Archive | April 18th, 2017

Cui bono? Who launched the chemical attack in Syria’s Idlib?

Syrian Islamist cutthroats

By Uri Avnery

Cui bono – “who benefits” – is the first question an experienced detective asks when investigating a crime.

Since I was a detective myself for a short time in my youth, I know the meaning. Often, the first and obvious suspicion is false. You ask yourself “cui bono“, and another suspect, who you did not think about, appears.

For two weeks now, this question has been troubling my mind. It does not leave me.

In Syria, a terrible war crime has been committed. The civilian population in a rebel-held town called Idlib was hit with poison gas. Dozens of civilians, including children, died a miserable death.

Who could do such a thing? The answer was obvious: that terrible dictator, Bashar al-Assad. Who else?

And so, within a few minutes (literally) the New York Times and a host of excellent newspapers throughout the West proclaimed without hesitation: Assad did it!

There is no way to deny the conclusion: Assad had the least to gain from the dastardly deed. On the list of “cui bono”, he is the very last.

No need for proof. No investigation. It was just self-evident. Of course Assad. Within minutes, everybody knew it.

A storm of indignation swept the Western world. He must be punished! Poor Donald Trump, who does not have a clue, submitted to pressure and ordered a senseless missile strike on a Syrian airfield, after preaching for years that the US must under no circumstances get involved in Syria. Suddenly, he reversed himself. Just to teach that bastard a lesson. And to show the world what a he-he-he-man he, Trump, really is.

The operation was an immense success. Overnight, the despised Trump became a national hero. Even liberals kissed his feet.

But throughout, that question continued to nag my mind. Why did Assad do it? What did he have to gain?

The simple answer is: Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

(“Assad” means “lion” in Arabic. Contrary to what Western experts and statesmen seem to believe, the emphasis is on the first syllable.)

With the help of Russia, Iran and Hizbullah, Assad is slowly winning the civil war that has been ravishing Syria for years. He already holds almost all the major cities that constitute the core of Syria. He has enough weapons to kill as many enemy civilians as his heart desires.

So why, for Allah’s sake, should he use gas to kill a few dozen more? Why arouse the anger of the entire world, inviting American intervention?

There is no way to deny the conclusion: Assad had the least to gain from the dastardly deed. On the list of “cui bono“, he is the very last.

So who had something to gain? Well, half a dozen Syrian sects and militias who are fighting against Assad and against each other in the crazy civil war. Also their Sunni Arab allies, the Saudi and other Gulf sheikhs. And Israel, of course.

Assad is a cynical dictator, perhaps cruel, but he is far from being a fool. He was raised by his father, Hafez al-Assad, who was a long-time dictator before him. Even if he were a fool, his advisors include some of the cleverest people on earth: Vladimir Putin of Russia, Hassan Rouhani of Iran, Hassan Nasrallah of Hizbullah.

So who had something to gain? Well, half a dozen Syrian sects and militias who are fighting against Assad and against each other in the crazy civil war. Also their Sunni Arab allies, the Saudi and other Gulf Sheikhs. And Israel, of course. They all have an interest in arousing the civilized world against the Syrian dictator.

Simple logic.

A military act must have a political aim. As Carl von Clausewitz famously said 200 years ago: war is the continuation of politics by other means.

The two main opponents in the Syrian civil war are the Assad regime and the Islamic State (IS) group. So, what is the aim of the US? It sounds like a joke: The US wants to destroy both sides. Another joke: First it wants to destroy IS, therefore it bombs Assad.

The destruction of IS is highly desirable. There are few more detestable groups in the world. But IS is an idea, rather than just an organisation. The destruction of the IS would disperse thousands of dedicated assassins all over the world.

(Interestingly enough, the original Assassins, some 900 years ago, were Muslim fanatics, very similar to IS now.)

America’s own clients in Syria are a sorry lot, almost beaten. They have no chance of winning.

I read the New York Times and admire it. Yet it shredded all its professional standards by publishing an unproven assumption as gospel truth, with no need for verification.

Hurting Assad now just means prolonging a civil war which is now even more senseless than before.

For me, a professional journalist most of my life, the most depressing aspect of this whole chapter is the influence of the American and Western media in general.

I read the New York Times and admire it. Yet it shredded all its professional standards by publishing an unproven assumption as gospel truth, with no need for verification. Perhaps Assad is to blame, after all. But where is the proof? Who investigated, and what were the results?

Worse, the “news” immediately became a world-wide truth. Many millions repeat it unthinkingly as self-evident, like sunrise in the east and sunset in the west.

No questions raised. No proof demanded or provided. Very depressing.

Back to the dictator. Why does Syria need a dictator? Why isn’t it a beautiful US-style democracy? Why doesn’t it gratefully accept US-devised “regime-change”?

The Syrian dictatorship is no accidental phenomenon. It has very concrete roots.

Syria was created by France after World War I. A part of it later split off and became Lebanon.

Both are artificial creations. I doubt whether there are even today real “Syrians” and real “Lebanese”.

Lebanon is a mountainous country, ideally suited for small sects which need to defend themselves. Over the centuries, many small sects found refuge there. As a result, Lebanon is full of such sects, which distrust each other – Sunni Muslims, Shia Muslims, Maronite Christians, many other Christian sects, Druze, Kurds.

Syria is much the same, with most of the same sects, and the addition of the Alawites. These, like the Shia, are the followers of Ali Ibn Abi Talib, cousin and son-in-law of the prophet (hence the name). They occupy a patch of land in the northern Syria.

