), who supplied many of the ruthless killers for those murderous operations.

These developments should alarm U.S. and European leaders. They are ominously anti-democratic trends in a country that once promised to meld the best of Western and Near Eastern traditions. They are also helping to drive Turkey’s secret alliances with Islamist extremists in Syria and its violent opposition to Kurdish groups that are leading the resistance to ISIS in that country.

Erdogan successfully cultivated a democratic image after his moderate Islamic party, the Justice and Development Party (AKP), gained a two-thirds parliamentary majority in the November 2002 elections. Then in 2008, with public support for his party sagging, Erdogan oversaw the mass indictment of more than 200 former military officers, academics, journalists, businessmen and other opponents of the AKP.

The 2,455-page indictment alleged a vast conspiracy by members of an alleged “Ergenekon terrorist organization,” named after a mythical place in the Altay Mountains, to destabilize Turkish society and overthrow the government.

The alleged Ergenekon plot drew credibility from an all-too-real alliance of intelligence operatives, criminals and rightist terrorists exposed in the aftermath of the so-called “Susurluk Incident.” A car crash in the Turkish town of Susurluk in 1996 connected one of the country’s leading heroin traffickers and terrorists with a member of the conservative ruling party, the head of the counterinsurgency police, and the Minister of Interior.

Subsequent investigations linked this “deep state” network to a former NATO program — sometimes known by the name of its Italian version, “Operation Gladio” — to foment guerrilla resistance in case of a Soviet occupation of Turkey.

In contrast to the legitimate revelations that grew out of the Susurluk affair, the Ergenekon proceeding at times resembled a Soviet show trial. A court handed down life sentences to a former head of the Turkish military and several top generals, the heads of various intelligence organizations, a prominent secular ultranationalist, secular journalists, and a prominent deputy from a secular opposition party, among others.

A separate proceeding, known as Sledgehammer,” convicted more than 300 secular military officers of involvement in an alleged coup plot against the AKP government in 2003.

Critics accused the Erdogan regime of using the cases to neutralize its potential rivals as part of its broader suppression of political dissent.

“The intimidation and the number of arrests have steadily risen in the last 10 years,” Der Spiegel observed in 2013. “Many journalists no longer dare to report what’s really happening, authors avoid making public appearances and government critics need bodyguards. The anti-terrorism law is an effective instrument of power for the government as the supposed terrorist threat is an accusation that’s hard to disprove. It plays on a deep-rooted fear among Turks that someone is trying to destabilize and damage the nation.”

The two big trials that fanned that fear were based on falsified evidence and a politicized judicial system. The injustice was effectively recognized by Istanbul’s high criminal court in 2014 when it freed the former army chief of staff convicted in the Ergenekon case. In March 2015, a prosecutor admitted that evidence submitted in the Sledgehammer case was “fake” and 236 convicted suspects were acquitted.

However, just as Erdogan had used those two cases to purge the Turkish power structure of his secular critics, so he used the discrediting of those cases as an excuse to purge supporters of another rival, the exiled moderate Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen. Erdogan accused them of terrorism and of creating a “parallel state” to challenge his rule. The crackdown followed judicial actions and news leaks, attributed to Gülen followers, that implicated Erdogan’s family and supporters in high-level corruption. As the New York Times observed, Erdogan turned his back on those show trials “for the simple reason that the same prosecutors who targeted the military with fake evidence are now going after him.”

Now, in a complete reversal of his previous warnings about the dangers of the deep state, Erdogan is actively cultivating the very institutions that were at its core.

For example, the government is planning a 48 percent increase in spending for the National Intelligence Agency (MIT) in 2016, on top of a 419 percent increase over the past decade. The new money is slated to pay for construction of a big new headquarters building and to expand the agency’s operations.

According to Turkish expert Pinar Tremblay, “What we are observing here is a national intelligence agency that has become a prominent player in the decision-making process for Turkish politics. … [MIT head Hakan] Fidan acts as a shadow foreign minister. He is present in almost all high-level meetings with the president and prime minister. It is an open secret that both the president and the prime minister trust Fidan more than any other bureaucrat.”

After MIT trucks were caught in 2013 and 2014 smuggling ammunition, rocket parts, and mortar shells to radical Islamic groups in Syria, Erdogan’s allies put police and other officials involved in the raids on trial for allegedly conspiring with Gülen against the government.

A recent report also suggest that Erdogan is also seeking support for his Syrian adventures from members of the National Action Party (MHP), sometimes known as the Grey Wolves. Once openly neo-fascist in ideology, the party figured prominently in terrorist violence in the 1970s and 1980s with backing from military and police officials. Mehmet Ali Agca, the terrorist who tried to assassinate Pope John Paul II in 1981, was a member of the Grey Wolves.

Members of a youth branch of the MHP are reportedly now fighting in Syria to support that country’s Turkish ethnic minority, the Turkmen, against Syrian Kurds. (The Turkmen are also being armed by the MIT.) At least one MHP notable was killed recently by a Russian bombing raid; one of the mourners at his funeral was the Turkish gunman who murdered the pilot of the Russian jet shot down by Turkey in November.

