Archive | December 17th, 2017

Boris Johnson breathes new life into ‘Russian meddling’ fairy story – introducing Facebook trolls

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© Tom Nicholson / Global Look Press
RT | December 17, 2017

With the Russian Brexit meddling story unravelling almost as badly as Brexit itself, Boris Johnson has found a new angle. The latest dead cat to grace the table is a cabal of “Russian trolls” on Facebook.

“There’s some evidence that there has been Russian trolling on Facebook,” Johnson said, referring to Brexit, in an interview with the Sunday Times as he elucidated his brand new theory of the Russian meddling in the fateful vote. At the same time, he admitted that he had “seen no evidence” of the Russian alleged meddling affecting the referendum outcome in any way.

With less than a dollar spent, it is hardly surprising that the outcome of the referendum was unaffected. Indeed, an investigation conducted by Facebook at the request of no less than the UK Electoral Commission revealed that Russia spent as much as 73p ($0.97) on ads to allegedly influence Brexit. And that is without mentioning the fact that the ads themselves were about migration and the wider European context.

It is not the first time the British foreign secretary has been forced to admit that there is no evidence Russia has ever sought to interfere with British votes; even within the last month he has done so at least twice. In late November, he told the House of Commons that the government saw “no evidence of any country successfully interfering with our robust electoral system.”

At the beginning of the same month, he also said that he had not seen any evidence of the Russian meddling, adding that as far as he knows “[the Russians] have played no role” in Brexit. Characteristically, though, Boris is thinking outside the box and all these admissions have not stopped him from throwing various accusations at Moscow – without providing any evidence.

In late November, right after stating that no one had interfered in the British electoral system, Johnson stated vaguely that “we know of course that Russia seeks to undermine our institutions.” This time he decided not to hold back, and accused Moscow of a multitude of sins.

He went as far as to call Russia a “closed, nasty, militaristic and antidemocratic” state, comparing it with ancient Sparta at the time of the Peloponnesian war. Dismissing this latest remark, the Russian Foreign Ministry’s spokeswoman Maria Zakharova somewhat coldly noted on her Facebook page that “Russia has never been a militaristic country, unlike the European states.”

She added that Johnson was right about one thing: the ongoing issues sown and stirred up by the West, on the European continent in particular, weaken Western civilization in the same way the Peloponnesian war denuded the readiness of both Sparta and Athens to face external enemies.

Meanwhile, regardless of whether Johnson is speaking about Brexit, relations with Russia or any other subject, one might point out that he does a more than adequate job of trolling himself. He has done so on many occasions, such as showing empathy with the victims of colonialism by quoting Kipling in Burma.

Then there was his statesmanlike grasp of the importance of information management, telling a parliamentary committee what a British Citizen was doing in Iran and thereby getting her thrown in jail. And Johnson set a new standard for political car-crash BBC interviews, during which he was likened to a figure from a classic comedy skit. And all that in the past six months alone.

Posted in Russia, UKComments Off on Boris Johnson breathes new life into ‘Russian meddling’ fairy story – introducing Facebook trolls

Celtic Football Club Fans Display ‘Jerusalem is Palestine’, ‘F*** Trump’ Banners

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  • Celtic fans fly pro-Palestine flags before kick off, in 2016.
    Celtic fans fly pro-Palestine flags before kick off, in 2016. | Photo: Reuters
Last year, fans flew the Palestinian flag at a Champions League match against the Nazi team, resulting in the club being penalized with a fine.

At a match in Edinburgh’s Easter Road stadium, several Celtic Football Club (FC) supporters raised a pair of banners – before kick-off – that read, “Jerusalem is Palestine” and “F*** Trump.” 

RELATED: Pro-Palestine Protests Erupt Around the World

In doing so, the fans have joined people around the world who are protesting the recent decision by U.S. President Donald Trump to move the Nazi embassy to illegally occupied Jerusalem from 1948 occupied Palestine Tel Aviv, after he declared the city to be ‘Israel’s’ capital.

The Celtic FC supporters have previously shown solidarity with Palestine.

Last year, fans flew the Palestinian flag at a UEFA Champions League match against the Zionist team, which resulted in the club being penalized with a fine.

In response to the punishment meted out to the club, Scottish fans raised $132,000 – which was enough to cover the fine and make donations to Palestinian refugees.

On Saturday, Trump ally and Nazi Prime Minister (PM) Naziyahu unambiguously told Palestinians to accept Jerusalem as ‘Israel’s’ capital. Netanyahu’s provocative statement, which legitimizes Nazi 1967 annexation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Golan Heights regions, has received widespread condemnation.

It is a big blow to those fighting for the rights of Palestinians.

The U.S. president’s historic announcement, which Hamas has likened to “opening the gates of hell,” has since sparked a series of violent clashes and flag-burning scenes across Palestinian territories and Arab nations.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZI, UKComments Off on Celtic Football Club Fans Display ‘Jerusalem is Palestine’, ‘F*** Trump’ Banners

Towards a New Palestinian Beginning

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  • Muslim leaders condemned U.S. President Donald Trump
    Muslim leaders condemned U.S. President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel on Wednesday and called on the world to respond by recognizing East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine. | Photo: Reuters

Now that the American mask has completely fallen, Palestinians require an urgent rethink in their own political priorities, alliances and national liberation strategy.

RELATED: US Move on Jerusalem Signals End of Commitment to Peace: OIC

Business should not go on as usual after U.S. President Donald Trump accepted Israel’s definition of Jerusalem as its capital, thus violating the overwhelming international consensus on the matter.

The Fatah movement, which has controlled the Palestinian Authority (PA) since its inception in 1994, has preempted people’s anger over the United States’ move, by declaring ‘days of rage.’ Several Palestinians were killed and many wounded in clashes throughout the Occupied Territories in what is understandably justified anger over the unwarranted American decision.

But the manipulation of Palestinian emotions by their leadership is contemptible, to say the least. The ‘politics of rage,’ which has been used by the Palestinian leadership in the past, has often worked to deflect popular discontent and criticism.

Sure, Israel and the United States deserve condemnation for their role in sustaining, funding and defending the military occupation and subjugation of the Palestinian people, but the Palestinian leadership is deserving of much condemnation as well. Those who have willingly participated in the futile game of the ‘peace process,’ dangling the dim prospect of a ‘two-state solution’ before despairing Palestinians, should not get off the hook so easily.

Palestinian leaders and an army of officials, politicians, pundits and contractors made billions of dollars from foreign funds to keep the ‘peace process’ charade going for over 25 years, while the general population grew poorer and more despondent than ever.

Those who resisted, outside the acceptable political framework as presented by the Palestinian leadership, were harassed, imprisoned and severely punished. This was the case not just in Gaza, but in the West Bank as well. Many journalists, academics, artists and activists were treated harshly for questioning the PA’s methods throughout the years.

Yet here we stand: the PA is calling on those very Palestinians to rage. Hamas, too, is calling for a new Intifada. Oddly, Palestinian factions never learned from history. Real, sustainable popular uprisings are never a response to a party’s or a politician’s call. It is a spontaneous, genuine cry for freedom that originates from the masses, not the political elites.

While some Palestinian factions are hoping that the people’s anger directed at the Israeli occupation will create a protective buffer so that they may survive another day, other groups are riding the wave for their own political interests.

But this is not a strategy. Sending bare-chested people to fight armed soldiers only to communicate a media message will neither pressure Israel nor the United States. In fact, most U.S. media outlets are centering their debate on ‘Palestinian violence,’ as if the violence of the Israeli occupation is a non-issue, and as if the safety of Israelis is the most compelling concern at the moment.

Nor will polite appeals to the United States to reconsider its decision and pressure Trump to rescind his embassy move make a difference.

The final statement presented by the Arab League foreign ministers in Cairo on Saturday was an example of the lackluster language that will prove ineffective.

RELATED: Four Palestinians dead, Over 1,000 Injured in Israeli Crackdown

Calling on Trump to reverse his decision will not, on its own, make an iota of difference. The Palestinians need their Arab brethren to articulate a strong, unified position on the issue, without hesitating to explore new political routes and put real, tangible pressure on the United States and Israel to relent.

The Palestinian leadership that has downgraded the Palestinian struggle, and wasted precious years chasing an American mirage, must be held accountable.

Why are Palestinian leaders still holding so tightly onto their chairs, considering the amount of damage they have inflicted upon the Palestinian cause?

If the Palestinian leadership had a minimal degree of accountability and self-respect, it would issue a heartfelt apology to the people for all the squandered time, energy and blood. It would immediately issue a total overhaul within its ranks; activate all Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) institutions; and bring all factions together, under the umbrella of the PLO, to declare a new strategy regarding the increasingly bleak-looking future.

None of this has happened yet. Angry statements and calls for Palestinian mobilization without a common strategy will only feed the interests of the factions, and eventually prove of no help to the Palestinian people and their national aspirations.

In truth, ordinary Palestinians need neither Fatah nor Hamas to call for ‘days of rage’ or a new Intifada. Their hate for the occupation and love for their city of Jerusalem requires no official communications. It is their fight. It has always been their fight, one they have fought every single day for the last 50 years.