The diverse groups of “rebels”, created, financed and armed by the US, are now in a bad shape. There are several competing groups of jihadists, who all hate the jihadist Islamic State group.

Both countries needed to invent a system that allowed such diverse and mutually-suspicious entities to live together. They found two different systems.

In Lebanon, with a past of many brutal civil wars, they invented a way of sharing. The president is always a Maronite, the prime minister a Sunni, the commander of the army a Druze, and the speaker of parliament a Shia.

When Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982, the Shia in the south were the lowest on the ladder. They welcomed our soldiers with rice. But soon they realised that the Israelis had not come just to defeat their overbearing neighbours, but intended to stay. So, the lowly Shia started a very successful guerrilla campaign, in the course of which they became the most powerful community in Lebanon. They are led by Hizballah, the Party of Allah. But the system still holds.

The Syrians found another solution. They willingly submitted to a dictatorship, to hold the country together and assure internal peace.

The Bible tells us that when the Children of Israel decided that they needed a king, they chose a man called Saul who belonged to the smallest tribe, Binyamin. The modern Syrians did much the same: they submitted to a dictator from one of their smallest tribes: the Alawites.

The Assads are secular, anti-religious rulers – the very opposite of the fanatical, murderous IS. Many Muslims believe that the Alawites are not Muslims at all. Since Syria lost the 1973 Yom Kippur war against Israel, 44 years ago, the Assads have kept the peace on our border, though Israel has annexed the Syrian Golan Heights.

The civil war in Syria is still going on. Everybody is fighting against everybody. The diverse groups of “rebels”, created, financed and armed by the US, are now in a bad shape. There are several competing groups of jihadists, who all hate the jihadist IS. There is a Kurdish enclave, which wants to secede. The Kurds are not Arabs, but are mainly Muslims. There are Kurdish enclaves in neighbouring Turkey, Iraq and Iran, whose mutual hostility prevents them making common cause.

And there is poor, innocent Donald Trump, who has sworn not to get involved in all this mess, and who is doing just that.

A day before, Trump was despised by half the American people, including most of the media. Just by launching a few missiles, he has won general admiration as a forceful and wise leader.

What does that say about the American people, and about humanity in general?

Posted in SyriaComments Off on Cui bono? Who launched the chemical attack in Syria’s Idlib?

Thanks to EPP Blessing the Commission Has Finally Taken Up Hungary

NOVANEWS
Adelina Marini

Should you wish to build an illiberal regime within the EU without fear of the almighty Article 2 of the Treaty of Lisbon, do like Orbán, not like Kaczyński – agree to all manner of dialogues and political debates, initiated by the Brussels clerks, nod in understanding, and then go back home and carry on with your authoritarian activities! This is the message coming from the long-awaited European Commission dealing with Hungary’s illiberal case. After long years of being tolerated under the wing of the largest political power in the EU – the European People’s Party – Viktor Orbán has finally overstepped the quite high threshold of tolerance of the EPP. Ever since he came to power, Viktor Orbán has constantly challenged the Union, built on the values of liberal democracy, but has been getting away with it due to his party belonging to the EPP.

The party played deaf-mute when Orbán began restricting media freedom, the independence of the central bank, even when he stated quite directly and openly that he intends to build an illiberal regime following the examples of Russia, Turkey, and China. Viktor Orbán remained untouchable even when the European Commission activated the protection of the rule of law mechanism against Poland, whose government is following Orbán’s textbook and still has a lot to do before it reaches the stage of what was already accomplished in Hungary. Unfortunately, the Law and Justice party of Jarosław Kaczyński, which currently rules in Poland, is part of the Eurosceptic and not too influential family of the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR). The group was created after the British Conservatives, under the leadership of David Cameron, left the EPP.

The only institution that over the years never ceased to call for paying attention to Hungary was the European Parliament. The list of transgressions of the Hungarian Prime Minister is already quite long, but the last straw was when Viktor Orbán lifted a hand to the popular Central European University (CEU) by proposing amendments to the Higher Education Act (already voted) that practically forces the institution founded by George Soros to close its doors. In parallel, the government of Mr Orbán is fighting against non-governmental organisations as well, which, like in Russia, are accused of being foreign agents whose aim is to destabilise the Hungarian society. (More details on the measures being prepared against the NGO sector can be read in connection with the debate in the European Parliament Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, which took place in early March.)

The EPP reacted at the highest level about the Higher Education Act. Party leader Joseph Daul (France) wrote on Twitter that it is of critical importance to respect academic freedom and autonomy in Hungary, as this ensures openness and pluralism of views in society. The leader of the EPP group in the European Parliament, Manfred Weber (Germany), demanded the Commission to put the law to scrutiny. Meanwhile, a talk ensued about the expulsion from the EPP of Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz party. The issue will be raised during the EPP summit preceding the European Council on 29 April. There is currently no unanimity in the party on the subject, nor is there any will for this issue to be discussed. euinside has information that the most critical and demanding the expulsion of Fidesz are the parties from the northern part of the EU – Belgium, Luxembourg, The Netherlands. MEPs from these parties declined euinside’s invitation to comment on this issue.

Just a dialogue for Hungary, not the rule of law mechanism

As soon as the EPP gave its blessing, the EC placed the issue on the agenda of the College meeting on 12 April. A long list of transgressions has been subjected to a discussion, ranging from CEU, passing through the European values, respect for human rights, human dignity, tolerance, and solidarity, and moving on to the newly adopted Law on Asylum and to the campaign organised by the Hungarian government under the slogan “Stop Brussels”. All this, however, turns out to be insufficient for the European Commission to trigger the rule of law mechanism on Hungary too, since, as European Commission First Vice-President, responsible for the rule of law, Frans Timmermans (The Netherlands, Socialists and Democrats) explained, unlike Poland, the Hungarian government cooperates and is ready to have a dialogue.