A leading Turkish expert on the Grey Wolves, journalist Kemal Can, says they are drawn to supporting the Turkmen less for ideological reasons than because of state recruitment. “I think that, directly or indirectly, the state link is the decisive one,” he said. “The ultranationalists are the most fertile pool for secret operations.”

Many members of the MHP are also drawn to the cause by their violent opposition to the Kurds and other non-Turkish minority groups.

After PKK militants attacked Turkish soldiers and police last summer and fall, Grey Wolves attacked 140 offices of the HDP, the Peoples’ Democratic Party which supports the rights of Kurds and other minorities, according to the leftist Turkish journalist Sungur Savran, setting many offices on fire:

“Ordinary Kurds were hunted on the streets of the cities and towns of the Turkish-dominated western parts of the country, intercity buses stopped and stoned, and Kurdish seasonal workers attacked collectively, their houses and cars burnt down, and they themselves driven away en masse.”

Such polarizing violence suited the needs of Erdogan’s AKP party, which wants to eliminate the HDP from parliament in order to gain the super-majority it needs to revise the constitution to enhance Erdogan’s powers as president.

Last September, intriguingly, one leader of the ultranationalist MHP urged restraint against ordinary Kurds, saying that “equating the PKK and our Kurdish-origin siblings is a blind trap” that would ensure wider ethnic conflict. Further, he claimed that groups acting in the name of the Grey Wolves to attack Kurds were actually “Mafia” fronts for President Erdogan.

His claim about the “Mafia” may have been more than metaphorical. Following Erdogan’s recent denunciation of hundreds of Turkish academics as “traitors” for protesting the government’s vicious crackdown on Kurdish communities, an ultranationalist organized crime boss – who was briefly imprisoned for his alleged role in the Ergenekon conspiracy but is today chummy with Erdogan –promised to “take a shower” in “the blood of those so-called intellectuals.”

So there you have it: The Erdogan regime has revived an alliance of intelligence officials, right-wing ultranationalists and even organized criminals to crush Kurdish extremism, to cow political critics, and to support radical Islamists in Syria.

The Erdogan regime, once the great scourge of alleged anti-democratic conspirators, has recreated the Turkish deep state as part of a menacing power grab. It represents a direct threat not only to Turkish democracy, but to Turkey’s neighbors and NATO allies, who will bear the consequences of Erdogan’s ever-more risky, erratic and self-serving policies.

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Obama regime seeks to roll back human rights conditions on aid to Egypt

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RT 

Despite reports that state repression in Egypt is taking place on a greater scale than it has been for generations, the Obama administration is seeking to roll back human rights conditions Congress had placed on foreign aid to Egypt’s military.

The request, which was tucked into the Obama administration’s 182-page budget proposal, seeks foreign aid to Egypt’s military regime and “the sale of crowd control weapons to ‘emerging democracies.’” The discovery was made by The Intercept.

If the new proposal, which was released on Tuesday, is adopted, it would end a Congressional restriction stipulating “that 15 percent of aid to Egypt is subject to being withheld based on human rights conditions.”

Interestingly, Congress was able to temporarily waive those restrictions in a foreign aid bill in June of 2015, arguing it was in the national security interest of the United Station, according to Al-Monitor.  The conditions were that Egypt would have to hold “free and fair” parliamentary elections and take steps to foster democracy and protect human rights for an additional $1.3 billion in military aid to be released.

The US State Department issued a scathing report in May of 2015, arguing that “while Egypt had implemented parts of its ‘democracy roadmap’ the overall trajectory of rights and democracy had been negative.”

It pinpointed restrictions on freedom of expression, the press, and freedom of association, as well as lack of due process. It further said that “impunity remains a serious problem in Egypt.”

It was well known at the time the Egyptians were “infuriated” by the report.

Cole Bockenfeld, deputy director for policy at the Project on Middle East Democracy, told The Intercept that the White House probably didn’t want to explain why it had to waive restrictions this year.

“They had to basically do an assessment. … Here’s how they’re doing on political prisoners, here’s how they’re doing on freedom of assembly, and so on,” Bockenfeld said.

The Guardian reported in January that Egypt has jailed more journalists than any other country on earth except China under President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. Three reporters were imprisoned, one forcibly “disappeared” and was later charged with being a member of a banned organization, and six were referred to judicial hearings because of their work.

Also in January, Italian academic Giulio Regeni, who was researching labor unrest and independent trade unions in Egypt, went missing during a security crackdown on the fifth anniversary of the beginning of Egypt’s revolution. His body was discovered nine days later by the side of the road marked with cigarette burns, bruising, and multiple stab wounds. The Guardian reported more than 4,600 academics worldwide have signed an open letter protesting his death and demanding an investigation into the growing number of forced disappearances. Egyptian officials appear to be cooperating with the investigation, according to the Italian foreign minister.

The budget also contains a request that would remove a provision from a law passed in 2012 in reaction to the Arab Spring protests that prohibits the transfer of tear gas and other crowd control weapons to countries that are “undergoing democratic transition.”

“It’s basically going to be free for all,” Husain Abdulla, executive director of Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain, told the Intercept when speculating on the results of the administration rolling back that provision.

Among the Middle Eastern countries seeking this equipment are Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain – all of which are simmering with pro-democracy challenges.