What Trump has done will have terrible consequences on the region for years to come, but one of the early outcomes is that it exposed the peace process as a complete charade and the United States’ role for what it is: neither honest nor fair. However, it should also expose the Palestinian leadership for all its failings and corruption.

If Palestinians are to start anew, they have to commence their journey with a new political discourse, with new blood, and a new future outlook that is based on unity, credence and competence. None of this can ever take place with the same old faces, the same tired language and the same dead-end politics.

It is time for a new beginning.

Ramzy Baroud is editor of the Palestine Chronicle. His forthcoming book is ‘The Last Earth: A Palestinian Story.’ He has a Ph.D. in Palestine Studies from the University of Exeter and is a Non-Resident Scholar at Orfalea Center for Global and International Studies, University of California Santa Barbara.

Posted in Palestine AffairsComments Off on Towards a New Palestinian Beginning

Nazi Forces Kill 4 in Palestine During Clashes

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  • A Palestinian man lies on the ground after being shot by Israeli forces.
    A Palestinian man lies on the ground after being shot by Nazi forces.
Six more have been killed during clashes this week, bringing the total death toll to 10.

Thousands of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and East Jerusalem are continuing mobilizations against U.S. President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as ‘Israel’s capital’.

RELATED: Muslim Nations Converge, Call Trump’s Jerusalem Decision ‘Null and Void’

The clashes between Palestinians and Nazi forces  left four dead and hundreds wounded Friday by live ammunition and rubber coated steel bullets. Six more have been killed during clashes this week, bringing the total death toll to 10.

In the Gaza Strip, protesters gathered by the northern border with Nazi to hurl rocks at Nazi forces. Nazi soldiers opened fire, killing two protesters, including Ibrahim Abu Thuraya, a 29-year-old man who lost his two legs during a 2008 israeli missile strike on Gaza, and leaving 150 wounded.

Clashes also took place across the West Bank, where Nazi forces shot and killed two Palestinian men.

The Palestinian Health Ministry confirmed the death of 18-year-old Muhammad al-Adam, who was shot multiple times by Israeli forces after an alleged stabbing attempt in al-Bireh, near the city of Ramallah. In the Jerusalem governorate town of Anata, on the border with the Jerusalem municipality, 29-year-old Bassel Mustafa Muhammad Ibrahim died after being shot in the chest by Nazi forces.

In East Jerusalem, Palestinians marched from the Al-Aqsa compound in the Old City towards Damascus Gate after Friday prayers. They were met with riot police mounted on horses.

Wounded Palestinians were also reported in the West Bank towns of Qalqilya, Nablus and Tulkarem.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZI, Human RightsComments Off on Nazi Forces Kill 4 in Palestine During Clashes

Progress Report on the US-Russian War

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The Saker • Unz Review 

I am often asked if the US and Russia will go to war with each other. I always reply that they are already at war. Not a war like WWII, but a war nonetheless. This war is, at least for the time being, roughly 80% informational, 15% economic and 5% kinetic. But in political terms the outcome for the loser of this war will be no less dramatic than the outcome of WWII was for Germany: the losing country will not survive it, at least not in its present shape: either Russia will become a US colony again or the AngloZionist Empire will collapse.

In my very first column for the Unz Review entitled “A Tale of Two World Orders” I described the kind of multipolar international system regulated by the rule of law that Russia, China and their allies and friends worldwide (whether overt or covert) are trying to build and how dramatically different it was from the single World Hegemony that the AngloZionists have attempted to establish (and almost successfully imposed upon our suffering planet!). In a way, the US imperial leaders are right, Russia does represent an existential threat, not for the United States as a country or for its people, but for the AngloZionist Empire, just as the latter represents an existential threat to Russia. Furthermore, Russia represents a fundamental civilizational challenge to what is normally called the “West” as she openly rejects its post-Christian (and, I would add, also viscerally anti-Islamic) values. This is why both sides are making an immense effort at prevailing in this struggle.

Last week the anti-imperial camp scored a major victory with the meeting between Presidents Putin, Rouhani and Erdogan in Sochi: they declared themselves the guarantors of a peace plan which will end the war against the Syrian people (the so-called “civil war”, which this never was) and they did so without inviting the US to participate in the negotiations. Even worse, their final statementdid not even mention the US, not once. The “indispensable nation” was seen as so irrelevant to even be mentioned.

To fully measure how offensive all this is we need to stress a number of points:

First, led by Obama, all the leaders of the West declared urbi et orbi and with immense confidence that Assad had no future, that he had to go, that he was already a political corpse and that he would have no role whatsoever to play in the future of Syria.

Second, the Empire created a “coalition” of 59 (!) countries, which failed to achieve anything, anything at all: a gigantic multi-billion dollar “gang that could not shoot straight” led by CENTCOM and NATO, which only proved its most abject incompetence. In contrast, Russia never had more than 35 combat aircraft in Syria at any time and turned the course of the war (with a lot of Iranian and Hezbollah help on the ground).

Next, the Empire decreed that Russia was “isolated” and her economy “in tatters” – all of which the Ziomedia parroted with total fidelity. Iran was, of course, part of the famous “Axis of Evil,” while Hezbollah was the “A-Team of terrorism”. As for Erdogan, the AngloZionists tried to overthrow and kill him. And now it is Russia, Iran, Hezbollah and Turkey who defeated the terrorists and will call the shots in Syria.

Finally, when the US realized that putting Daesh in power in Damascus was not going to happen, they first tried to break up Syria (Plan B) and then tried to create a Kurdish statelet in Iraq and Syria (Plan C). All these plans failed, Assad is in Russia giving hugs to Putin, while Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corp Quds Force Commander General Soleimani is taking a stroll through the last Syrian city to be liberated from Daesh.

Can you imagine how totally humiliated, ridiculed, and beaten the US leaders feel today? Being hated or resisted is one thing, but being totally ignored – now that hurts!

As for a strategy, the best they could come up with was what I would call a “petty harassment of Russia”: making RT sign up as a foreign agent, stealing ancient art from Russiastripping Russian athletes from medals en masse, trying to ban the Russian flag and anthem from the Olympics in Seoul or banning Russian military aircraft from the next Farnborough airshow. And all these efforts have achieved is making Putin even more popular, the West even more hated, and the Olympics even more boring (ditto for Farnborough – the MAKS and the Dubai Air Shows are so much ‘sexier’ anyway). Oh, I almost forgot, the “new Europeans” will continue their mini-war against old Soviet statues to their liberators. It’s just like the US mini-war on the Russian representations in the US, a clear sign of weakness.

Speaking of weakness.

This is becoming comical. The US media, especially CNN, cannot let a day go by without mentioning the evil Russians, the US Congress is engaged in mass hysteria trying to figure out which of the Republicans and the Democrats have had more contacts with the Russians, NATO commanders are crapping their pants in abject terror (or so they say!) every time the Russian military organizes any exercise, the US Navy and Air Force representatives regularly whine about Russian pilots making “unprofessional intercepts”, the British Navy goes into full combat mode when a single (and rather modest) Russian aircraft carrier transits through the English Channel – but Russia is, supposedly, the “weak” country here.

Does that make sense to you?

The truth is that the Russians are laughing. From the Kremlin, to the media, to the social media – they are even make hilarious sketches about how almighty they are and how they control everything. But mostly the Russians are laughing their heads off wondering what in the world the folks in the West are smoking to be so totally terrified (at least officially) by a non-existing threat.

You know what else they are seeing?

That western political leaders are seeking safety in numbers. Hence the ridiculously bloated “coalitions” and all the resolutions coming out of various European and trans-Atlantic bodies. Western politicians are like schoolyard nerds who, fearing the tough kid, huddle together to look bigger. Every Russian kid knows that seeking safety in numbers is a surefire sign of a scared wimp. In contrast, the Russians also remember how a tiny nation of less than 2 million people had the courage to declare war on Russia and how they fought the Russians hard, really hard. I am talking about the Chechens of course. Yeah, love them or hate them – but there is no denying that Chechens are courageous. Ditto for the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan. The Russians were impressed. And even though the Nazis inflicted an unspeakable amount of suffering on the Russian people, the Russians never deny that the German soldiers and officers were skilled and courageous. There is even a Russian saying “I love/respect the courageous man in the Tatar/Mongol” (люблю молодца и в татарине). So Russians have no problem seeing courage in their enemies.

But US/NATO armies? They all act as if Conchita Wurst was their Commander in Chief!

Remember this:

None of these men were kind or “nice” in any way. But they mattered. They were relevant. And they wielded some very real power.

Today, real power looks like this:

And you know what is really offensive to the AngloZionist leaders?

That this photo shows one Orthodox Christian and two Muslims.

Now that’s offensive. And very frightening, of course.

We are very, very far from the “birth of a new Middle East” promised by Condi Rice (it is a new Middle East alright, just not the one Rice and the Neocons had in mind!)