“The rule of law is a specific mechanism used in the case of Poland, because we see a systemic threat to the rule of law in Poland. Here, with Hungary, we have discussions about very concrete legal matters, infringement cases, disputes, which are certainly not new between the EC and Hungary’s government. But the Hungarian government has always accepted to be engaged in a dialogue with the EC”, he said. To the question by a journalist whether there is a risk for the rule of law in Hungary, Mr Timmermans replied that there are political risks. “Orbán signed the declaration of Rome which gives us an indication about the direction of the EU. If he signs the declaration, goes back home and says ‘Stop Brussels’, I mean, what the heck is going on?!”, asked Frans Timmermans, but insisted there is only going to be a political dialogue.

He urged the member states to also assume their responsibility. It is important that Mr Orbán says in what direction he wants to lead his country, said the first vice president. The Hungarian prime minister has already answered this question three years ago. To Justice Commissioner Vĕra Jourová (Czech Republic, ALDE), however, there is a problem with the rule of law. According to her, there are grounds for concern in Hungary, related to the judiciary and its independence. She said this at the presentation this week of the Justice Scoreboard that shows the status of the judicial systems in all member states. Vĕra Jourová also said that she fears that there are efforts being made in Hungary to reduce the power and influence of civil society as such and for the reduction of political pluralism. She did, however, admit that she does not believe any progress can be made with administrative measures against a member state. So she welcomed the protests of thousands of Hungarians in support of CEU. “I am happy that people are courageous, open, vocal and visible, and this is what the EC will always encourage the people to do”.

Some mechanism it is ….

Frans Timmermans claims that he is not guided by political affiliation when troubled by something, but, still, the coincidence in time between the blessing of the EPP and the reaction of the European Commission is something that cannot be dismissed lightly. Moreover, this difference in approach remains incomprehensible. The fact that the Hungarian prime minister is ready to dialogue should not be a mitigating circumstance. The guiding motive should be whether there is a threat to the rule of law in Hungary or not. It is also incomprehensible because the rule of law mechanism, under which the European Commission has for more than a year now been trying to reason with the Polish authorities, is completely impotent. This is the reason why Frans Timmermans himself transferred the responsibility to the member states, where instead of moving to the next step – a proposal to trigger Article 7 of the TFEU – he called on ministers to discuss the Polish case in the General Affairs Council.

During a hearing in the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee of the EP on 22 March Mr Timmermans announced that not only is the Polish government failing to comply with the recommendations on problem areas already pointed out by the EC, but there are also new concerns. The situation no longer gravitates only around Poland’s Constitutional Court, but also around the appointment of a Supreme Court Chairman. There is also a judicial reform being prepared, which also worries the EC. “Any justice reform must uphold the rule of law, respect the independence of the judiciary and comply with European standards on judicial independence – the separation of powers is crucial”,  was said back then by Jean-Claude Juncker (Luxembourg, EPP)’s first deputy in front of MEPs.

He dedicated a sizable portion of his speech to explaining why it is important that the EU fights with everything it’s got for the protection of the rule of law when it is under threat in a member state. “The very functioning of the Union and its internal market is endangered if in one of its member states the fundamental values and particularly rule of law would no longer be respected. […] The current rule of law crisis undermines trust in the Polish legal system and this could negatively affect the investments rate in Poland”, he said and complained that instead of understanding he only sees a hardening of positions by the Polish side and even an increase of verbal attacks against the EC and its representatives, as well as against the Venice Commission and its members.

He therefore proposed that the Council tackles the problem. To the persistent questions by committee members of why is he transferring the hot potato to the Council instead activating Article 7 Timmermans explained: “On Art 7 I will try and be very candid about that. Because there are those in the Polish government who say ‘Oh, please do invoke Art 7. They will dismiss you immediately and we will be done with it’. And this is exactly my fear. Given the limitations in terms of the possibility we have as a Commission, we need the member states if we really want this to function”. In order to trigger Article 7, which suspends the voting rights in the Council of a member state, it is necessary any proposal to that end to be supported by all member states. Hungary has already stated it will vote against.

It is not clear what the result will be of a possible discussion in the Council, especially that it is uncertain whether it will take place at all. At this stage, the Maltese presidency has not included the subject in the agenda of the General Affairs Council in April, and the May programme is not ready yet. The theme is very toxic because, if raised at Council level, it would block the Union for a very long time and that in a year when many important decisions are expected, such as on the White paper of Jean-Claude Juncker on the future of the Union. And the fiasco surrounding the reappointment of Donald Tusk as president of the European Council showed that the Polish government is prepared to do anything for its political survival. During the spring EU summit in early March, Poland fought against the nomination of Donald Tusk and proposed another candidate. Member states, however, were unanimous in their desire to show Warsaw that it cannot hold the Union hostage to its domestic politics.

Donald Tusk was re-elected and Polish PM Beata Szydło refused to sign the conclusions of the European Council in return. Later, during the preparation for celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Treaties of Rome Mrs Szydło threatened not to sign the Rome Declaration as well. It did not come to that, but it showed clearly that the ruling party in Poland is really prepared to do anything. According to euinside sources, chances for the topic of rule of law in Poland to come for discussion in the General Affairs Council are miniscule. This may be raised during the annual review of the rule of law in EU, but it would not have the same force and effect.