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What US Congress Researchers Reveal About Washington’s Designs on Syria

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Seeing the government in Damascus as too far to the left, Washington has been trying to orchestrate a regime change in Syria since at least 2003

By Stephen Gowans

Documents prepared by US Congress researchers as early as 2005 revealed that the US government was actively weighing regime change in Syria long before the Arab Spring uprisings of 2011, challenging the view that US support for the Syrian rebels is based on allegiance to a “democratic uprising” and showing that it is simply an extension of a long-standing policy of seeking to topple the government in Damascus. Indeed, the researchers made clear that the US government’s motivation to overthrow the government of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad is unrelated to democracy promotion in the Middle East. In point of fact, they noted that Washington’s preference is for secular dictatorships (Egypt) and monarchies (Jordan and Saudi Arabia.) [1] The impetus for pursuing regime change, according to the researchers, was a desire to sweep away an impediment to the achievement of US goals in the Middle East related to strengthening Israel, consolidating US domination of Iraq, and fostering free-market, free enterprise economies. Democracy was never a consideration.

The researchers revealed further that an invasion of Syria by US forces was contemplated following the US-led aggression against Iraq in 2003, but that the unanticipated heavy burden of pacifying Iraq militated against an additional expenditure of blood and treasure in Syria. [2] As an alternative to direct military intervention to topple the Syrian government, the United States chose to pressure Damascus through sanctions and support for the internal Syrian opposition.

The documents also revealed that nearly a decade before the rise of Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra that the US government recognized that Islamic fundamentalists were the main opposition to the secular Assad government and worried about the re-emergence of an Islamist insurgency that could lead Sunni fundamentalists to power in Damascus. A more recent document from the Congress’s researchers describes a US strategy that seeks to eclipse an Islamist take-over by forcing a negotiated settlement to the conflict in Syria in which the policing, military, judicial and administrative functions of the Syrian state are preserved, while Assad and his fellow Arab nationalists are forced to leave office. The likelihood is that if this scenario plays out that Assad and his colleagues will be replaced by biddable US surrogates willing to facilitate the achievement of US goals.

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In 2005, Congress’s researchers reported that a consensus had developed in Washington that change in Syria needed to be brought about, but that there remained divisions on the means by which change could be effected. “Some call for a process of internal reform in Syria or alternatively for the replacement of the current Syrian regime,” the report said. [3] Whichever course Washington would settle on, it was clear that the US government was determined to shift the policy framework in Damascus.

The document described the Assad government as an impediment “to the achievement of US goals in the region.” [4] These goals were listed as: resolving “the Arab-Israeli conflict;” fighting “international terrorism;” reducing “weapons proliferation;” inaugurating “a peaceful, democratic and prosperous Iraqi state;” and fostering market-based, free enterprise economies. [5]

Stripped of their elegant words, the US objectives for the Middle East amounted to a demand that Damascus capitulate to the military hegemony of Israel and the economic hegemony of Wall Street. To be clear, what this meant was that in order to remove itself as an impediment to the achievement of US goals—and hence as an object of US hostility—Syria would have to:

o Accept Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state on territory seized from Palestinians, and quite possibly also Syrians and Lebanese, possibly within borders that include the Golan Heights, annexed from Syria by Israel in 1987 and occupied by Israel since 1967.
o End its support for militant groups seeking Palestinian self-determination and sever its connections with the resistance organization Hezbollah, the main bulwark against Israeli expansion into Lebanon.
o Leave itself effectively defenceless against the aggressions of the United States and its Middle East allies, including Israel, by abandoning even the capability of producing weapons of mass destruction (while conceding a right to Israel and the United States to maintain vast arsenals of WMD.)
o Terminate its opposition to US domination of neighboring Iraq.
o Transform what the US Congress’s researchers called Syria’s mainly publicly-owned economy, “still based largely on Soviet models,” [6] into a sphere of exploitation for US corporations and investors.

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US government objections to Syrian policy, then, can be organized under three US-defined headings:

o Terrorism.
o WMD.
o Economic reform.

These headings translate into:

o Support for Palestinian and Lebanese resistance groups.
o Self-defense.
o Economic sovereignty.

Terrorism (support for Palestinian and Lebanese resistance groups)

The researchers noted that while Syria had “not been implicated directly in an act of terrorism since 1986” that “Syria has continued to provide support and safe haven for Palestinian groups” seeking self-determination, allowing “them to maintain offices in Damascus.” This was enough for the US government to label Syria a state sponsor of terrorism. The researchers went on to note that on top of supporting Palestinian “terrorists” that Damascus also supported Lebanese “terrorists” by permitting “Iranian resupply via Damascus of the Lebanese Shiite Muslim militia Hezbollah in Lebanon.” [7]

US Secretary of State Colin Powell travelled to Damascus on May 3, 2003 to personally issue a demand to the Syrian government that it sever its connections with militant organizations pursuing Palestinian self-determination and to stop providing them a base in Damascus from which to operate. In “testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on February 12, 2004, Powel complained that ‘Syria has not done what we demanded of it with respect to closing permanently of these offices and getting these individuals out of Damascus’.”

