Archive | March 14th, 2018

Venezuelan Opposition Protests Proposed UN Electoral Observer Mission

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Venezuelanalysis 

Caracas – Supporters of Venezuela’s Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) opposition coalition marched on the headquarters of the United Nations in Caracas Monday to protest the possibility of the international body sending an observer mission to monitor the country’s upcoming May 20 elections.

In a letter addressed to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, the opposition alleged that an observer mission would “give a veneer of legality to an [electoral] process that lacks it.”

Last month, the Venezuelan electoral authorities formally invited the UN to send an observer mission to monitor the upcoming elections as part of an agreement negotiated between the government and the MUD, which the latter ultimately refused to sign. The UN is yet to confirm whether it will send a delegation in May.

Following the breakdown of internationally-mediated talks, the main opposition coalition announced it would boycott the presidential elections – which were then set for April 22 – claiming the date and electoral guarantees were inadequate to ensure a free and fair contest.

However on March 1, several smaller opposition parties led by former Lara Governor Henri Falcon broke ranks with the MUD and signed a deal with the ruling United Socialist Party and its leftist allies moving the presidential election to May 20 and hold municipal and state legislative elections on the same day. Although the agreement featured various safeguards previously demanded by the MUD during talks – including observers from the UN and other international bodies, equal access to media, and an ample window for voter registration – the anti-government coalition dismissed the deal as a “farce” and vowed to go ahead with its boycott.

Turnout in Monday’s demonstration was, nonetheless, small in number, particularly in comparison to the mass protests organized by the MUD to demand early presidential elections last year, which frequently concluded in deadly acts of violence perpetrated by hardline anti-government groups.

The march was organized by the newly formed “Free Venezuela Broad Front” (FAVL), which includes the parties of the MUD alongside the Fedecameras business lobby, representatives of the Catholic and evangelical churches, several university student and professor organizations, as well as a group of ex-government loyalists led by former Interior Minister Miguel Rodriguez Torres.

Taking to Twitter Saturday, President Nicolas Maduro criticized the call for electoral boycott and rejection of UN observers from sections of the opposition.

“Why so much contradiction? What do they [the MUD] want? I want the secretary-general to send a strong commission of observers,” he declared.

Meanwhile, Maduro’s principal rival, Henri Falcon, was in New York Tuesday, where he was reportedly meeting with UN officials.

Himself a former Chavista, Falcon was expelled from the MUD last month after he registered his candidacy in violation of the coalition’s boycott.

While center-right pollster Datanalisis has reported that over 70 percent of Venezuelans intend to vote in the upcoming elections, Falcon and other opposition leaders remain concerned about low turnout among their ranks.

On Tuesday, a spokesperson for the opposition’s new Broad Front denied the organization was promoting abstention.

“We are not partisans of a policy of abstention. Of course, we think that as things are now, one cannot vote, because we want to vote to truly choose and not give the appearance of legality in the country that doesn’t exist,” explained Ramon Guillermo Aveledo, who was secretary general of the MUD between 2009 and 2014, during an interview with Globovision Tuesday.

However, the former MUD leader did not indicate that the FAVL would encourage its supporters to vote for Falcon.

On the contrary, he suggested that the opposition candidate could abandon his presidential bid.

“I don’t at all rule out that Falcon renounces his candidacy, withdraws from the process when he confirms what we, his friends, have told him… that it’s not a real election,” Aveledo added.

The FAVL has called for nationwide protests against the May 20 elections for this coming Saturday.

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Fukushima Radiation Risks to Last Into Next Century: Greenpeace Investigation

Featured image: Iitate, Fukushima prefecture. Greenpeace radiation specialist Jan Vande Putte from Belgium doing road scanning in Iitate region, Fukushima prefecture. (Source: Christian Åslund / Greenpeace)

The area, northwest of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, was heavily exposed to radioactive fallout in March 2011. The Government lifted evacuation orders for a part of Iitate in March 2017 despite radiation readings that mean it is not safe for people to return to Iitate. As of December 2017, the population of Iitate was 505, 7.7% of the population in March 2011. Greenpeace has been conducting radiation surveys in Iitate since March 2011, when it was the first to warn of the high levels of radiation and the urgent need to evacuate.