Illiberalism as a political factor

Having his hands tied so, Frans Timmermans was left with no alternative but to admit that illiberalism is indeed a political factor and is present in many of the EU member states. He did not, however, take the next step of naming them. Instead, he described the reality after the major EU enlargement towards Eastern Europe: “I come from the part of Europe that thought enlargement means that they all will become like us. No, enlargement means that we’re all involved in a different world. I believe that, indeed, a vision of an open society, diverse society is at threat. Illiberalism is there. It’s an important political factor in many of our member states, not just in Europe, also outside of Europe but it will not carry the day”, said the deputy leader of the EC. Having in mind the limited possibilities for restraining it, it is by no means certain that it will not carry the day.

The question that member states must answer, and soon at that, is whether it is worthwhile to keep the unity of the EU even at the cost of a growing illiberalism. This question will be answered on April 29, when the EPP will show if it really believes in European values ​​by making a decision on whether to expel Viktor Orbán’s party. If that happens, the way would be cleared for a discussion of the topic in the Council. If this discussion ends without an agreement and with even greater tension from Poland’s and Hungary’s side, this would lead to a serious rift and will surely be reflected in the discussions on the next multiannual EU budget, which are expected to begin next year.

Translated by Stanimir Stoev

Posted in EuropeComments Off on Thanks to EPP Blessing the Commission Has Finally Taken Up Hungary

US Kills Hundreds in Chemical Strike on Der Ezzor

NOVANEWS

or US Bombs Hit Chemical Warehouse, Will Russia Hit US Base, Ask Questions Later?

[ Editor’s Note:  Without a video done by the White Helmets distributed by Qatar’s intelligence agency and their al Jazeera organization, the cheerleaders of ISIS, Ivanka Trump is silent though hundreds lie dead, most of them children.  Without White Helmets to murder the babies on camera, jabbing them with cardiac needles and digging around until their hearts are torn to shreds and their eyes go dim, the satanic witch queen, Ivanka, will not be ordering military retaliation and pushing for ArmageddonGordon Duff ]

____________

– First Published  …  April 13, 2017 –

Coalition Strikes Daesh Depot With Chemical Weapons in Deir ez-Zor 

The Syrian General Staff said that the US-led coalition struck a Daesh depot storing chemical weapons in Deir ez-Zor on Wednesday. The Syrian military said that this fact proves that terrorists possess chemical weapons.

“The jets of the so-called US-led coalition launched a strike at about 17:30-17:50 Download Video on a Daesh warehouse where many foreign fighters were present. First a white cloud and then a yellow one appeared at the site of the strike, which points at the presence of a large number of poisonous substances. A fire at the site continued until 22:30 [19:30 GMT],” the Syrian army’s command statement obtained by Sputnik said.

According to the Syrian General Staff, the US-led coalition’s strike killed several hundred people, including civilians. Hundreds were poisoned as a result of the strike on Daesh’s headquarters and depot with chemical weapons.

“This confirms that Daesh and al-Nusra terrorists possess chemical weapons and are capable of using, obtaining and transporting it,” the document said.

The Syrian army yet again denied possessing chemical weapons.

The news comes as Washington and its allies are blaming the Syrian government for a suspected chemical attack in the Syrian Idlib province on April 4.

Syrian opposition claimed on April 4 forces loyal to President Bashar Assad had used a chemical gas on people in the northwestern province, killing nearly 80 and injuring 200. Assad argued his government has no chemical weapons after agreeing to have them destroyed in 2013. He also ruled out having used chemicals against own people.

The Russian Defense Ministry said next day that the airstrike near Khan Shaykhun was carried out by Syrian aircraft, which struck a terrorist warehouse that stored chemical weapons slated for delivery to Iraq.  Complete statement below:

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Damascus, SANA – The General Command of the Army and Armed Forces said on Thursday that hundreds were killed, including a large number of civilians, due to an air strike carried out by aircrafts of the so-called US-led international coalition against a huge depot for ISIS terrorist organization that includes toxic materials in the village of Hatla in the eastern countryside of Deir Ezzor province.

In a statement on Thursday, the General Command said aircrafts of the international coalition carried out between 17:30 and 17:50 pm on Wednesday an air strike against a position of ISIS terrorists that includes a large number of foreign mercenaries in the village of Hatla to the east of Deir Ezzor, causing a white cloud that soon turned into yellow as a result of the explosion of a huge depot that includes a large amount of toxic materials.

The General Command said that a fire erupted as a result of the strike that lasted until 22:30 pm, while hundreds of people were killed, including a large number of civilians, due to suffocation caused by the inhalation of toxic materials.

The Army’s Command noted that this incident confirms the truth of the coordination between the terrorist organizations and the countries supporting them to find pretexts and to accuse the Syrian Arab Army of using chemical weapons, adding that this incident also confirms that the terrorist organizations, mainly ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra, possess chemical weapons and have the ability to obtain, transfer, store and use those weapons with the help of well-known countries in the region.

“This is what Syria has warned of every time terrorist groups used chemical weapons against the civilians and Syrian Arab Armed Forces,” the statement added.

The command reiterated its assertion that it neither possess any types of chemical weapons, nor has it used any, warning of the dangers of continued use of chemical weapons by the terrorist groups against civilians, particularly after the messages these groups have recently received which provide cover to their actions and allow them to escape punishment.