The Syrian government rejected the characterization of Hezbollah and Palestinian militants as “terrorists,” noting that the actions of these groups represented legitimate resistance. [8] Clearly, Washington had attempted to discredit the pursuit of Palestinian self-determination and Lebanese sovereignty by labelling the champions of these causes as terrorists.

WMD (self-defense)

“In a speech to the Heritage Foundation on May 6, 2002, then US Under Secretary (of State John) Bolton grouped Syria with Libya and Cuba as rogue states that… are pursuing the development of WMD.” [9] Later that year, Bolton echoed his earlier accusation, telling the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the Bush administration was very concerned about Syrian nuclear and missile programs. By September 2003, Bolton was warning of a “range of Syrian WMD programs.” [10]

Syria clearly had chemical weapons (now destroyed), though hardly in the same quantities as the much larger arsenals of the United States, Russia and (likely) its regional nemesis, Israel. [11] Citing the Washington Post, Congress’s researchers noted that Syria had “sought to build up its CW and missile capabilities as a ‘force equalizer’ to counter Israeli nuclear capabilities.” [12] It should be noted, however, that the idea that chemical weapons can act as a force equalizer to nuclear weapons is not only untenable, but risible. In WWI it took 70,000 tons of gas to produce as many fatalities as were produced at Hiroshima by a single US atom bomb. [13] To have any meaning at all, the concept of WMD must include weapons that kill massive numbers of people (nuclear weapons) and exclude those that don’t (chemical weapons.) Otherwise, it is a propaganda term used to magnify the non-threat posed by countries seeking independence outside the US orbit which have CW and biological weapons, but which weapons are no match for the United States’ nuclear weapons and are dwarfed by the Pentagon’s own CW and BW arsenals. Deceptively labelling these weapons as WMD, makes a non-threat a large threat that must be dealt with through military intervention and thereby provides a public relations rationale for a war of aggression.

As to the substance of Bolton’s assertion that Syria had a wide range of WMD programs, the CIA was unable to produce any evidence to corroborate his claim. Alfred Prados, author of a 2005 Congressional Research Service report titled “Syria: U.S. Relations and Bilateral Issues,” listed CIA assessments of Syrian nuclear and BW programs but none of the assessments contained any concrete evidence that Syria actually had such programs. For example, the CIA noted that it was “monitoring Syrian nuclear intentions with concern” but offered nothing beyond “intentions” to show that Damascus was working to acquire a nuclear weapons capability. Prados also noted that Syria had “probably also continued to develop a BW capability,” this based on the fact that Damascus had “signed, but not ratified, the Biological Weapons Convention.” Prados conceded that “Little information is available on Syrian biological programs.”

US president George H.W. Bush is responsible for rendering the concept of WMD meaningless by expanding it to include chemical agents. Before Bush, WMD was a term to denote nuclear weapons or weapons of similar destructive capacity that might be developed in the future. Bush debased the definition in order to go to war with Iraq. He needed to transform the oil-rich Arab country from being seen accurately as a comparatively weak country militarily to being seen inaccurately as a significant threat because it possessed weapons now dishonestly rebranded as being capable of producing mass destruction. It was an exercise in war propaganda.

In 1989, Bush pledged to eliminate the United States’ chemical weapons by 1999. Seventeen years later, the Pentagon is still sitting on the world’s largest stockpile of militarized chemical agents. US allies Israel and Egypt also have chemical weapons. In 2003, Syria proposed to the United Nations Security Council that the Middle East become a chemical weapons-free zone. The proposal was blocked by the United States, likely in order to shelter Israel from having to give up its store of chemical arms. Numerous calls to declare the Middle East a nuclear weapons-free zone have also been blocked by Washington to shelter Israel from having to give up its nuclear arsenal.

Bolton, it will be recalled, was among the velociraptors of the Bush administration to infamously and falsely accuse Saddam Hussein’s Iraq of holding on to WMD that the UN Security Council had demanded it dismantle. In effect, Iraq was ordered to disarm itself, and when it did, was falsely accused by the United States of still being armed as a pretext for US forces to invade the now defenceless country. Bolton may have chosen to play the same WMD card against Syria for the same reason: to manufacture consent for an invasion. But as Congress’s researchers pointed out, “Although some officials… advocated a ‘regime change strategy’ in Syria” through military means, “military operations in Iraq… forced US policy makers to explore additional options,” [14] rendering Bolton’s false accusations academic.

Since the only legitimate WMD are nuclear weapons, and since there is no evidence that Syria has even the untapped capability of producing them, much less possesses them, Syria has never been a WMD-state or a threat to the US goal of reducing WMD proliferation. What’s more, the claim that Washington holds this as a genuine goal is contestable, since it has blocked efforts to make the Middle East a chemical- and nuclear-weapons-free zone, in order to spare its protégé, Israel. It would be more accurate to say that the United States has a goal of reducing weapons proliferation among countries it may one day invade, in order to make the invasion easier. Moreover, there’s an egregious US double-standard here. Washington maintains the world’s largest arsenals of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, but demands that countries it opposes should abandon their own, or forswear their development. This is obviously self-serving and has nothing whatever to do with fostering peace and everything to do with promoting US world domination. One US grievance with Assad’s Syria, then, is that it refused to accept the international dictatorship of the United States.