As for the “only democracy in the Middle East” it is now in full panic mode, hence its now overt plan to work with the Saudis against Iran and its clearly staged leaks about bombing all Iranian assets up to 40km from the Israeli border. But that train has already left the station: the Syrians won and no amount of airstrikes will change that. So just to make sure they still look really fierce, the Israelis are now adding that in case of a war between Israel and Hezbollah, Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah would be a target. Wow! Who would have thought?!

Can you hear the giggles coming out of Beirut?

The scary thing is that the folks in DC, Riyadh and Jerusalem hear them loud and clear which means that sooner or later they will have to do something about it and that “something” will be the usual nonsensical bloodbath this “Axis of Kindness” has been made famous for: if you can’t beat their military, make their civilians pay (think Kosovo 1999, Lebanon 2006, Yemen 2015). Either that or beat the shit out of a tiny, defenseless victim (Grenada 1983, Gaza 2008, Bahrain 2011). Nothing like a good massacre of defenseless civilians to make them feel manly, respected and powerful (and, for US Americans – “indispensable”, of course).

Setting aside the case of the Middle East, I think we can begin to see the outlines of what the US and Russia will be doing in the next couple of years.

Russia: the Russian strategy towards the Empire is simple:

  1. Try to avoid as much as possible and for as long as possible any direct military confrontation with the US because Russia is still the weaker side (mostly in quantitative terms). That, and actively preparing for war under the ancient si vis pacem para bellumstrategy.
  2. Try to cope as best can be with all the “petty harassment”: the US still has infinitely more “soft power” than Russia and Russia simply does not have the means to strike back in kind. So she does the minimum to try to deter or weaken the effects of that kind of “petty harassment” but, in truth, there is not much she can do about it besides accepting it as a fact of life.
  3. Rather than trying to disengage from the AngloZionist controlled Empire (economically, financially, politically), Russia will very deliberately contribute to the gradual emergence of an alternative realm. A good example of that is the Chinese-promoted New Silk Road which is being built without any meaningful role for the Empire.

US: the US strategy is equally simple:

  1. Use the Russian “threat” to give a meaning and a purpose to the Empire, especially NATO.
  2. Continue and expand the “petty harassment” against Russia on all levels.
  3. Subvert and weaken as much as possible any country or politician showing any signs of independence or disobedience (including New Silk Road countries)

Both sides are using delaying tactics, but for diametrically opposite reasons: Russia, because time is on her side and the US, because they have run out of options.

It is important to stress here that in this struggle Russia is at a major disadvantage: whereas the Russians want to build something, the Americans only want to destroy it (examples include Syria, of course, but also the Ukraine or, for that matter, a united Europe). Another major disadvantage for Russia is that most governments out there as still afraid of antagonizing the Empire in any way, thus the deafening silence and supine submissiveness of the “concert of nations” when Uncle Sam goes on one of his usual rampages in total violation of international law and the UN Charter. This is probably changing, but very, very slowly. Most world politicians are just like US Congressmen: prostitutes (and cheap ones at that).

The biggest advantage for Russia is that the United States are internally falling apart economically, socially, politically – you name it. With every passing year the once most prosperous US is starting to look more and more like some backwater Third World country. Oh sure, the US economy is still huge (but rapidly shrinking!), but that is meaningless when financial wealth and social wealth are conflated into one completely misleading index of pseudo-prosperity. This is sad, really, a country that ought to be prosperous and happy is being bled to death by the, shall we say, “imperial parasite” feeding on it.

At the end of the day, political regimes can only survive by the consent of those they rule. In the United States this consent is clearly in the process of being withdrawn. In Russia it has never been stronger. This translates into a major fragility of the US and, therefore, the Empire (the US is by far the biggest host of the AngloZionist imperial parasite) and a major source of staying power for Russia.

All of the above applies only to political regimes, of course. The people of Russia and of the US have exactly the same interests: bringing down the Empire with the least amount of violence and suffering as possible. Like all Empires, the US Empire mostly abused others in its formative and peak years, but as any decaying Empire it is now mostly abusing its own people. It is therefore vital to always repeat that an “Empire-free US” would have no reason to see an enemy in Russia and vice-versa. In fact, Russia and the US could be ideal partners, but the “imperial parasites” will not allow that to happen. Thus we are all stuck in an absurd and dangerous situation which could result in a war which would completely destroy most of our planet.

For whatever it’s worth, and in spite of the constant hysterical Russophobia in the US Ziomedia, I detect absolutely no sign whatsoever that this campaign is having any success with the people in the US. At most, some of them naively buy into the “the Russians tried to interfere in our elections” fairy tale, but even in this case this belief is mitigated by “no big deal, we also do that in other countries”. I have yet to meet an American who would seriously believe that Russia is any kind of danger. I don’t even detect superficial reactions of hostility when, for example, I speak Russian with my family in a public place. Typically, we are asked what language we are speaking and when we reply “Russian” the reaction normally is “cool!”. Quite often I even hear “what do you think of Putin? I really like him”. This is in severe contrast with the federal government whom the vast majority of Americans seem to hate with a passion.

To summarize it all, I would say that at this point in time of the US-Russian war, Russia is winning, the Empire is losing and the US is suffering. As for the EU it is “enjoying” a much deserved irrelevance while being mostly busy absorbing wave after wave of society-destroying refugees proving, yet again, the truth of the saying that if your head is in the sand, your ass is in the air.

This war is far from over, I don’t even think that we have reached its peak yet and things are going to get worse before they get better again. But all in all, I am very optimistic that the Axis of Kindness will bite the dust in a relatively not too distant future.

Posted in USA, RussiaComments Off on Progress Report on the US-Russian War

US-EU-Russia tensions spill over to Ukraine

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Image result for European Union FLAG WITH ISRAELI STARS CARTOON

By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline 

The decision by the European Union countries at their summit in Brussels on Thursday to extend the sanctions against Russia was not a surprise. But the ease with which the decision was made is notable – with no discussions or arguments. The German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron presented a report on the status of implementation of the Minsk agreement, highlighting the lack of progress in Ukraine and the EU took a unified stance to extend the sanctions. The sanctions will now extend automatically up to July 31 next year.

Moscow has reacted calmly, but the fact remains that relations between Russia and EU countries will remain in limbo. The sanctions comprise different packages such as financial restrictions on Russia’s leading defense and energy companies, on Russian companies’ access to large European banks to raise loans for projects, embargo on Russia’s imports of military and energy technology and high-tech equipment from Europe, blacklisting of Russian individuals and legal entities, and a set of targeted sanctions in relation to Crimea such as ban of any dealings with that region by European businesses.

Strategically, Russia’s dependence on China will only increase. The prospects of Merkel remaining in power in the near term look good with the U-turn by the Social Democratic Party on forming another grand coalition with her Christian Democratic Union. This will not be good for Russia. Equally, whatever hopes might have been there in Moscow for a new beginning with France under Macron have fizzled out. A German-French axis is being forged with renewed vigor to accelerate the EU integration processes and transform the grouping as a heavyweight in Eurasian politics. Russia would have preferred a weakened, dispirited European Union that created space for it to deal with individual European countries on bilateral basis.

On the other hand, the drift in transatlantic relations is also a compelling reality. The European stance on East Jerusalem highlights it. The five-day 3-nation European trip to Brussels, Vienna and Paris by the US state secretary Rex Tillerson could not rollback the rising tensions. The EU Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini noted after talks with Tillerson that the bloc believes that any action that would undermine the peace-making efforts between Palestine and Israel “must absolutely be avoided.” On the Iran nuclear deal, she underscored that the continued implementation of the Iran nuclear deal is a key strategic priority for European, regional and global security.

Then, there is also a divergence on values that cannot be papered over. Europe remains a strong supporter of multilateralism, the UN system, and a rules-based global order. Europe views with distaste and horror Trump’s embrace of ultra-nationalism and his barely concealed Islamophobia. After Tillerson left, Mogherini took her gloves off, saying, Trump’s decision on Jerusalem “has a very worrying potential impact in this very fragile context. Now what the worst possible development could be that a bad situation turns into a worse one and that tensions inflame the region even further.” Suffice to say, Trump is a lump in the European throat – it can’t swallow it or spit it out. Any uplift in transatlantic relations under these circumstances is unlikely.

Russia may take vicarious satisfaction that Brussels is no longer willing to positively commit itself to the US regional and global agendas. However, there is a flip side to it. The US would have greater need today to stoke up Russophobia to rally the European countries under its leadership. Tillerson used strong language to highlight that Russia poses a threat to the West. At the NATO foreign ministerial meeting in Brussels last week Tillerson warned all European nations of Moscow’s “intrusion”. He said, “Russia’s aggression in Ukraine remains the biggest threat to European security.” Tillerson accused “Russia and its proxies” of “harassment, intimidation, and its attacks on the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (in Ukraine.)”

Interestingly, he went out of the way to flag that Trump is really not enamored of Russia as Europeans might think. “Trump does not talk with President Putin as often as with other world leaders, and I think, again, that’s simply a reflection of the strained relationship that exists between the United States and Russia,” Tillerson noted.