A comprehensive survey by Greenpeace Japan in the towns of Iitate and Namie in Fukushima prefecture, including the exclusion zone, revealed radiation levels up to 100 times higher than the international limit for public exposure.[1][2] The high radiation levels in these areas pose a significant risk to returning evacuees until at least the 2050’s and well into next century.

The findings come just two weeks ahead of a critical decision at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) review on Japan’s human rights record and commitments to evacuees from the nuclear disaster.

“In all of the areas we surveyed, including where people are permitted to live, the radiation levels are such that if it was in a nuclear facility it would require strict controls. Yet this is public land. Citizens, including children and pregnant women returning to their contaminated homes, are at risk of receiving radiation doses equivalent to one chest X-ray every week. This is unacceptable and a clear violation of their human rights, ” said Jan Vande Putte, radiation specialist with Greenpeace Belgium and leader of the survey project.

Greenpeace Japan conducted the investigations in September and October last year, measuring tens of thousands of data points around homes, forests, roads and farmland in the open areas of Namie and Iitate, as well as inside the closed Namie exclusion zone. The government plans to open up small areas of the exclusion zone, including Obori and Tsushima, for human habitation in 2023. The survey shows the decontamination program to be ineffective, combined with a region that is 70-80% mountainous forest which cannot be decontaminated.

Key finding from the Greenpeace Japan survey:

  • Even after decontamination, in four of six houses in Iitate, the average radiation levels were three times higher than the government long term target. Some areas showed an increase from the previous year, which could have come from recontamination.
  • At a house in Tsushima in the Namie exclusion zone, despite it being used as a test bed for decontamination in 2011-12, a dose of 7 mSv per year is estimated, while the international limit for public exposure in a non-accidental situation is 1 mSv/y. This reveals the ineffectiveness of decontamination work.
  • At a school in Namie town, where the evacuation order was lifted, decontamination had failed to significantly reduce radiation risks, with levels in a nearby forest with an average dose rate of more than 10 mSv per year. Children are particularly at risk from radiation exposure.
  • In one zone in Obori, the maximum radiation measured at 1m would give the equivalent of 101 mSv per year or one hundred times the recommended maximum annual limit, assuming a person would stay there for a full year These high levels are a clear threat, in the first instance, to thousands of decontamination workers who will spend many hours in that area.

This contamination presents a long term risk, and means that the government’s long-term radiation target (1mSv/year which is equivalent to 0.23μSv/hour) are unlikely to be reached before at least the middle of the century in many areas that are currently open and into next century for the exclusion zone of Namie. In an admission of failure, the government has recently initiated a review of its radiation target levels with the aim of raising it even higher.

The Government’s policy to effectively force people to return by ending housing and other financial support is not working, with population return rates of 2.5% and 7% in Namie and Iitate respectively as of December 2017.

In November last year, the UNHRC’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) on Japan issued four recommendations on Fukushima issues. Member governments (Austria, Portugal, Mexico and Germany) called for Japan to respect the human rights of Fukushima evacuees and adopt strong measures to reduce the radiation risks to citizens, in particular women and children and to fully support self evacuees. Germany called on Japan to return to maximum permissible radiation of 1 mSv per year, while the current government policy in Japan is to permit up to 20 mSv per year. If this recommendation was applied, the Japanese government’s lifting of evacuation orders would have be halted.

“Our radiation survey results provides evidence that there is a significant risk to health and safety for any returning evacuee. The Japanese government must stop forcing people to go back home and protect their rights,” said Kazue Suzuki, Energy Campaigner at Greenpeace Japan. “It is essential that the government fully accept and immediately apply the recommendations at the United Nations.”