Economic reform (economic sovereignty)

In connection with Syria impeding the achievement of US goals in the Middle East, the Congressional Research Service made the following points in 2005 about the Syrian economy: It is “largely state-controlled;” it is “dominated by… (the) public sector, which employs 73% of the labour force;” and it is “still based largely on Soviet models.” [15] These departures from the preferred Wall Street paradigm of free markets and free enterprise appear, from the perspective of Congress’s researchers, to be valid reasons for the US government to attempt to bring about “reform” in Syria. Indeed, no one should be under the illusion that the US government is prepared to allow foreign governments to exercise sovereignty in setting their own direction economically. That this is the case is evidenced by the existence of a raft of US sanctions legislation against “non-market states.” (See the Congressional Research Service 2016 report, “North Korea: Economic Sanctions,” for a detailed list of sanctions imposed on North Korea for having a “Marxist-Leninist” economy.)

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To recapitulate the respective positions of Syria and the United States on issues of bilateral concern to the two countries:

On Israel. To accept Israel’s right to exist as a settler state on land illegitimately acquired through violence and military conquest from Palestinians, Lebanese (the Shebaa Farms) and Syrians (Golan), would be to collude in the denial of the fundamental right of self-determination. Damascus has refused to collude in the negation of this right. Washington demands it.

On Hezbollah. Hezbollah is the principal deterrent against Israeli territorial expansion into Lebanon and Israeli aspirations to turn the country into a client state. Damascus’s support for the Lebanese resistance organization, and Washington’s opposition to it, places the Assad government on the right side of the principle of self-determination and successive US governments on the wrong side.

On WMD. Syria has a right to self-defense through means of its own choosing and the demand that it abandon its right is not worthy of discussion. The right to self-defense is a principle the United States and its allies accept as self-evident and non-negotiable. It is not a principle that is valid only for the United States and its satellites.

On opposition to the US invasion of Iraq. The 2003 US-led aggression against Iraq was an international crime on a colossal scale, based on an illegitimate casus belli, and a fabricated one at that, and which engendered massive destruction and loss of life. It was the supreme international crime by the standards of the Nuremberg trials. Applying the Nuremberg principles, the perpetrators would be hanged. US aggression against Iraq, including the deployment of “sanctions of mass destruction” through the 1990s, which led to hundreds of thousands of Iraqi deaths, and was blithely accepted by then US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright as “worth it,” was undertaken despite the absence of any threat to the United States. The deliberate creation of humanitarian calamities in the absence of a threat, as a matter of choice and not necessity, in pursuit of economic gain, is an iniquity on a signal scale. What, then, are we to think of a government in Damascus that opposed this iniquity, and a government in Washington that demands that Damascus reverse its opposition and accept the crime as legitimate?

Whatever its failings, the Assad government has unambiguously adopted positions that have traditionally been understood to be concerns of the political left: support for self-determination; public ownership and planning of the economy; opposition to wars of aggression; and anti-imperialism. This is not to say that on a spectrum from right to left that the Assad government occupies a position near the left extreme; far from it. But from Washington’s point of view, Damascus is far enough to the left to be unacceptable. Indeed, it is the Syrian government’s embrace of traditional leftist positions that accounts for why it is in the cross-hairs of the world’s major champion of reactionary causes, the United States, even if it isn’t the kind of government that is acceptable to Trotskyists and anarchists.

+++

In 2003, the Bush administration listed Syria as part of a junior varsity axis of evil, along with Cuba and Libya, citing support in Damascus for Hezbollah and groups engaged in armed struggle to achieve Palestinian self-determination. [16] An invasion of Syria following the US take-over of Iraq in 2003 was contemplated, but was called off after the Pentagon discovered its hands were full quelling resistance to its occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. As an alternative to direct military intervention to topple the Syrian government, the United States chose to pressure Assad through sanctions and by strengthening the opposition in Syria, hoping either to force Assad to accept Israel’s territorial gains, end support for Hezbollah and Palestinian militant groups, and to remake the economy—or to yield power. However, as Congress’s researchers reveal, there were concerns in Washington that if efforts to bolster the opposition went too far, Assad would fall to “a successor regime (which) could be led by Islamic fundamentalists who might adopt policies even more inimical to the United States.” [17]

On December 12, 2003, US president George W. Bush signed the Syria Accountability Act, which imposed sanctions on Syria unless, among other things, Damascus halted its support for Hezbollah and Palestinian resistance groups and ceased “development of weapons of mass destruction.” The sanctions included bans on exports of military equipment and civilian goods that could be used for military purposes (in other words, practically anything.) This was reinforced with an additional (and largely superfluous) ban on US exports to Syria other than food and medicine, as well as a prohibition against Syrian aircraft landing in or overflying the United States. [18]

On top of these sanctions, Bush imposed two more. Under the USA PATRIOT Act, the US Treasury Department ordered US financial institutions to sever connections with the Commercial Bank of Syria. [19] And under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, the US president froze the assets of Syrians involved in supporting policies hostile to the United States, which is to say, supporting Hezbollah and groups fighting for Palestinian self-determination, refusing to accept as valid territorial gains which Israel had made through wars of aggression, and operating a largely publicly-owned, state-planned economy, based on Soviet models. [20]