“We join our European partners in maintaining sanctions until Russia withdraws its forces from the Donbass and meets its Minsk commitments,” Tillerson added. He said the West should not regularize or renormalize the relationship with Russia “until Russia begins to address those actions which we find not just unacceptable but intolerable.” But Brussels keeps an ambivalent attitude toward Russia. It feels uneasy that Trump may one day wade into a Washington-Moscow rapprochement too soon, even before the Ukraine question is solved. On the other hand, Europe also is nervous about getting caught between a nasty showdown between Washington and Moscow.

Washington may leverage the situation in Ukraine to stoke up tensions there with the aim to keep the US’ European allies in line. Most certainly, US and Canada’s decision last Wednesday to lift the ban on supply of arms to Ukraine looks ominous. Russia repeatedly warned that such moves could have dangerous consequences. On Thursday in Moscow, President Vladimir Putin warned of a massacre in eastern Ukraine “worse than in Srebrenica” (horrific massacre of Serbs in the former Yugoslavia in 1995) if the West strengthened the Ukrainian nationalist forces.

Posted in USA, Europe, Russia, UkraineComments Off on US-EU-Russia tensions spill over to Ukraine

Five Broken Cameras ‘VIDEO’

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Image result for Zionist Broken Cameras CARTOON

Five Broken Cameras from Ahmad Al-Bazz on Vimeo.

 

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZI, Human Rights, MediaComments Off on Five Broken Cameras ‘VIDEO’

Canada Becomes Party to Ukraine’s Conflict

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Image result for CANADA FLAG CARTOON
By Alex GORKA | Strategic Culture Foundation 

The Canadian government has given the green light for national defence contractors to sell weapons to Ukraine. This makes Canada a party to the conflict with all ensuing consequences. The decision sets no preconditions for selling the armaments to Ukraine. It has been taken despite the fact that Project Ploughshare and Amnesty International Canada opposed the plan, saying Kiev has so far failed to improve the human rights situation. Canada’s Standing Committee on National Defense has published a report entitled “Canada’s Support to Ukraine in Crisis and Armed Conflict,” which recommends that the government provide lethal weapons to Ukraine if it demonstrates active work on fighting corruption in the country. The recommendations include providing lethal weapons, intelligence exchange, cooperation in defense industry, support in countering cyberattacks, and in resisting to the dissemination of foreign propaganda and disinformation through the media. Granting visa-free travel to Canada for Ukrainians and promotion of Ukrainian interests at the G7 is also on the recommendations’ list.

The Canadian Cabinet hopes its decision will influence the US Administration to follow suit. The move puts Canada out ahead of the United States, which is considering its own arms sales. Kurt Volker, the US Special Representative to Ukraine, believes there’s no reason to continue the prohibition on delivering lethal weapons.

Ukraine is particularly interested in anti-tank weapons, counter-battery artillery radar, and armoured patrol vehicles like the US-made Humvees.

On December 12, US President Donald Trump signed a defense budget for 2018 providing for the possibility of offering Ukraine lethal weapons of a “defensive nature”. Congress has approved $500 million in “defensive lethal assistance” to Ukraine. Congress authorized $350 million more than the $150 million originally proposed by the administration. Now, the president can start arms supplies any time he chooses. Former President Barack Obama was unconvinced that granting Ukraine lethal defensive weapons would be the right decision in view of corruption widespread in Ukraine.

The two events – Canada’s decision and signing the US defense budget bill into law – come in the context of the failed US-Russia talks on the recently proposed UN peacekeeping mission in Donbass. Now the US weapons could be exported to Ukraine through Canada, including the much-desired Javelin anti-tank systems. “After this government decree, Canada can sell or transfer Javelin to Ukraine,” said James Bezan, Canadian MP from the Conservative Party. The US has been sending to Ukraine a variety of non-lethal military help, including equipment like Humvees, medical supplies, bulletproof vests, and radars to track the hundreds of artillery shells.

North America’s assistance to Ukraine is not limited to weapons only; it encompasses other domains as well. The Ukraine Cybersecurity Cooperation Act [H.R. 1997], the bipartisan legislation introduced by Congressmen Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-8) and Brendan F. Boyle (PA-13), unanimously passed the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Dec. 14. The bill encourages cooperation between the United States and Ukraine on matters of cybersecurity and requires State Department reporting to Congress on best practices to protect against future cyber-attacks. “Helping Ukraine buttress its cyber defenses will also help the United States in developing new and more effective technologies and strategies in dealing with cyber security on the modern battlefield,” said Boyle, explaining the goal to be achieved, if the legislation becomes law. It will make Ukraine a part of NATO cyber warfare effort being implemented according to its Cyber Defense Pledge.

The bloc is implementing the Capability Package 120 which aims by 2024 to fund everything from encryption for tactical radios to cloud-integrated storage for the millions of cyber events. Eventually, NATO will move to the public cloud for virtually everything that it does as an alliance. The “centralized patch management” will control all the cyber activities.

For more than two years, the US military’s contingent of roughly 300 military instructors have been quietly training Ukrainian military in the western part of the country to prepare them for fighting in the east. Every 55 days a new Ukrainian battalion comes in to go through a training course at Yavoriv Combat Training Center in western Ukraine. Since 2014, the US and partner militaries have helped grow Ukraine’s forces from just over 100,000 troops to nearly 250,000 today. The US-run maritime operations center at Ochakov Naval Base, Ukraine, became operational in July to serve as a major planning and operational hub during future military exercises hosted by Ukraine. A US military facility near Russia’s borders is a very serious threat to regional security. Its presence turns the Black Sea into a hot spot. US warships visit the sea regularly to provide NATO with long-range first strike capability. The Romania-based Aegis Ashore BMD system uses the Mk-41 launcher capable of firing Tomahawk long-range precision-guided missiles against land targets.

Also in July, two US Navy warships, a P-8A Poseidon patrol aircraft, and a Navy SEALs team took part in the 12-day Sea Breeze 2017 joint NATO naval exercise off Ukraine. The multinational war games took place in the northwestern part of the Black Sea, near the Ukrainian port city of Odessa. 17 nations took part in the training event. The preparations are on the way to hold another Sea Breeze exercise in 2018. Step by step, Ukraine is becoming an element of NATO’s military infrastructure, which could be used as a springboard for a cross-border attack against Russia.

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SYRIA: US War Crime in Jabal Al Tharda, Deir Ezzor and the Implausible Denials

NOVANEWS

Posted by: John Phoenix

By Prof. Tim Anderson | 21st Century Wire 

On 17 September 2016 a carefully planned US-led air raid on Jabal al Tharda (Mount Tharda), overlooking Deir Ezzor airport, slaughtered over 100 Syrian soldiers and delivered control of the mountain to DAESH / ISIS. After that surprise attack, the terrorist group held the mountain for almost a year, but did not manage to take the airport or the entire city. US-led forces admitted the attack but claimed it was all a ‘mistake’. However uncontested facts, eye witness accounts and critical circumstances show that was a lie. This article sets out the evidence of this crime, in context of Washington’s historical use of mercenaries for covert actions, linked to the doctrine of ‘plausible deniability’.

Syrian eyewitness accounts from Deir Ezzor deepen and confirm this simple fact: the US-led air raid on Syrian forces at Jabal al Tharda on 17 September 2016 was no ‘mistake’ but a well-planned and effective intervention on behalf of the terrorist group ISIS (DAESH in Arabic). After days of careful surveillance a devastating missile attack followed by machine gunning of the remaining Syrian soldiers helped ISIS take control of the strategic mountain, that same day.


Colonel Kanaan on the mountain. October 2017. (Photo: Tim Anderson)

Mercenary forces – like ISIS and the other jihadist groups in Iraq and Syria – were a staple of US intervention during the early decades of the cold war, deployed in more than 25 conflicts, such as those of the Congo, Angola and Nicaragua. Whatever their claimed aims and ideologies, they allowed for the ‘multiplication’ of US power and were associated with the doctrine of ‘plausible deniability’, where the ‘formal’ denial of the mastermind role in covert operations minimised damage to domestic public opinion and international relations (Voss 2016: 37-40).

That doctrine was discussed during the 1976 Church Committee hearings into CIA covert operations (especially assassinations and coups) and resurfaced during the Iran-Contra scandal of the 1980s (Hart 2005; Dorn 2010). The key idea behind the doctrine is to be able “to use violence without directly incriminating the [contracting out] regime” (Ron 2002). The use of terrorist proxy armies in Iraq and Syria, both overtly and covertly supported by US forces, is thoroughly consistent with this history.

By September 2016 a US-led coalition had been active in both Iraq and Syria for more than two years, supposedly to help Iraq fight ISIS, but without permission to enter Syria. The foreign powers tried to side-step that legal problem by claiming the invitation from Iraq allowed them to conduct cross border raids against ISIS (Payne 2017). By this time the Russian air force had been assisting Syria for almost a year against multiple terrorist groups, all of them, as senior US officials would admit (Biden in RT 2014 and Usher 2014; Dempsey in Rothman 2014), armed and financed by the US and its allies.