*

Notes

[1] Reflections in Fukushima: The Fukushima Daiichi Accident Seven Years On

[2] The International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP) sets a maximum dose of 1 mSv/ year in normal situations for the public, and in the range of 1-20 mSv/y under post-nuclear accident situations, such as that resulting from Fukushima Daiichi. The ICRP recommends that governments select the lower part of the 1–20 mSv/year range for protection of people living in contaminated areas, and “to reduce all individual exposures associated with the event to as low as reasonably achievable.”

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Fukushima Radiation Levels 100 Times Higher Than Normal, Greenpeace Warns

Seven years after a 9.1-magnitude earthquake and the resulting tsunami triggered the catastrophic disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, the people, towns and villages in the surrounding area are still being exposed to excessive levels of radiation, according to a Greenpeace report.

In its report, published today, Greenpeace warns that all areas surveyed, including those where people have been allowed to return, had levels of radiation similar to an active nuclear facility “requiring strict controls”, despite years of decontamination efforts.

“This is public land. Citizens, including children and pregnant women returning to their contaminated homes, are at risk of receiving radiation doses equivalent to one chest X-ray every week. This is unacceptable and a clear violation of their human rights,” saidJan Vande Putte, leader of the survey, from Greenpeace Belgium.

The survey states that in the towns of Namie and Iitate, approximately 10km and 40km respectively from the Fukushima plant, radiation levels continue to be “up to 100 times higher than the international limit for public exposure”.

Greenpeace also noted the “ineffectiveness of decontamination work” in these areas, saying there remained a “significant risk to health and safety for any returning evacuee”, adding that Tokyo’s policy of “effectively forcing people to return by ending housing and other financial support is not working”.

The Japanese government claims that radiation levels in the reopened zones pose no risk to human health and that its own data has been corroborated by the country’s medical experts as well as the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation.

Greenpeace’s announcement coincides with a new ground-level study conducted by an international research team – including scientists from the University of Manchester – which found that uranium and other radioactive materials, such as caesium and technetium, were present in tiny particles released from the damaged nuclear reactors.

This could mean that the environmental impact from the fallout may last much longer than previously expected. The team said that, for the first time, the fallout of Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor fuel debris into the surrounding environment has been “explicitly revealed” by its study, published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology.

The scientists looked at extremely small pieces of debris, known as micro-particles, released into the environment during the initial disaster in 2011. The researchers discovered uranium from nuclear fuel embedded in or associated with caesium-rich micro particles that were emitted from the plant’s reactors during the meltdowns. The particles measure just five micrometres or less (approximately 20 times smaller than the width of a human hair) and are easily inhaled by humans.

It had been thought that only volatile, gaseous radionuclides, such as caesium and iodine, were released from the damaged reactors. It is now becoming clear that small, solid particles were also emitted and that some of these particles contain very long-lived radionuclides. Uranium, for example, has a half-life of billions of years.

Dr Gareth Law, senior lecturer in Analytical Radiochemistry at the University of Manchester and one of the authors on the paper, said:

“Our research strongly suggests there is a need for further detailed investigation on Fukushima fuel debris, inside, and potentially outside, the nuclear exclusion zone. While it is extremely difficult to get samples from such an inhospitable environment, further work will enhance our understanding of the long-term behaviour of the fuel debris nano-particles and their impact.”

The Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) is currently responsible for the clean-up and decommissioning process at the Fukushima Daiichi site and in the surrounding exclusion zone.

Getting chemical data on the melted nuclear fuel debris within the damaged nuclear reactors is practically impossible due to the high levels of radiation. The microparticles found by the international team of researchers should provide vital clues on the decommissioning challenges that still lie ahead.

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Intel Committee Rejects Basic Underpinning of Russiagate

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By Ray McGovern | Consortium News 

Let’s try to make this simple: The basic rationale behind charges that Russian President Vladimir Putin interfered in the 2016 U.S. election to help candidate Donald Trump rests, of course, on the assumption that Moscow preferred Trump to Hillary Clinton. But that is wrong to assume, says the House Intelligence Committee, which has announced that it does not concur with “Putin’s supposed preference for candidate Trump.”