In order to strengthen internal opposition to the Syrian government, Bush signed the Foreign Operations Appropriation Act. This act required that a minimum of $6.6 million “be made available for programs supporting democracy in Syria… as well as unspecified amounts of additional funds (emphasis added).” [21]

By 2006, Time was reporting that the Bush administration had “been quietly nurturing individuals and parties opposed to the Syrian government in an effort to undermine the regime of President Bashar Assad.” Part of the effort was being run through the National Salvation Front. The Front included “the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist organization that for decades supported the violent overthrow of the Syrian government.” Front representatives “were accorded at least two meetings” at the White House in 2006. Hence, the US government, at its highest level, was colluding with Islamists to bring down the Syrian government at least five years before the eruption of protests in 2011. This is a development that seems to have escaped the notice of some who believe that violent Islamist organizations emerged only after March 2011. In point of fact, the major internal opposition to secular Syrian governments, both before and after March 2011, were and are militant Sunni Islamists. Syria expert Joshua Landis told Time that White House support for the Syrian opposition was “apparently an effort to gin up the Syrian opposition under the rubric of ‘democracy promotion’ and ‘election monitoring,’ but it’s really just an attempt to pressure the Syrian government into doing what the United States wants.” [22]

+++

The US Congress researchers noted that despite “US calls for democracy in the Middle East, historically speaking, US policymakers” have tended to favor “secular Arab republics (Egypt) and Arab monarchies (Jordan and Saudi Arabia.)” [23] They noted too that since “the rise of political Islam as an opposition vehicle in the Middle East decades ago, culminating in the 1979 overthrow of the Shah of Iran, US policymakers have been concerned that secular Arab dictatorships like Syria would face rising opposition from Islamist groups seeking their overthrow.” [24] “The religiously fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood,” which the Bush administration enlisted to pressure the Assad government, had long been at odds with the secular Syrian government, the researchers noted. [25]

Today, Islamic State operates as one of the largest, if not the largest, rebel groups in Syria. A 2015 Congressional Research Service report cited an “unnamed senior State Department official” who observed:

[W]e’ve never seen something like this. We’ve never seen a terrorist organization with 22,000 foreign fighters from a hundred countries all around the world. To put it in context—again, the numbers are fuzzy—but it’s about double of what went into Afghanistan over 10 years in the war against the Soviet Union. Those Jihadi fighters were from a handful of countries.” [26]

Islamic State differs from other militant Islamist opponents of the Syrian government in seeking to control territory, not only in Syria, but in Iraq and beyond. As such, it constitutes a threat to US domination of Iraq and influence throughout the Middle East and north Africa. In contrast, ideologically similar groups, such as Jabhat al-Nusra, limit the scope of their operations to Syria. They, therefore, constitute a threat to the Syrian government alone, and have proved, as a consequence, to be more acceptable to Washington.

The US government has publicly drawn a distinction between Islamic State and the confined-to-Syria-therefore-acceptable rebels, seeking to portray the former as terrorists and the latter as moderates, regardless of the methods they use and their views on Islam and democracy. The deception is echoed by the US mass media, which often complain that when Russian warplanes target non-Islamic State rebels that they’re striking “moderates,” as if all rebels apart from Islamic State are moderates, by definition. US Director of Intelligence James Clapper acknowledged that “moderate” means little more than “not Islamic State.” He told the Council on Foreign Relations that “Moderate these days is increasingly becoming anyone who’s not affiliated with” Islamic State. [27]

The rebels are useful to the US government. By putting military pressure on Damascus to exhaust the Syrian army, they facilitate the achievement of the immediate US goal of “forcing a negotiated settlement to the conflict that will see President Assad and some his supporters leave office while preserving the institutions and security structures of the Syrian state,” [28] as Congress’s researchers summarize US strategy. Hence, Islamic State exists both as a useful instrument of US policy, and as a threat to US domination and control of Iraq and the broader Middle East. To Washington, the terrorist organization is a double-edged sword, and is treated accordingly. US airstrikes on Islamic State appear calculated to weaken the terrorist group enough that it doesn’t gain more territory in Iraq, but not so much that pressure is taken off Damascus. A tepid approach to fighting the hyper-sectarian terrorist group fits with US president Barack Obama’s stated goal of degrading and ultimately destroying Islamic State, which appears to mean destroying it only after it has served its purpose of exhausting the Syrian army. In the meantime, the anti-Shiite cut-throats are given enough latitude to maintain pressure on Syrian loyalists.

Congress’s researchers concur with this view. They conclude that “US officials may be concerned that a more aggressive campaign against the Islamic State may take military pressure off the” Syrian government. [29] This means that the US president is moderating efforts to destroy Islamic State to allow a group he decries as “simply a network of killers who are brutalizing local populations” [30] continue their work of brutalizing local populations. If he truly believed Islamic State was a scourge that needed to be destroyed, the US president would work with the Syrian government to expunge it. Instead, he has chosen to wield Islamic State as a weapon to expunge the Syrian government, in the service of building up Israel and fostering free market and free enterprise economies in the Middle East to accommodate US foreign investment and exports on behalf of his Wall Street sponsors. [31]

REFERENCES

1. Alfred B. Prados and Jeremy M. Sharp, “Syria: Political Conditions and Relations with the United States After the Iraq War,” Congressional Research Service, February 28, 2005.