Syrian solider at the front line against ISIS, on the Euphrates. (Photo: Tim Anderson)

Contrary to the stated aims, there is little evidence the US-led group did anything to fight ISIS in Syria. Washington’s group sat back and watched ISIS twice take over Palmyra (in 2015 and 2016), then did nothing to help the Syrian Army take back Palmyra and Deir Ezzor. Most US activity focused on bombing Syrian infrastructure and helping a Kurdish-led separatist force (the SDF) replace ISIS in the city of Raqqa. On the other hand, the 17 September air raid positively helped ISIS in attempts to wrest the remaining parts of Deir Ezzor from the Syrian Army.

US, Australian, British and Danish forces quickly admitted their role in that attack, but claimed the slaughter of over 100 Syrian soldiers was a ‘mistake’. Now mistakes in war do happen. However they are usually associated with a single, unprepared incident. This attack was well-planned, sustained and achieved a key objective in the attempt to drive ‘the Syrian regime’ from Deir Ezzor. Assisting extremists create an ‘Islamic State’ in eastern Syria, US intelligence wrote back in August 2012, was “exactly” what Washington wanted so as “to weaken the regime in Damascus” (DIA 2012).

One year later, as Syrian forces re-took the whole of Deir Ezzor city from ISIS, I spoke with the commanding officer at Jabal al Tharda on that day, Colonel Nihad Kanaan, one of 35 survivors of the US-led attack. He confirmed US admissions that surveillance aircraft had overflown the mountain days before. He also said that the Syrian Army had held the mountain for many months and that their position was clearly marked with Syrian flags. One year later he still showed shock at recalling attack aircraft return to finish off his wounded comrades, with line-of-sight machine-gunning (Kanaan 2017).

That Washington could block most western media from serious study of this treacherous attack, simply by saying ‘sorry, mistake’, is testament to the near absence of critical media voices, at a time of war. The surprise attack was treacherous, not only to the Syrians whom the US had promised to not attack, but to the western populations who mostly believed what their governments said: that they were in Iraq and Syria ‘to fight ISIS’.

It was not that the denials over the crime at Jabal al Tharda were particularly ‘plausible’, just that they had been made. Formal denial was enough, it seems, to stop the western corporate and state media in its tracks. The practice of ‘plausible deniability’ was never so much intended to fool those familiar with the facts, as it was to set up a shield of formal denial which might be used to deflect or discredit ‘potentially hostile’ investigations (Voss 2016: 40; Bogan and Lynch 1989: 205). In past and present propaganda wars, less importance is given to independent evidence than to insistent repetition, denunciation and distraction.

This paper is a prosecuted case, not reportage where one side says this and the other side says that. I have announced my conclusion at the outset and intend to demonstrate that case with evidence. I also support the idea that readers are entitled to see all evidence, including the cover story of the criminals. However in this case the crime and its authors, I suggest, can be convincingly established by uncontested facts. Review of the Syrian perspective simply helps deepen our understanding of the conflict.

1. Uncontested facts

There are eight elements of this massacre where the facts are virtually uncontested:

1: First, the attack was on the forces of a strategic opponent, whom the US wished to overthrow, weaken or ‘isolate’;

2:  Second, there was no semblance of provocation;

3: Third, this was a well-planned operation, with days of advance surveillance;

4: Fourth, the attack was sustained and effective, meeting conventional military objectives;

5: Fifth, there was both immediate and longer term benefit to ISIS;

6: Sixth, the US gave false locality information to the Russians before the attack, and their ‘hotline’ to Russia was defective during the attack;

7: Seventh, the US made false claims about being unable to identify Syrian troops;

8: Eighth, the US ‘investigation’ was hopelessly partisan, self-serving and forensically useless; there was no attempt to even contact the Syrian side.

Let’s look at each element in a little more depth

ONE: the attack was on a strategic opponent

Syrian forces were seen as adversaries. This was no ‘friendly fire accident’. The political leadership of the US-led operation had called for the dismissal or overthrow of the Syrian Government and had provided material support to armed opponents of the Government since mid-2011. The terrorist group ISIS had a campaign to create an Islamic State in the region and that objective was shared by Washington. US intelligence, in August 2012, had expressed satisfaction at extremist plans for a “salafist principality” (i.e. an Islamic State) in eastern Syria, “in order to isolate the Syrian regime” (DIA 2012).

The US had not admitted providing finance and arms to ISIS / DAESH, but several senior US officials acknowledged in 2014 that their ‘Arab allies’ had done so (Anderson 2016: Ch.12). After the attack US and Australian officials referred to their victims as forces aligned with the ‘Syrian regime’ (Johnston 2016; Payne 2017), reinforcing the fact that the assailants did not recognise Syrian soldiers as part of a legitimate national army.

TWO: no suggestion of provocation

There was no suggestion of any provocation, as had happened in previous ‘mistakes’; for example where a pilot had mistaken gunfire or fireworks for a hostile attack. This attack was premeditated.

THREE: a well-planned operation, with substantial surveillance

All sides agree this was a carefully planned operation, with surveillance days in advance. Colonel Nihad Kanaan, the Syrian Arab Army commanding officer on ‘Post Tharda 2’ (a military post on the second of three peaks of Tharda mountain range) that day, told this writer that US-coalition surveillance aircraft were seen “repeatedly circling” the area on 12 September, 5 days before the attack (Kanaan 2017). US reports confirm this. On the day of the attack the New York Times cited US Central Command saying that “coalition forces believed they were striking a DAESH fighting position that they had been tracking for a significant amount of time before the strike” (Barnard and Mazzetti 2016). A US military report, some weeks after the attack, said a “remotely piloted aircraft” (RPA) was sent to “investigate” the area the day before and two RPAs revisited the same area on the 17th, identifying two target areas with tanks and personnel (Coe 2016: 1).


General Aktham at the bridge to Raqqa, one of many destroyed by US planes. (Photo: Vanessa Beeley)

Australian Defence Minister Marise Payne wrote that “target identification was based on intelligence from a number of sources”, and that the US-led group had “informed Russian officials prior to approving air strikes on the DAESH position” (Payne 2017). Australian Chief of Joint Operations Vice-Admiral David Johnston pointed out that his country’s contribution to the attack had included “an Australian E7 Wedgetail airborne early warning and control and 2 FA-18 hornet strike fighters” (Johnston 2016).  The Wedgetail E-7 is based on a Boeing 737 and came into operation in 2015. It is an intelligence and control aircraft said to have “tonnes of electronic wizardry” (Military Shop 2014) and to be “the most advanced air battlespace management capabilities in the world” (RAAF 2017). All this speaks of a well-planned and technologically capable operation.

Further, surveillance of the area over two years meant the US group were well aware of the strategic troop placements. Kuwait based Journalist Elijah Magnier, who had followed the battles around Deir Ezzor, said that defence of the airport depended on ‘four interconnected Syrian army positions on the Thardah mountain range. Largely because of these elevated fire power positions the “daily attacks’ by ISIS on the airport had failed (Porter 2016: 6). Fabrice Balanche, a leading French expert on Syria, adds that the Syrian Army had held positions along the Tharda range “from March 2016 until the US air strikes”, when ISIS took control (in Porter 2016: 6).

FOUR: the attack was sustained and effective, meeting conventional military objectives

The attack was carried out for an extended period and destroyed the Syrian Arab Army post, killing more than 100 soldiers and destroying tanks and all heavy equipment (O’Neill 2016; Kanaan 2017). The Syrian commander says the attack “continued for 1.5 hours, from 5.30 to 7pm”, as night fell (Kanaan 2017). There is some disagreement over exact times. Syrian Army Command said the attack began at about 5pm while US CentCom said the attack began earlier but “was halted immediately when coalition officials were informed by Russian officials that it was possible the personnel and vehicles targeted were part of the Syrian military” (Barnard and Mazzetti 2016). However the US military confirms that this sunset attack was extended, lasting for just over an hour (Coe 2016: 1).

The Syrian command said at first that 62 soldiers had been killed and 100 injured (RT 2016). Within a short time the numbers killed had been raised to “at least 80” (Killalea 2016). In addition, three T-72 tanks, 3 infantry vehicles and anti-aircraft gun and 4 mortars were destroyed (MOA 2016). A surviving solider said he saw planes “finishing with machine guns our soldiers who tried to take refuge … I saw with my own eyes the death of about 100 soldiers” (SFP 2016).

Colonel Kanaan puts the final number of dead at 123, with 35 survivors (Kanaan 2017). The US side did not bother reporting numbers killed, with General Richard Coe at first mentioning “15 dead regime loyalists” (Watkinson 2016) then late simply saying “Syrian regime/aligned forces were struck” (Coe 2016: 2). There is no report of ISIS forces on the mountain being struck by the coalition aircraft that day; nor any day over the next year.

FIVE: the attack created immediate and longer term benefit to ISIS

The Syrian side made it clear that the massacre had allowed an almost simultaneous ISIS attack on and takeover of the hill. After planes had pounded the Army position on the mountain, ISIS quickly moved in and took full control of the mountain range (FNA 2016a). Within hours they had posted video of themselves standing on the bodies of the Syrian soldiers, killed by the air strikes (Charkatli 2016). The US side failed to comment on the immediate consequence of their attack, but they did not contradict the Syrian and Russian reports. Colonel Nihad Kanaan confirms that, as the US strikes were being carried out, ISIS attacked the Syrian Army post at Thardah 2. Survivors had to flee, as they did not have time to repel the DAESH attack (Kanaan 2017). Syrian Army defences meant that ISIS did not manage to take the airport, but Syrian forces did not retake the mountain until early September 2017, when the Syrian Army broke the siege and began to liberate the entire city (Brown 2017).