Posted in USA, SyriaComments Off on US Kills Hundreds in Chemical Strike on Der Ezzor

Presidential Kill List? First Woman Muslim Judge Found Floating in the Hudson

NOVANEWS

Suspect number one: Donald Trump, will police interview him? Maybe now his phones will really be tapped, now that it looks like he is having his political enemies murdered

The suicide cover up begins with Trump’s “Daily Beast” cheering squad, the Mossad/Jane Harman controlled smear blog, joned in by Murdoch’s NY Daily News and aided by the mob controlled police.  Yes, it was murder, now for certain.

Who ordered the hit?  Was it witch queen Ivanka from her new White House office?  Did the call go to Kosher-Nostra Central in Trump Tower to Felix Sater, Russian mob kingpin and “Trump advisor?”  “I want that bitch floating face down in the Hudson!”

True or not, and we believe Trump is behind it, this is far more likely than Syria’s involvement in a false flag gas attack.  Increasingly as the shoddy intel cover stories come out, it looks like Ivanka and Donnie may have ordered that as well.  We know the Russian’s really believe it and they have real intercepts to back it up.

We know this for sure, Trump wanted her dead, has joked about it, and has spoken of her as someone he wanted out of the way as quickly as possible.  Does this make him a murder suspect?  In the real world, damn right it does.

Sheila Abdus-Salaam, America’s first-ever Muslim woman judge and the first African-American female to serve on New York’s highest court, has been found dead in New York, police say.

Trump fails to comment publicly, privately said to have “high fived” those around him when he got the news.  Was her death ordered over dessert like the Syria bombing?

The 65-year-old judge’s body was found floating on the on the Manhattan side of the Hudson River on Wednesday, just a mile from her home in central Harlem.

Police called the late judge’s husband to identify her. She was reported missing since Tuesday. Officials said the body showed no signs of apparent trauma or injuries.

As a Muslim, Abdus-Salaam made history in 2013, when New York Governor Andrew Cuomo nominated her to serve on the state Court of Appeals.

“The New York Court of Appeals was saddened to learn today of the passing of Judge Sheila Abdus-Salaam, a most beloved colleague since she joined the Court in May 2013,” Chief Judge Janet DiFiore said.

Before getting unanimous approval for the job, Abdus-Salaam said, “being a judge is an honor and involves tremendous responsibility to the litigants and to society.”

Cuomo issued a statement on Wednesday, extending his condolences to Abdus-Salaam’s family.

New York law enforcement officers cover the dead body of Sheila Abdus-Salaam, America’s first-ever Muslim woman judge near the Hudson River, April 12, 2017. (Photo by New York Daily News)

“As the first African-American woman to be appointed to the State’s Court of Appeals, she was a pioneer,” he said. “Through her writings, her wisdom, and her unshakable moral compass, she was a force for good whose legacy will be felt for years to come.”

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio also grieved the judge’s “tragic passing,”  calling her a “a humble pioneer.”

Also mourning Abdus-Salaam’s mysterious death was state Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, who described her as “an inspiration.”

Police said they were investigating the matter while the medical examiner tired to determine the judge’s cause of death.Officials have not ruled out the possibility of a hate crime. The incident comes months after a Muslim imam and his assistant were  shot dead near a mosque in the New York City borough of Queens.

According to Brian Levin, a leading hate crimes researcher, hate crimes increased by more than 20 percent last year in nine US metropolitan areas, including New York City.

Levin argues that the divisive rhetoric of US President Donald Trump was largely to blame for the trend.

Posted in USAComments Off on Presidential Kill List? First Woman Muslim Judge Found Floating in the Hudson

Chile Must Reciprocate ‘Israel’s’ Travel Ban says Barred Activist

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Anuar Majluf, head of the Palestinian Federation of Chile, during a visit last year to Jerusalem. Nov. 2016

Anuar Majluf, head of the Palestinian Federation of Chile, during a visit last year to Nazi illegally occupied Jerusalem. Nov. 2016 | Foto: Facebook

On Tuesday activists throughout Latin America called on Chile to reciprocate after Nazi regime denied entry to a Chilean citizen leading an annual Easter pilgrimage to Palestine.

The head of the Palestinian Federation of Chile, Anuar Majluf, said Nazi officials denied him entry to the occupied West Bank on Monday based on a controversial new law which bans anyone publicly supporting the boycott, divestment, and sanctions campaign against the illegal occupation of Palestine.

“I feel terrible pain because I’m now unable to visit my family’s homeland, as a Chilean citizen with a Palestinian lineage,”  Majluf said in a statement.

“On the other hand, I know that what I suffer is nothing compared to the suffering of the many Palestinians who, if they dare to defy Israel’s policies, often end up dead, tortured or in the prisons of the occupation,” Majluf added.

“The Chilean government should act reciprocally and refuse entry to Israeli citizens who come as tourists to Chile. If Israel knew that its repressive actions and laws have consequences, it would be much less likely to enact them,” he continued.

“The international community, and the Chilean government specifically, should at least demand an explanation from the government of Benjamin Netanyahu, and demand that Israel stop illegitimately denying entry to international supporters of Palestinian rights,” Majluf concluded.

Majluf’s call for a firm response was echoed by Saeb Erekat, secretary-general of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, in a letter to Chile’s Foreign Minister Heraldo Muñoz.

“I respectfully ask that you take concrete measures to protect the right of your citizens to visit, work, invest and live in Palestine,” wrote Erekat on Tuesday.

Erekat warned that if Chileans traveling to Palestine continue to be “threatened and treated like criminals” it would be “a tragedy not only for the community but for the future potential of relations between both countries.”