So, the House Intelligence Committee Republican majority, which has been pouring over the same evidence used by the “handpicked analysts” from just the CIA, FBI, and NSA to prepare the rump Intelligence Community Assessment (ICA) of Jan. 6, 2017, finds the major premise of the ICA unpersuasive. The committee’s “Initial Findings” released on Monday specifically reject the assumption that Putin favored Trump.

This puts the committee directly at odds with handpicked analysts from only the FBI, CIA, and NSA, who assessed that Putin favored Trump – using this as their major premise and then straining to prove it by cobbling together unconvincing facts and theories.

Those of us with experience in intelligence analysis strongly criticized the evidence-impoverished ICA as soon as it was released, but it went on to achieve Gospel-like respect, with penance assigned to anyone who might claim it was not divinely inspired.

Until now.

Rep. K. Michael Conway (R-Texas), who led the House Committee investigation, has told the media that the committee is preparing a separate, in-depth analysis of the ICA itself. Good.

The committee should also take names — not only of the handpicked analysts, but the hand-pickers. There is ample precedent for this. For example, those who shepherded the fraudulent National Intelligence Estimate on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq 15 years ago were named in the NIE. Without names, it is hard to know whom to hold accountable.

Here’s the key ICA judgment with which the House committee does not concur: “We assess Putin, his advisers, and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump over Secretary Clinton.” Not to be picky, but if House investigators have been unable to find enough persuasive evidence to convince them that “Putin’s supposed preference” was Trump, there is little reason to take seriously the ICA’s adolescent observations — like Putin held a “grudge” against Clinton because she called him nasty names — and other tortured reasoning in an Intelligence Community Assessment that, frankly, is an embarrassment to the profession of intelligence analysis.

I recall reading the ICA as soon as it was published. I concluded that no special expertise in intelligence analysis was needed to see how the assessment had been cobbled together around the “given” that Putin had a distinct preference for Trump. That was a premise with which I always had serious trouble, since it assumed that a Russian President would prefer to have an unpredictable, mercurial, lash-out-at-any-grievance-real-or-perceived President with his fingers on the nuclear codes. This – not name-calling – is precisely what Russian leaders fear the most.

Be that as it may, the ICA’s evidence adduced to demonstrate Russian “interference” to help Trump win the election never passed the smell test. Worse still, it was not difficult to see powerful political agendas in play. While those agendas, together with the media which shared them, conferred on the ICA the status of Holy Writ, it had clearly been “writ” to promote those agendas and, as such, amounted to rank corruption of intelligence by those analysts “handpicked” by National Intelligence Director James Clapper to come up with the “right” answer.

Traces of the bizarre ideological — even racial — views of Intelligence Dean Clapper can also be discerned between the lines of the ICA. It is a safe bet that the handpicked authors of the ICA were well aware of — and perhaps even shared — the views Clapper later expressed to NBC’s Chuck Todd on May 28, 2017 about Russians: “[P]ut that in context with everything else we knew the Russians were doing to interfere with the election,” he said. “And just the historical practices of the Russians, who typically, are almost genetically driven to co-opt, penetrate, gain favor, whatever, which is a typical Russian technique. So, we were concerned.”

Always Read the Fine Print

What readers of the intelligence assessment might have taken more seriously was the CYA in the ICA, so to speak, the truth-in-advertising cautions wedged into its final page. The transition from the lead paragraph to the final page — from “high confidence” to the actual definition of “high confidence” is remarkable. As a reminder, here’s how ICA starts:

“Putin Ordered Campaign To Influence US Election: We assess with high confidence that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election, the consistent goals of which were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency. …”

But wait, the fair warning on page 13 explains: “High confidence … does not imply that the assessment is a fact or a certainty; such judgments might be wrong. … Judgments are not intended to imply that we have proof that show something to be a fact. Assessments are based on collected information, which is often incomplete or fragmentary, as well as logic, argumentation, and precedents.”