Victory! Father and son at Deir Ezzor markets. October 2017. (Photo: Tim Anderson)

SIX: false information to and delayed communications with Russia

The US military report admits that “incorrect information [was] passed to the Russians” about the locale of the attack. They said:

“the strikes would occur 9 kilometres south of DAZ ‘airfield’. However this information was incorrect, as the strikes were planned approximately 3 to 6 kilometres south of the airfield and 9 kilometres south of Dayr az Zawr city. This may have affected the Russian response to the notification and caused considerable confusion in the DT process” (Coe 2016: 3).

Brigadier General Richard Coe agreed with reporters that this misleading information prevented a Russian intervention: “had we told them accurately, they would have warned us”, he admitted (Porter 2016: 4). Providing false information to Russia was quite consistent with a plan to protect the attack from any unwanted interference.

After that, there was yet another ‘mistake’. The US military admits there was a half hour delay in responding to a Russian alarm (that the US was striking Syrian forces) on their specially constructed ‘hotline’. The US military tried to shift blame for this delay to the Russian caller:

“when the Russians initially called at 1425Z, they elected to wait to speak to their usual point of contact (POC) rather than pass the information immediately to the Battle Director. This led to a delay of 27 minutes, during which 15 of the 37 strikes were conducted” (Coe 2016: 3).

The less benign view of this event was that the ‘hotline’ was left unattended during the attack. Haddad (2017) reported that: “During the attack, a hotline between Russia and US forces was reportedly left unattended for 27 minutes” (Haddad 2017). Certainly Russia had to ring twice to pass on the urgent message (McLeary 2016) and, by that time, the attack was virtually complete.

SEVEN: the US made false claims about non-identification of Syrian forces

The US military apologia relies heavily on claims that, despite their several days of surveillance, they identified “irregular forces” on the mountain. US General Coe claims that “in many ways, the group looked and acted like the (Islamic State) forces we have been targeting for the last two years” (Dickstein 2016). Echoing this story, Australian Vice-Admiral David Johnston, Chief of Joint Operations said

“in many ways these forces looked and acted like DAESH fighters the coalition has been targeting for the last 2 years. They were not wearing recognisable military uniforms or displaying identifying flags or markings” (Johnston 2016).

Colonel Kanaan said they had flags flying. The US military confirms this, admitting that they received a report about sighting a “possible [Syrian] flag … 30 minutes prior to the strike”, but did nothing about it (Coe 2016: 2). Could ‘doing nothing’ have been just another ‘mistake’, in such a well-planned operation? It tends to corroborate the case for a deliberate strike, with some attempt at cover up, for “plausible deniability”.

EIGHT: the US ‘investigation’ was hopelessly partisan

A brief report issued in November exonerated US forces of any wrong doing. It did admit some critical facts, as noted above. But this was the US military investigating itself. US General Richard Coe said:

We made an unintentional, regrettable error, based on several factors in the targeting process” (Watkinson 2016).

The ‘errors’ relied upon were a series of random or ‘human’ mistakes and misidentification of the Syrian troops, supposedly because they were dressed in an irregular way. No attempt was made to contact the Syrian side (Coe 2016; Dickstein 2016). By reference to principles of criminal law some admissions made in this report are important and would be admissible evidence in a criminal trial. But the conclusions of the US report are entirely ‘self-serving’ and ‘recent inventions’ after the event. For that reason they are forensically worthless.

Summing up, the US-led air attack was a pre-meditated, brutal and effective massacre of the armed forces of a declared opponent. It gave an immediate and longer term advantage to one of the terrorist groups the US and its allies (as Biden and Dempsey admitted) were covertly supporting.

Even before we consider the Syrian perspective, uncontested facts destroy the feeble claim that this well planned and treacherous crime was a ‘mistake’. The US military admits that it gave false information to its Russian counterparts, then admits that its ‘hotline’ did not function properly during the attack. Despite all their sophisticated technology and days of surveillance, they pretend they could not distinguish between entrenched Syrian troops and terrorist ISIS gangs. They admit they had a report of a Syrian flag, but claim they just neglected it.

Having carried out a devastating attack on Syrian forces that day, allegedly by ‘mistake’, they did not return even once over the following year to attack the ISIS encampment on the mountain. This is as flimsy a cover story as any criminal has ever presented in court. If the commanders of this appalling massacre ever faced criminal charges, no independent tribunal could fail to convict.


Syrian soldiers at the Eurphrates, October 2017. (Photo: Tim Anderson)

2. The cover story

The ‘defence’ case centres around three matters.

First, they say that the 2014 request for assistance against ISIS from the Government of Iraq gave authority to the US coalition to venture into Syria.

Second, they insist that there was no intent to kill Syrian soldiers.

Third, they argue that their slaughter of soldiers was due to poor intelligence and mistaken identification.

Other aggravating factors were random ‘errors’. Then, by way of general excuse, and alluding to the supposed bases of human error, there was reliance on the ‘complexity’ of the situation. US CentCom, in its apologia, said ‘Syria is a complex situation’ (RT 2016); a phrase echoed by Australian Prime Minister Turnbull who said “it is a very complex environment” (Killalea 2016). None of this is compelling but, as was mentioned at the outset, the history of ‘plausible deniability’ rests not so much on its actual plausibility as on formal denials; that is thought sufficient to distract, intimidate and raise doubts.

The US apologia was repeated by its collaborators. Australian involvement in Syria had already been criticised at home (Billingsley 2015). After the attack on Jabal al Tharda, this writer wrote to ask Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull about the massacre and the legal basis for Australian air force presence in Syria. Defence Minister Marise Payne responded on 4 May 2017, addressing the legal question in the following way. Australia’s presence in Syria, the Minister claimed, came from a request made by the Government of Iraq for international assistance against DAESH/ISIS:

The legal basis for ADF operations against DAESH in Syria is the collective defence of Iraq … The Government of Syria has, by its failure to constrain attacks upon Iraqi territory originating from DAESH bases within Syria, demonstrated that it is unable to prevent DAESH attacks” (Payne 2017).

Indeed, two Iraqi ministers of foreign affairs had made requests to the UN Security Council in June 2014 (Zebari 2014) and again in September 2014 (al Ja’fari 2014). Those requests referred to “thousands of foreign terrorists of various nationalities” coming across the border from eastern Syria (Zebari 2014). Both requests also stressed the need to respect national sovereignty. So the US-led forces might have relied on this argument, had they helped Syria reclaim its eastern cities and regions from ISIS. However, as discussed above, they did not.

On the general legal authority question there is one relevant matter. The Australian side was not so confident about its own law, before the strike. Two weeks before the attack it was said that the chief of the Australian Defence Forces Mark Binskin had “fears that Australian Defence Force members could be prosecuted in Australian courts for military actions that are legal internationally [sic]” (Wroe 2016). It is not clear why they were considering this matter at that time, two years after they had committed forces to Iraq and Syria.

The general apologia for the massacre relied on a supposed lack of intent. “We had no intent to target Syrian forces,” said Air Force Brigadier General Richard Coe. He blames, in part, the soldiers’ form of clothing. “The group looked and acted like the (Islamic State) forces we have been targeting for the last two years” (Dickstein 2016). In addition, Coe claimed, the soldiers displayed “friendly” interactions with other groups in an Islamic State “area of influence.” He blamed the massacre on “human factors,” including miscommunications and an optimistic view of the intelligence (Dickstein 2016).

Taking the ‘mistake’ cover story at face value (i.e. assuming that the attack was aimed at ISIS, and defending Syrian forces), some western commentators quickly suggested the massacre of Syrian soldiers represented an alarming turn to US coalition air support for the ‘Syrian regime’. Time magazine said “the location of the strike in Deir al-Zour suggested the raid could have been a rare, even unprecedented attempt to assist regime forces battling ISIS”. Similarly, Faysal Itani, senior fellow at the Atlantic Council tweeted: “U.S. airstrikes on ISIS in such close proximity to regime positions are unusual. Arguably constitute close air support for regime” (Malsin 2016). Following the same logic, but in open disbelief, Russia’s UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin asked:

“Why would, all of a sudden, the United States chose to help the Syrian Armed forces, defending Deir Ezzor? After all they did nothing when ISIL was advancing on Palmyra … All of a sudden the United States decides to come to the assistance of Syrian armed forces defending Deir Ezzor?” (Hamza 2016).

Of course, they did not decide to do that, nor did they ‘assist’ Syrian forces. Nor did Russia believe the attack was a mistake. Damascus was also under no such illusions. President Bashar al Assad, invoking the wider antagonistic role of the US, said the surprise attack “was a premeditated attack by the American forces … the raid continued more than one hour, and they came many times” (Haddad 2017).