2. Prados and Sharp.

3. Ibid.

4. Ibid.

5. Ibid.

6. Ibid.

7. Alfred B. Prados, “Syria: U.S. Relations and Bilateral Issues,” Congressional Research Service, March 13, 2006.

8. Ibid.

9. Ibid.

10. Ibid.

11. Israel signed the global treaty banning the production and use of chemical weapons, but never ratified it.

12. Ibid.

13. Stephen Gowans, Rethinking Chemical Weapons,” what’s left, August 14, 2015.

14. Prados and Sharp.

15. Ibid.

16. Steve R. Weisman, “US threatens to impose penalties against Syrians,” The New York Times, April 14, 2003.

17. Prados and Sharp.

18. Prados.

19. Ibid.

20. Ibid.

21. Ibid.

22. Adam Zagorin, “Syria in Bush’s cross hairs,” Time, December 19, 2006.

23. Prados and Sharp.

24. Ibid.

25. Ibid.

26. Christopher M. Blanchard and Carla E. Humud, “The Islamic State and U.S. Policy,” Congressional Research Service, December 28, 2015.

27. James Clapper: US Director of Intelligence: http://www.cfr.org/homeland-security/james-clapper-global-intelligence-challenges/p36195

28. Blanchard and Humud.

29. Christopher M. Blanchard, Carla E. Humud Mary Beth D. Nikitin, “Armed Conflict in Syria: Overview and U.S. Response,”Congressional Research Service,” October 9, 2015.

30. Blanchard and Humud.

31. Virtually every member of the Obama administration, past and present, is a member of the Wall Street-dominated Council on Foreign Relations, or additionally, has spent part of his or her career on Wall Street. Wall Street was a major source of Obama’s election campaign funding. The strong interlock between Wall Street and the executive branch of the US government is not unique to the Obama administration. See my Aspiring to Rule the World: US Capital and the Battle for Syria,” what’s left, December 15, 2015.

Posted in USA, SyriaComments Off on What US Congress Researchers Reveal About Washington’s Designs on Syria

Nazi Labour Party adopts full apartheid plan

NOVANEWS
Yitzhak Herzog embraces apartheid

Nureddin Sabir, Editor, Redress Information & Analysis, writes:

The Israeli Labour Party on 7 February endorsed a plan for a full apartheid regime and the theft of what remains of the Palestinian territories occupied in the 1967 war, the French news agency AFP reported.

The plan was first proposed by party leader Yitzhak Herzog at a conference at Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies on 5 January.

“I want to separate from as many Palestinians as possible, as fast as possible,” he told the conference, the right-wing Jerusalem Post reported.

He promised to “erect a big wall between us. That is the kind of co-existence that is possible right now… Ariel Sharon… didn’t finish the job. We want to finish it, to complete the barrier that separates us.”

“The situation will be clear to everyone,” Herzog said, adding: “We are settling here, you are settling there.

By “here”, he meant the large, stolen tracts of land that have been turned into squatter-colony blocs, and “there” are the Bantustans planned for the Palestinians on small portions of the occupied West Bank.

As Israeli academic Neve Gordon notes, the Israeli Labour Party, “which is the only viable alternative to the current Likud government and which is considered by many, both in Israel and among international leaders, to be a progressive substitute, has, in other words, unanimously supported a plan that would have been applauded by apartheid South Africa”.

In order to ensure the consolidation of the division of the West Bank into archipelagos, the plan emphasises the importance of completing the separation barrier around settlement blocs in the West Bank, because the blocs, according to Herzog, will always remain under Israeli sovereignty and “will be part of the permanent solution”.

In order to get rid of Palestinians who are residents of Israel and have an Israeli identity card, Herzog endorses cutting off Palestinian villages from Jerusalem.

Needless to say, the Israeli Wehrmacht, according to Herzog, should continue to control the entire West Bank, including the Palestinian Bantustans.

Though hard to believe, given the slaughter in the Gaza Strip perpetrated under Binyamin Naziyahu, Herzog criticised the Israeli prime minister for being too soft on the Palestinians. Netanyahu’s Likud government, he claims, is not really bombing Palestinians in Gaza, but only empty spaces.

He therefore promised that, if he gains power, he would employ an “iron fist”, including shutting down Palestinian radio and TV stations and ensuring that the Palestinians would be forbidden from having internet or mobile phone services.

The conclusion the rest of the world should draw from this is obvious. As Gordon says,

Given this reality, it does not seem likely that a just solution to the Palestinian plight will come from within Israel. Indeed, at this historical juncture, international pressure is perhaps the only hope and is desperately needed.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZIComments Off on Nazi Labour Party adopts full apartheid plan

‘A special place in hell’: for young Sanders supporters or for Madeleine Albright?