Questionable Logic

The “logic” referred to rests primarily on assumptions related to Trump’s supposed friendliness with Putin, what Clinton Campaign Manager John Podesta called in 2015 a “bromance.” It assumes that Trump has been more than willing to do the Kremlin’s bidding from the White House, whether due to financial relationships Trump has with the Russians, or because he “owes them” for helping him get elected, or whether he is being blackmailed by “the pee tape” that Christopher Steele alluded to in his “dodgy dossier.”

This is the crux of the whole “treason” aspect of the Russiagate conspiracy theory – the idea that Trump is a Manchurian (or as some clever wags among Russiagaters claim, a Siberian) candidate who is directly under the influence of the Kremlin.

Even as U.S.-Russian relations drop to historic lows – with tensions approaching Cuban Missile Crisis levels – amazingly, there are still those promoting this theory, including some in the supposedly “progressive” alternative media like The Young Turks (TYT). Following Putin’s announcement on developments in Russia’s nuclear program earlier this month, TYT’s Cenk Uygur slammed Trump for not being more forceful in denouncing Putin, complaining that Trump “never criticizes Putin.” Uygur even speculated: “I’m not sure that Trump represents our interests above Putin’s.”

This line of thinking ignores a preponderance of evidence that the U.S posture against Russian interests has only hardened over the past year-plus of the Trump administration – perhaps in part as a result of Trump’s perceived need to demonstrate that he is not in “Putin’s pocket.”

The U.S. has intensified its engagement in Syria, for one thing, reportedly killing several Russians in recent airstrikes – a dangerous escalation that could lead to all-out military confrontation with Moscow and hardly the stuff of an alleged “bromance” between Trump and Putin. Then there was the Trump administration’s recent decision to provide new lethal weapons to the Ukrainian military – a major reversal of the Obama administration’s more cautious approach and an intensification of U.S. involvement in a proxy war on Russia’s border. The Russian foreign ministry angrily denounced this decision, saying the U.S. had “crossed the line” in the Ukraine conflict and accused Washington of fomenting bloodshed.

On other major policy issues, the Trump administration has also been pushing a hard anti-Russian line, reiterating recently that it would never recognize Crimea as part of Russia, criticizing Russia for allegedly enabling chemical attacks in Syria, and identifying Moscow as one of the U.S.’s major adversaries in the global struggle for power and influence.

“China and Russia,” the administration stated in its recent National Security Strategy, “challenge American power, influence, and interests, attempting to erode American security and prosperity.” In the recently issued Nuclear Posture Review, the U.S. identifies Russia as a “contemporary threat,” and has a chapter outlining “A Tailored Strategy for Russia.” The document warns that Russia has “decided to return to Great Power competition.”

How does this in any way indicate that Trump is representing “Putin’s interests” above “ours,” as Uygur claims?

In short, there is no evidence to back up the theory that Putin helped Trump become president in order to do the Kremlin’s bidding, and no one pushing this idea should be taken seriously. In this respect, the Republicans’ “Initial Findings” – particularly the rejection of “Putin’s supposed preference for candidate Trump” have more credibility than most of the “analysis” put out so far, including the Jan. 6, 2017 ICA that has been held up as sacrosanct.

Democrats Angry

The irrepressible Congressman Adam Schiff, Ranking Member of the House Intelligence Committee, and his fellow Democrats are in high dudgeon over the release of the Committee’s “Initial Findings” after “only” one year of investigation.  So, of course, is NBC’s Rachel Maddow and other Russiagate aficionados. They may even feel a need to come up with real evidence — rather than Clapperisms like “But everyone knows about the Russians, and how, for example, they just really hated it when Mrs. Clinton called Putin Hitler.”