The US report of November 2016 became the core of explanations from US collaborators in the attack. Australian Vice-Admiral David Johnston gave more detail on Australian involvement in the Jabal al Tharda attack before he presented the official US version of events (Johnston 2016). The coalition air contingent, which included Australian aircraft, had “conducted multiple air strikes against what was believed to be DAESH fighters near Deir Ezzor”, he said. The Australian contingent had included “an Australian E7 Wedgetail airborne early warning and control and 2 FA-18 hornet strike fighters”, along with aircraft from the US, UK and Denmark.  These planes carried out the attack “under the coordination and control of the US combined air operations centre” (Johnston 2016). The Australians were thus deeply involved in intelligence and coordination.

Johnston repeated the self-exonerating conclusions of the US report: “The air strikes were conducted in full compliance with the rules of engagement and the laws of armed conflict”. The investigation found that the decisions that identified the targets as DAESH fighters were supported by the information available at the time … [there was] no evidence of deliberate disregard of targeting procedures or rules of engagement” (Johnston 2016). He repeated the line that situation on the ground in Syria was “complex and dynamic. In many ways these forces looked and acted like DAESH fighters … They were not wearing recognisable military uniforms or displaying identifying flags or markings” (Johnston 2016).

A typical shallow Australian media review of the incident would admit that “something went badly wrong”; but then asserted, based more on loyalty than anything else: “no credible person suggest the RAAF pilots committed war crimes; everyone knows things go wrong in war” (Toohey 2016). Yet some independent, more detailed western commentaries expressed stark disbelief at the cover story. David MacIlwain complained about the failure of media scrutiny of Australia’s role in Iraq and Syria, asking why US coalition forces had not returned immediately to the mountain to correct their “mistake” (Macilwain 2016). Lawyer James O’Neill said, far from a mistake, “what happened at Deir Ezzor is entirely consistent with the long-standing American aim of regime change in Syria” (O’Neill 2016).

This “error” which killed over 100 soldiers who were defending Deir Ezzor from ISIS, was the only serious attack on what US coalition forces “believed to be DAESH fighters” near Deir Ezzor city. US-led forces would do nothing to help liberate Deir Ezzor. The ‘innocent massacre’ story just does not accord with known facts

3. The Syrian Perspective

For those not bound by wartime propaganda attempts to demonise or prohibit the ‘enemy’ media (a demand which results in reliance on US, British and French media), a Syrian perspective on the crime at Jabal al Tharda helps deepen our understanding. Sources in this section are Syrian, Lebanese, Iraqi, Iranian and Russian. We can speak of a Syrian perspective from the wider view, concerning the particulars of the attack and of events after that attack.

In the wider view the Syrian side has seen the US as the mastermind of all terrorist groups in Syria, making use of regional allies in particular Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Israel and Turkey. The Syrian armed forces make little distinction between ISIS and the western jihadist groups, which collaborate from time to time and whose members pass from one to the other, depending mainly on pay rates (Lucente and Al Shimale 2015). When Aleppo was liberated ISIS flags were seen alongside those of the al Nusra led coalition (RT 2016). Both international terrorist groups fought together for many years with the other jihadist groups which western governments had tried to brand as ‘moderate rebels’ (e.g. Paraszczuk 2013; Mowaffaq 2015).

The Syrian Government has regularly expressed ‘strong condemnation’ of US attacks on civilians and infrastructure, calling the group a “rogue coalition” which had  added “new bloody massacres” to its record of “war crimes and crimes against humanity” (RT 2017).

US forces mounted several direct attacks on Syrian forces, over 2015-2017. An online investigative group has compiled information of four such attacks, between mid-2015 and mid 2017: on Saeqa airbase in Deir Ezzor (December 2015); on Jabal al Tharda (September 2016); on Shayrat Airbase (April 2017) and an attack on an SU-22 aircraft near Tabqa (June 2017) (MMM 2017). In June 2017 the US group also attacked Syrian forces near the southern al Tanf border crossing (Islam Times 2017). All attacks had different pretexts.

US bombing in Deir Ezzor at the time of the Jabal al Tharda attack (in the name of anti-ISIS operations) was notable for its destruction of infrastructure, in particular the destruction of seven bridges across the Euphrates in September and October 2016 (Syria Direct 2016; SANA 2016). Syrian Army sources told Iranian media that the US aimed to extend its influence in the region and stop the Syrian Army’s advance, as also to cut supply routes between the provinces and separate Deir Ezzor’s countryside from the city’ (FNA 2016a). Syrian General Aktham told me that the US bombing of bridges was to isolate Deir Ezzor, when the city was under siege from ISIS (Aktham 2017).

Direct US support for ISIS had been reported many times in Iraq, over 2014-2015. This was mainly to do with arms drops and helicopter evacuation assistance, as Iraqi forces struggled to contain a strong ISIS offensive. Iraqi MP Nahlah al Hababi said in December 2014 that the US coalition was “not serious” about air strikes on ISIS; she added that “terrorists are still receiving aid from unidentified fighter jets in Iraq and Syria” (FNA 2015a).

In February 2015 there were multiple and more specific reports. The Salahuddin Security Commission said that “unknown planes threw arms … to the ISIL” in Tikrit city (FNA 2015c). Majif al Gharawi, an Iraqi MP on the country’s Security and Defence Commission said that the US was “not serious” in its anti-ISIS fight, and that it wanted to prolong the war to get its own military bases in Mosul and Anbar (FNA 2015b). Jome Divan, member of the Sadr bloc in the Iraqi parliament, said the US coalition was “only an excuse for protecting the ISIL and helping the terrorist group with equipment and weapons” (FNA 2015b). Khalef Tarmouz, head of the al Anbar Provincial Council, told Iranian media that his Council had discovered weapons that were made in the USA, Europe and Israel, in areas liberated from ISIS in the al Baghdadi region (FNA 2015b). Hakem al Zameli, head of the National Security and Defence Committee, reported that Iraqi forces had shot down two British planes carrying weapons for ISIS, and that US planes had dropped weapons and food for ISIS in Salahuddin, al Anbar and Diyala provinces (FNA 2015b).

In other words, within a few months of the US military re-entering Iraq in late 2014, on a ‘fight ISIS’ pretext, there were several reports of exactly the reverse, from senior Iraqi figures. Although these reports were in English, none of them reached the western media. Apparently those channels had no interest in listening to those actually affected by ISIS, or perhaps they just saw it as unthinkable that their own governments were lying to cover up their support for terrorism.

On the Jabal al Tharda massacre, the Syrian Government immediately said that the strike was no mistake but “a very serious and flagrant aggression” which had aided DAESH (Barnard and Mazzetti 2016). President Assad said the troops were deliberately targeted, pointing out that there had been an hour of bombing (Watkinson 2016). “It was a premeditated attack by the American forces, because ISIS was shrinking”, said the Syrian President (Haddad 2016). Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested the attack must have been deliberate:

“Our American colleagues told us that this airstrike was made in error. This ‘error’ cost the lives of 80 people and, also just ‘coincidence’, perhaps, ISIS took the offensive immediately afterwards … [But] how could they make an error if they were several days in preparation?” (Putin in RT 2016).

Russian spokesperson Maria Zakharova said the attack showed the world that “The White House is defending ISIS” (FNA 2016a). More detail was hinted at. President of the Syrian Parliament, Hadiya Khalaf Abbas, said that Syrian intelligence had intercepted an audio recording between the US and ISIS before the airstrike on Deir Ezzor (Christoforou 2016). Syrian UN Ambassador Bashar al Jaafari denounced the attack as a movement from proxy aggression to “personal aggression”, lamenting the US renunciation of the Russian-US agreement of 9 September to combat al Nusra and ISIS (Mazen 2016).


Col Kanaan at the attack site, at Jabal al Tharda. (Photo: Tim Anderson)

The detail of eye-witness evidence gives a fuller picture. In October 2017, as the Syrian Army was liberating Deir Ezzor city, Syrian film-maker Sinan Saed and I interviewed Colonel Nihad Kanaan at Jabal al Tharda, where the attack took place.  He told us they had seen US coalition surveillance aircraft on 12 September. On the day of the attack:

“Five Coalition aircraft began attacking the site. The fifth aircraft had a synchronized [line of sight] machine gun … I had 2 T-72 tanks, 2 BMP tanks, a 57mm gun on its base, and a 60mm mortar on a base. The aircraft first began attacking the arsenal. They did this by circling the site at very close distance. Once they were done targeting the arsenal, they began targeting the soldiers with perfect precision” (Kanaan 2017).


Col Kanaan at the attack site, at Jabal al Tharda. (Photo: Tim Anderson)

He says the raid continued for 1.5 hours, using missiles, bombs and machine guns. As the attack took place, ISIS launched “a very heavy attack” from the north-west shoulder of the mountain, using:

“all types of weapons- 14.5 mm, mortars, BKC machine guns and every other weapon they had. This was happening at the same time. They [ISIS] were attacking the post while the aircraft were bombing from above” (Kanaan 2017).