The PLO letter came one day after 16 organizations representing the Palestinian diaspora throughout Latin America and the Caribbean called on Chile to “repair this affront against a Chilean citizen and exercise the principle of reciprocity against a country that breaks all the rules and places itself above the law of all nations.”

Several prominent Chilean politicians echoed the call, asking Chilean President Michelle Bachelet to respond in kind.

“As Chile allows the free entry and passage of Israeli citizens, it is unacceptable that Israel openly violates the rights of Chilean citizens,” said Chilean Senator Eugenio Tuma Zedán on Tuesday.

Chile has one of the largest and oldest Palestinian diaspora populations outside of the Middle East, and in November of this year the nation’s capital, Santiago, will host the first ever Latin American Palestinian diaspora conference

Majluf is the fourth person denied entry into occupied Palestine in the past week based on the 6-month old anti-BDS law.

Over the weekend, three Swedish citizens and members of a World Congress of Churches delegation were turned back upon arrival at Ben Gurion International Airport.

However, the Palestinian BDS National Committee noted that the timing of Nazi regime banning of Majluf was particularly egregious.

Denying entry to “a Christian who was on a delegation to visit the Holy Land this Easter, is another low for Israel,”  said Mahmoud Nawajaa, a spokesperson for the committee.

Posted in ZIO-NAZI, South AmericaComments Off on Chile Must Reciprocate ‘Israel’s’ Travel Ban says Barred Activist

Syria: Neocons Get Almost Giddy

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By Jim Lobe | LobeLog

Thirty-six hours after the pre-dawn cruise-missile strike against Syria’s al-Shayrat airfield, neoconservative hawks, many of whom beat the drums for war in Iraq 14 years ago, are feeling the warm spring breezes of renewal and rejuvenation. Suddenly hopeful that Donald Trump may yet be coming around to their worldview, neoconservatives are full of praise for the action, which they (like many liberal interventionists) insist was long overdue. Not surprisingly, neocons are pressing for more.

The strike, which marked a dramatic reversal by a president who had strongly opposed any similar action by Barack Obama in 2013, coincided with a number of reports that Steve Bannon’s influence on Trump was on the wane amid intensified infighting between Bannon’s “nationalism” and Jared Kushner and Gary Cohn’s “globalism.” The potential eclipse of Bannon has only added to the giddiness of the neocons as they anticipate what might now be possible.

For now, at least, it’s the generals—in the form of National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster and Pentagon chief James “Mad Dog” Mattis—who appear to be masters of the moment both with respect to the decision to strike and the specificity of the target. The principal justification for the strike—to uphold the international ban on chemical weapons as opposed to, say, the broader aim of “regime change”—was also narrowly drawn, reflecting the military’s determination to avoid being drawn into yet another Middle East civil war.

Nonetheless, the neocons, who have rarely met a slippery military slope they weren’t tempted to roll down, embraced wholeheartedly both the strike and its justification. They view it as a first—but absolutely necessary—step toward a new phase of U.S. interventionism of precisely the kind that Bannon and his “nationalist” and Islamophobic allies abhor. The perceived decline in Bannon’s influence gives them an opening that, until this week’s events, they thought was out of reach.

Thus, the dominant theme for neocons in the strike’s aftermath was applause for what they see as an abandonment of Obama’s post-Libya policy of military restraint and, quite possibly, the restoration of Washington’s credibility as the global hegemon newly resolved to impose its will anywhere it sees a threat to its vital interests very broadly defined.

Neocons Exult

Elliott Abrams, a top Mideast aide to Bush who Trump rejected as deputy secretary of state reportedly as a result of Bannon’s opposition, thus exulted in the Weekly Standard over Thursday’s strike with the kind of capitalized flattery that appeared as carefully targeted at Trump’s enormous ego as the most sophisticated cruise missile. No doubt, Abrams still entertains hopes of getting a top post in the administration if Bannon’s declining influence is true.

The president has been chief executive since January 20, but this week he acted also as Commander in Chief. And more: he finally accepted the role of Leader of the Free World.

… And the strike will have far wider effects [beyond Syria]. It was undertaken while Chinese president Xi was with Trump in Florida. Surely this new image of a president willing to act will affect their conversations about North Korea. Vladimir Putin will think again about his relations with the United States, and will realize that the Obama years of passivity are truly over. Allies and friends will be cheered, while enemies will realize times have changed. When next the Iranians consider swarming around an American ship in the Gulf, they may think again.

Bill Kristol—the Standard’s editor-at-large and co-founder and director of the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), which did so much to coordinate with the Bush administration in rallying elite support for the Iraq invasion— declared Abrams’s analysis a “must read in a tweet issued Friday morning.

Indeed, prominent neocons clearly saw their opportunity after the lethal chemical attack on Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib province Tuesday to press their agenda on the administration.

None other than Paul Wolfowitz, Bush’s deputy defense secretary and a chief architect of the Iraq invasion and disastrous aftermath, suggested in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that statements by Trump’s senior officials suggesting that Washington was reconciled to Assad’s continued rule over the country may have emboldened the Syrian leader to test the limits.

Let us hope Mr. Trump will reassess the impact of recent statements by members of his administration indicating that the U.S. is prepared to live with the Assad regime. The Syrians—and their Russian and Iranian backers—might well have interpreted this as a signal that they could continue terrorizing the population.

Encouraged by Trump’s initial verbal condemnation of the gas attack, Wolfowitz made clear that action was required:

President Trump may have initially believed that he could avoid the fork in the road presented by the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons in Syria by simply blaming the crime on Barack Obama’s failure to enforce his “red line” four years ago. Fortunately it seems he has reconsidered.