NOVANEWS

Image result for Albright CARTOON

Socialist candidate blasts war criminal Albright’s phony feminism

Statement by Gloria La Riva, 2016 PSL Candidate for President
Read online at VotePSL.org
albright-statement.png
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I am writing as a working woman, feminist, socialist, and candidate for President of the United States, and I want to condemn in the strongest possible terms the outlandish attacks by Hillary Clinton and Madeleine Albright on any woman working in support of the political campaign of Bernie Sanders. This attack, particularly on young women who are supporting Sanders in such large numbers, is a shameful and opportunist attempt to use the historic struggle for women’s rights for the narrowest political gains.

In a desperate attempt to reverse the growing support among young women and men for her opponent in the Democratic Party primaries, Hillary Clinton has enlisted the support of notorious war monger and advocate of mass murder, Madeleine Albright.

As Clinton looked on laughing and clapping, Albright told the media on February 6: “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other!”

If indeed there were such a “special place,” Madeleine Albright would most assuredly be going. And going along with her would be candidate Clinton.

As UN Ambassador and the Secretary of State in the Bill Clinton regime, Albright was a fanatical advocate of the genocidal sanctions blockade that killed more than a million women, children and men in Iraq, and of the 1999 U.S./NATO bombing war against Yugoslavia.

On May 12, 1996, nearly six years into the U.S./UN sanctions, Albright was interviewed on CBS “60 Minutes” by Lesley Stahl, who had just returned from Iraq, about the impact on the Iraqi population:

Lesley Stahl: “We have heard that a half million children have died. I mean, that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?”

U.S. Ambassador to the UN Madeleine Albright: “I think this is a very hard choice, but the price–we think the price is worth it.”

Albright’s astoundingly flippant answer was nothing less than a confession to one of the most horrific war crimes in history, indicting not just herself but all the leaders of the Bush I, Clinton and Bush II administrations who were fully aware of the lethal impact of sanctions on the people of Iraq.

In 1999, Albright played a key role in the war on Yugoslavia, engineering the failure of the negotiations that preceded the war. Albright presented the Yugoslav government with an “agreement” that would have allowed NATO to forces to occupy the entire country, with the unheard of provision that Yugoslavia would pay for the expenses of the occupation!

After the talks broke off, a “top official” (Albright) told reporters in an off-the-record session: “We intentionally set the bar too high for the Serbs to comply. They need some bombing, and that’s what they are going to get.” When the Yugoslav government predictably rejected the ultimatum disguised as a “proposal,” the bombing began and continued for three months.

Thousands of civilians were killed, wounded and made homeless. As was true in Iraq, the entire population was traumatized, with women and children most severely impacted.

Like the assault on Iraq, the attack on Yugoslavia was a war crime, a “crime against peace,” the most serious of all violations of international law, a war of aggression against another state that poses no threat to the country launching the war.

According to her own words, Hillary Clinton joined in the war chorus: “I urged him [President Clinton] to bomb.”

In 2003, Senator Clinton supported invasion and occupation of Iraq. In 2011, as Secretary of State, she was chief advocate in the Obama administration in calling for the bombing war that killed, wounded and displaced unknown numbers of Libyans and devastated the country.

After the torture and murder of Libyan leader Moammar Qaddafi, Clinton laughingly told a CBS interviewer: We came, we saw, he died.

Albright and Clinton thus share much in common both with each other and their far more numerous murderous male counterparts in the top levels of the U.S. imperialist state machine. That they who have worked to destroy the lives of so many millions of women would now presume to lecture young women on “feminism” and attempt to shame them into supporting Clinton is a despicable travesty.

Posted in USAComments Off on ‘A special place in hell’: for young Sanders supporters or for Madeleine Albright?

New York Jewish Rabbi Charged with Stealing $12.4 Million from Disabled Kids

NOVANEWS
JEWS MAY KEEP OBJECTS LOST BY GENTILES, BUT NOT THOSE OF JEWS
UNLESS THEY THINK THEY WILL GET CAUGHT (PROFANE THE “NAME” OF GOD) The Jewish Talmud.

New York Jewish rabbi Samuel Hiller and three others have been indicted for stealing over $12.4 million in public aid for disabled children.

The charges include grand larceny, identity theft, and falsifying business records at one of the city’s largest providers of special education services for disabled children, according to a news release issued Tuesday by Queens County District Attorney Richard Brown. “It is disheartening to see a betrayal of the magnitude alleged in this indictment,” Brown said in a statement.

The men allegedly diverted money belonging to Island Child Development Center, which serves Orthodox preschool children with disabilities, used it for personal expenses, home repairs and other business endeavors.

If convicted, each of the men would face up to 25 years in prison.

The fraud was uncovered when the center’s former executive director ran off with his records just before a scheduled routine annual audit meeting in July 2012.

The center received roughly $27 million in state funding between 2005 and 2012.

The defendants were identified as Rabbi Samuel Hiller, 56, of Far Rockaway in the borough of Queens, Kurman, 52, of Hewlett, the former executive director of the nonprofit center in Far Rockaway from which the New York state and city funding was taken; Daniel Laniado, 41, the owner of a kosher supermarket in Brooklyn; and Roy Hoffmann, 50, of Woodmere.

Posted in USA, ZIO-NAZIComments Off on New York Jewish Rabbi Charged with Stealing $12.4 Million from Disabled Kids


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