ISIS was using the US-coalition air strikes as cover as they advanced on the army posts, showing “connection and coordination between the US Coalition and ISIS”. The post fell and the airport was then cut off from the Maqaber road. “Then 2 aircraft bombed the actual airport from the Tharda 2 post” (Kanaan 2017).


Col Kanaan at the attack site, at Jabal al Tharda. (Photo: Tim Anderson)

Colonel Kannan’s group was flying Syrian flags, as the US military would later admit:

“When the Coalition aircraft attacked the post, the post had 3 Syrian flags up – one at the entrance, one in the middle and one at the forefront, and the soldiers were wearing the official military uniforms of the Syrian Arab Army … It is not true what the media reported, that the attack was a mistake. It was very clear that their target was the Syrian army and the Syrian soldiers. The Syrian flags were there, and the Syrian army uniforms were showing, and the site was so obviously belonging to the Syrian army. At the same time, ISIS were attacking us under their cover; the Coalition aircraft didn’t even shoot one bullet at them” (Kanaan 2017).


Eyewitness to the attack, Dr al Abeid in surgery at Deir Ezzor hospital. October 2017. (Photo: Tim Anderson)

There were other eye witnesses. A wounded solider saw dozens of his comrades being finished off with aircraft machine gunning (SFP 2016). Two days before speaking with Colonel Kanaan I had met Doctor Abd al Najem al Abeid, surgeon and head of Deir Ezzor health. As he rushed to the surgery from a group meeting I asked him a question about which I was embarrassed:

‘have you seen any sign of the US coalition helping remove DAESH [ISIS] from Deir Ezzor?’

I asked it this way because I wanted the answer to an open question for a western audience. But as I asked I also apologised, because I knew that the question, to an educated Syrian, would be rather insulting. He immediately said that the US forces had only helped ISIS and that he had seen the attack on Jabal al Tharda. He watched in shock for more than half an hour, as the aircraft attacked the strategic mountain base he knew was guarding the city (Abeid 2017). After that he rushed off to surgery to dig ISIS drone shrapnel from the abdomen of a young boy.


Children in Deir Ezzor, after liberation by the Syrian Arab Army. October 2017. (Photo: Tim Anderson)

After the massacre, reports of US forces providing logistic and intel support to ISIS, aiding regroupings and evacuations came from all along the Euphrates in late 2017, as Syrian forces took back Deir Ezzor. In September Press TV reported that the US had evacuated 22 DAESH commanders from Deir Ezzor.

This writer was in the city for 4 days in late October, as it was being liberated. On 26 August a US air force helicopter was reported as taking two DAESH commanders “of European origin” with family members. On 28 August another 20 DAESH field commanders were also taken by US helicopters from areas close to the city (Press TV 2017a). Then in November Muhammad Awad Hussein told Russian media he had seen US helicopters evacuate more DAESH fighters, after an airstrike outside al Mayadin, a city south of Deir Ezzor (Press TV 2017b). The anti-Syrian Government and British-based ‘Syrian Observatory for Human Rights’ confirmed that US helicopters were transferring DAESH fighters out of eastern Syria. Four DAESH members, including three Egyptians, and a civilian were taken from a house in Beqres, a suburb of Deir Ezzor which had been used as an arms depot (UFilter 2017).

Lebanese and Iranian media corroborated these reports. US forces were backing up ISIS with intelligence during the Syrian Army troops’ operation to liberate the town of Albu Kamal in Southeastern Deir Ezzur, according to the Secretary-General of Iraq’s al-Nujaba Resistance Movement Sheikh Akram al-Ka’abi. The al-Mayadeen news network quoted Sheikh al-Ka’abi saying that the US forces tried hard to push the Syrian army’s operation in Albu Kamal towards failure, and that US forces were targeting pro-government resistance forces before the AbuKamal battle, in ultimately unsuccessful attempts to block their advances (FNA 2017).

In late 2017 the Russian Defence Ministry announced it had evidence that “the US-led coalition provides support for the terrorist group Islamic State”. The US military had twice rejected Russian proposals to bomb identified ISIS convoys retreating from al Bukamal, saying that they enjoyed the protection of international law. That shielding of the terrorist group and its heavy weapons allowed them to regroup and carry out new attacks (TNA 2017). At the same time the US backed deals by the Kurdish-led SDF militia to allow ISIS fighters and their families to leave Raqqa for other parts of the region (Paterson 2017).

A senior Syrian General in Deir Ezzor confirmed to me helicopter evacuations from three points on the east bank of the Euphrates: south Deir Ezzor, east al Mayadeen and al Muhassan. He also spoke of US satellite intelligence being passed to ISIS. From this catalogue of US coordination and collaboration I asked him: ‘you must feel that you are fighting a US command?’ “100%” he responded (General SR 2017).

4. Assessment

As the Syrian Army liberated eastern Syria, over 2016-2017, the US military tried to slow its advance by a series of covert and overt actions. The massacre of more than 100 soldiers at Jabal al Tharda was one of five direct US attacks on Syrian forces, since 2015. Mistakes do happen in war, but this was no isolated mistake. The US-led attack on this strategic anti-ISIS base, protecting Deir Ezzor city, was a pre-meditated slaughter of Syrian forces which allowed ISIS to advance its plan to take the city. As it happened, Syrian Army defences meant that they did not do that. A series of uncontested facts make it clear this was a well-planned and deliberate strike, in support of ISIS. The US military gave false information to its Russian counterparts about the attack, left their ‘hotline’ unattended and hid evidence that showed they knew Syrian forces held the mountain. Having destroyed Syrian forces on that base, they did not return to attack ISIS on the mountain. Their cover story was weak and, while it served to block investigation by the western media, does not hold up to any serious scrutiny.

No independent tribunal would fail to convict US coalition commanders of this bloody massacre. 

US and Australian denials over their responsibility for the 17 September 2016 massacre at Jabal al Tharda are not credible, on any close examination. However they did serve their immediate purpose. Most of the western corporate and state media was stopped in its tracks. Yet the crime was “entirely consistent with the long standing American aim of regime change in Syria … [and] the Australian Government provided a willing chorus to the regime change demands of the Americans” (O’Neill 2016).

North American, British and Australian arms sales to the chief ISIS sponsors, the Saudis, could proceed without interruption or scrutiny (Begley 2017; Brull 2017). The cold war doctrine of ‘plausible deniability’, as on many previous occasions, helped deflect ‘potentially hostile’ investigations. Nevertheless, I urge closer examination of this crime, using conventional principles of criminal law, considering the uncontested evidence and ignoring the intimidation of war propaganda. Particularly adventurous western observers might even read the Syrian perspective, drawing on Syrian, Lebanese, Iraqi, Iranian and Russian sources. That would help deepen their understandings of the conflict.

Watch video with Prof Tim Anderson in Deir Ezzor,  made by Sinan Saed and Nisreen Al Khadour:

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Posted in USA, SyriaComments Off on SYRIA: US War Crime in Jabal Al Tharda, Deir Ezzor and the Implausible Denials

The myth of the given

NOVANEWS
Image result for Crimea CARTOON
By Vladimir Golstein | OffGuardian 

One of the problems of dealing with establishment, politicians, mass media and their pundits, is that they start with some phony certainties:

  • Serbs committed genocide;
  • Russians grabbed Crimea
  • Putin interfered in US election;
  • He is a killer, who runs autocratic hell.
  • Russian economy is collapsing.
  • US is the most progressive, democratic and fair country on earth.
  • It always has good intentions.
  • People who support Trump are deplorable racists.

And things of that nature. The list can obviously go on.

Paradoxically, the enemies of the hegemonic discourse, have their own certainties. Well, it is given that the world is controlled by Rothschilds, Zionists, capitalists, bankers, white men, sexy women and so on.

Why? How? Well, it is given.

Well, for anyone who cared to think about matters of this world, nothing is given. Mass media does not always lie. Russians are not angels, nor are they devils. Same about Americans, Israelis or Ukrainians.

One character in Lermontov claims that the only given thing is that one day he’ll have misfortune of dying. To which another replies:

Well, I am more rich than you are in certainties. I know that one day, I had the misfortune of being born. A Hero of Our Time, Mikhail Lermontov

These are the only two given facts. The rest is not given. It is a verbal construction based on approximation or induction.

Consequently, people like Dostoevsky, would proclaim mysteries and enigmas on every corner:

Man is a mystery. I want to solve this mystery, even if I have to spend my whole life doing it. Because I want to become a man.

That’s what nineteen-year old Dostoevsky wrote, and he remained true to this goal. Because he wanted to become human. And we become so when trying to solve mysteries, not when we proclaim banalities.

Indeed, there are so many mysteries paradoxes and uncertainties: capitalism or socialism; globalism or localism; the balance of rights and duties, man’s duty to others and to mother earth. Yet, the fools continue to rush where angels fear to tread.

Because it is given.

Obama has lost all credibility when he declared casually:

Well, Russia does not make anything.

Why? Well, everyone in Washington knows it. It is given!

Honestly, Trump will never say anything even approximately that stupid and that insulting.

And that’s given. At least in my world.

Posted in RussiaComments Off on The myth of the given


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