To drive the point home, the Journal editors headlined the op-ed “For Syria, Words Won’t Be Enough: Trump says attacking civilians crosses ‘many lines.’ Will he back it up?”

Meanwhile, the looniest among the neocons, former CIA director James Woolsey—who was one of the first to publicly claim a connection between Saddam Hussein and 9/11—was urging trump to do much, much more than a simple retaliatory strike.

This at least gives us an opportunity to do something that is tied to the Syrian events, and that would be to use force against the Iranian nuclear program … If we want to change the nature of the threat to us in that part of the world, what we have to do is take out the Iranian nuclear program—if we can without hitting any Russian units—and some of the Syrian capability.

Pump Up the Volume

Although most other neocons were not quite so explicit about their fondest desires, they made perfectly clear that Thursday’s cruise-missile strike should only be a first step toward a larger regional strategy designed to roll back Iranian (and Russian) influence (much as PNAC warned after 9/11 that taking out the Taliban in Afghanistan should only be a first step in the war against terror). Writing in the New York Daily News, Fred Kagan of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) argued that

President Trump’s decision to attack the airfield from which the most recent chemical attack was launched must be the start of a new strategy. It must begin a campaign to drive the Assad regime to compromise. It must be the start of an effort to regain the confidence of Sunni Arabs in Syria and around the world that the U.S. stands with them against all those who would attack them, ISIS and Al Qaeda as well as Iran and its proxies.

Katherine Zimmerman has also echoed this theme of backing the region’s Sunni states. Like both Wolfowitz and Kagan, Zimmerman is based at AEI, the neoconservative think tank that not only led the public campaign for invading Iraq but played a critical role in planning the post-invasion occupation.

The US cruise missile strikes are the first step to restoring America’s credibility within the very population—the Sunni Arabs—that it must win over to secure its strategic interests in the Middle East. The action against the Assad regime starts to chip away at al Qaeda’s narrative that it alone is the defender of the Syrian Sunni. But an isolated response will not achieve systemic effects. It is impossible to defeat al Qaeda and ISIS without the support of the Sunni, and re-establishing America’s credibility will certainly be difficult.

(The irony of AEI’s strong backing for Sunnis throughout the region is particularly rich given its historic role in enhancing the influence of Ahmad Chalabi in the run-up to the Iraq invasion. Once re-installed in Iraq, Chalabi, a Shiite, was the principal driver of the “de-Baathification” that principally victimized Iraqi Sunnis.)

The same message was conveyed Friday by Christopher Griffin, the executive director of the Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI), PNAC’s lineal descendant, in a bulletin entitled “Syria Airstrike Necessary But Insufficient” in which he argued for reviving U.S. efforts to “empower a moderate opposition” to Assad with the larger ambition of diminishing Iran’s influence.

[I]t may now be possible for the U.S. to coordinate a meaningful coalition that brings together its Sunni Arab allies and potential partners within the Syrian opposition. Since 2014, a major constraint on that coordination has been Washington’s insistence on supporting only military operations against ISIS, and not the Assad regime. If American policy is revised, it will create new opportunities to protect the Syrian people from the Assad regime and to legitimize non-extremist alternatives to the ISIS and al Qaeda affiliates in Syria.

… If American pressure can limit Russian support while bringing together a more effective anti-Assad coalition, the United States may be able to isolate Iran and place one of its few allies in the Middle East at risk. The United States should not hesitate to seize such an opportunity.…

Neocon Overlap with Trump

Of course, this is precisely where the neocon agenda overlaps with that of Pentagon chief James Mattis who, of all the members of the Cabinet, seems to enjoy the greatest influence with Trump at the moment. Since serving as chief of the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), he has said on numerous occasions that Tehran poses the greatest long-term threat to U.S. interests in the Middle East, although, unlike many neocons, he strongly supports complying with the 2015 nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Late last month, the current CENTCOM commander, Army Gen. Joseph Votel, repeated that threat assessment and even suggested that he was eager to confront Iran militarily, presumably short of war. “We need to look at opportunities where we can disrupt [Iran] through military means or other means their activities,” he said.

CENTCOM, of course, has always been cozy with – and relied on — the region’s Sunni autocrats, whose seemingly insatiable appetite for sophisticated U.S. weaponry has the added benefit of profiting U.S. arms producers (on whose boards retired brass often serve). With Mattis at the Pentagon, Obama’s notion that Washington can help bring about some kind of equilibrium between the Sunni-led Gulf states to begin stabilizing the region is long gone. Washington’s clear alignment with the Emiratis and Saudis in their own catastrophic Yemen campaign since Trump took power makes that particularly clear. And, with Netanyahu publicly boasting about Israel’s growing security cooperation with the Gulfies, especially with the United Arab Emirates, out of their mutual hostility toward Iran, the convergence between the neocons and the Pentagon, at least insofar as the Middle East is concerned, is growing.

At the same time, however, the military has learned through painful experience, notably in Iraq, that indulging neocon notions such as “regime change” and “nation-building” is the road to perdition. If the neocons want to gain influence with the ascendant powers in the administration—Mattis, McMaster, and the brass—they have to proceed delicately, one step at a time. For example, Kristol’s tweet Saturday afternoon  – “Punishing Assad for use of chemical weapons is good. Regime change in Iran is the prize” – is not going to help their cause. Similarly, if you’re looking for slippery slopes, look no further than the advice proffered by Kristol’s partner-in-hegemonism at PNAC and FPI, Bob Kagan, who argued for a slew of follow-up steps in a column entitled “What Must Come Next in Syria” in the Washington Post Sunday.

Griffin was one of about 150 mainly neocon national-security wonks who signed letters insisting that they would never serve in a Trump administration, an act that probably disqualifies him for consideration. Some prominent neocons— including Abrams, Fred Kagan, former Cheney national security adviser John Hannah, former Undersecretary of State Paula Dobriansky, former assistant secretary of state Stephen Rademaker, and Abram’s Mideast aide on the National Security Council Michael Doran, to name a few—decided against signing. Given the scores of senior foreign-policy positions that remain unfilled under Trump, this may be their moment.

Indeed, if Bannon and the “nationalists” are truly in eclipse, even some of those who signed those letters may now be back in consideration.

Photo of Bill Kristol by Gage Skidmore via Flickr

Posted in USA, SyriaComments Off on Syria: Neocons Get Almost Giddy

What Everybody Needs to Know About Venezuela Protest Deaths

NOVANEWS
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teleSUR 

By now, you’ve probably heard about what’s going on in Venezuela.

Right-wing opposition demonstrators are leading daily protests against the government of President Nicolas Maduro and supporters of the Bolivarian Revolution. As of Thursday, five people have tragically been reported dead: Jairo Ortiz, Ricarda Lourdes, Daniel Queliz, Miguel Colmenares and Brayan Principal.

In line with mainstream media, Venezuelan opposition leaders allege that Maduro’s administration is responsible for all of these deaths. Hasler Iglesias, for example, a youth organizer for the right-wing Popular Will party, claims police killed all five people.

“These are assassinations of the dictatorship,” Iglesias posted on Twitter Wednesday.

Opposition lawmaker Alfonso Marquina echoed these allegations, adding that “police are terrorizing our communities.”

There’s no denying that people have died as a result of ongoing protests. What the opposition fails to mention, however, is why and how these people died and who is responsible for their deaths.

Venezuelan police are responsible for two of the five deaths attributed to Maduro’s government by the opposition, Question Digital reports. Two others died from direct and indirect actions by opposition supporters, with the last person dying in the crossfire of conflict between both sides.

Here’s a quick rundown.

Ortiz was murdered on April 7 in Miranda by transit police officer Rohenluis Leonel Mata. The police officer believed Ortiz was one of many opposition protesters inciting violence against the socialist government.

After carefully investigating the case, however, the Venezuelan government discovered that Ortiz was not involved in any public demonstration or act of violence. Upon proving Ortiz’s innocence, the government immediately detained Mata, who is set to face criminal charges.

Lourdes, an 83-year-old woman, died at her home in Caracas on April 10 from hydrocephalus. When her symptoms began flaring earlier that day, she was unable to be transported to a nearby hospital because opposition protesters blocked all of the neighborhood’s roads, preventing ambulances from picking her up.

Queliz, a 20-year-old opposition protester, also died on April 10 in the Venezuelan state of Carabobo after police reportedly shot him in self-defense. He was among a group of protesters attacking police with rocks and sticks. The police officer connected with his killing was arrested on Wednesday, Question Digital also reports.

Colmenares was killed on April 11 in the department of Lara state while caught in the crossfire of conflict between opposition protesters and police.

Principal, a 13-year-old resident of the Ali Primera Socialist City, was shot and killed by opposition protesters after they toppled the main gate of the commune. The city was established by the Bolivarian Revolution in 2014 for low-income citizens.

A closer look into these deaths reveal that the nature of these killings are not as clear cut as the right-wing opposition portrays them to be.

Posted in VenezuelaComments Off on What Everybody Needs to Know About Venezuela Protest Deaths

US successfully tests new nuclear gravity bomb

NOVANEWS

© U.S Government / CTBTO
RT 

As the world’s attention was on the first combat use of the conventional “Mother Of All Bombs,” the US National Nuclear Security Administration announced the successful field test of the modernized gravity nuclear bomb in Nevada.

The NNSA and the US Air Force completed the first qualification flight test of the B61-12 gravity nuclear bomb on March 14 at the Tonopah Test Range in Nevada, the agency announced on Thursday.

The test was intended to evaluate the weapon’s “non-nuclear functions” and the capability of the F-16 fighter to successfully deploy the bomb. An F-16 fighter from Nellis Air Force Base dropped the “non-nuclear test assembly,” the NNSA said in a statement.

“The successful test provides critical qualification data to validate that the baseline design meets military requirements,” said Brigadier General Michael Lutton, NNSA’s principal assistant deputy administrator for military application. The NNSA is part of the Department of Energy, which is charged with managing US nuclear weapons.

The B61-12 is a modernized version of the B61 gravity bomb, the mainstay of the Air Force’s nuclear arsenal and one of the legs of the so-called nuclear triad, along with the intercontinental ballistic missiles deployed from either ground-based silos or oceangoing submarines.

President Donald Trump has endorsed an ambitious – and expensive – plan to modernize the US nuclear triad, begun under his predecessor. The B61-12 is intended to consolidate and replace all the B61 variants currently in service.

Three successful development flight tests of the B61-12 were conducted in 2015. The March test was the first in a series scheduled to span the next three years, with the final design review due in September 2018 and the first production unit scheduled for completion by March 2020.

On Thursday, the US attracted the world’s attention by dropping a GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast Bomb (MOAB), also known as “Mother Of All Bombs,” on Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) positions in eastern Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province. It was the first combat use of the weapon, the largest conventional bomb in the US arsenal.

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