I had the opportunity to confront Schiff personally at a think tank in Washington, DC on January 25, 2017. President Obama, on his way out of office, had said something quite curious at his last press conference just one week earlier about inconclusive conclusions: “The conclusions of the intelligence community with respect to the Russian hacking were not conclusive” regarding WikiLeaks. In other words, the intelligence community had no idea how the DNC emails reached WikiLeaks.

Schiff had just claimed as flat fact that the Russians hacked the DNC and Podesta emails and gave them to WikiLeaks to publish. So I asked him if he knew more than President Obama about how Russian hacking had managed to get to WikiLeaks.

Schiff used the old, “I can’t share the evidence with you; it’s classified.” OK, I’m no longer cleared for classified information, but Schiff is; and so are all his colleagues on the House Intelligence Committee. The Republican majority has taken issue with the cornerstone assumption of those who explain Russian “hacking” and other “meddling” as springing from the “obvious fact” that Putin favored Trump. The ball is in Schiff’s court.

Last but not least, the committee’s Initial Finding that caught most of the media attention was that there is “no evidence of collusion, coordination, or conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russians.” This, of course, poured cold water on what everyone listening to mainstream media “knows” about Russian “meddling” in the 2016 election. But, in the lack of persuasive evidence that President Putin preferred candidate Trump, why should we expect Russian “collusion, coordination, conspiracy” with the Trump campaign?

Ah, but the Russians want to “sow discord.” Sounds to me like a Clapperism.

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What Secretary of State Tillerson’s Firing Means

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By Paul Craig Roberts | Institute for Political Economy 

Senator Chuck Schumer (D, NY) says Tillerson’s firing indicates that the Trump administration is disintegrating. I understand why Senator Schumer sees it that way, especially following all the other dismissals and resignations.

I see it differently. The firing of Secretary of State Tillerson, the movement of CIA Director Pompeo to Secretary of State, and the promotion of Gina Haspel, who oversaw the secret CIA torture prisons in Thailand, indicate that the military/security complex has closed its grip on the Trump regime. There will be no more talk of normalizing relations with Russia.

The combination of the Israel Lobby, the neoconservatives, and the military/security complex have proven to be too powerful for peace to be established between the two nuclear powers. If you look at Trump’s administration, the above three forces are those in charge.

Israel remains determined to use the US military to destabilize Syria and Iran in order to isolate Hezbollah and cut off the milita’s support and supplies. The neoconservatives both support Israel’s interest and their own desire for Washington’s hegemony over the world. The military/security complex intends to hold on to the “Russia threat” as a justification of its budget and power.

The presstitutes are in complete harmony with the scheme. Although Russiagate has been proven to be false charges orchestrated by the DNC, FBI, and CIA, the presstitutes continue to repeat the charges as if evidence exists that proves the charges to be true. The “stolen election” is fiction turned into fact. And now we have a new charge, that Putin ordered a former British spy in England to be eliminated while sitting on a park bench with the use of a highly unlikely form of military poison. The charge is preposterous, but that is not preventing the fiction from becoming fact.

Having served in Washington for a quarter century and having known members of the British government, I do not believe that any of them believe the Russiagate and Skripal poisoning stories. What is happening is that an agenda has taken precedence over truth.

This is an extremely dangerous agenda. Russia’s new weapons easily give Russia military superiority over the US. As China and Iran see the situation similarly to the Russians, the US is greatly out-classed. Yet, Washington and its vassals persist in making violent and false charges and threats against Russia, Iran, and on occasion China. Russia, Iran, and China know that these charges are false. Confronting an endless string of false and hostile charges, they prepare for war.

The world is being driven to war, which would be nuclear, by a tiny minority: Israeli Zionists, neoconservatives, and the US military/security complex. We are witnessing the most reckless and irresponsible behavior in world history. Where are the voices against it?

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US in Afghanistan to Influence Russia, Iran, China

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The United States retains its presence in Afghanistan to exert influence on neighboring countries and regional rivals – namely, Russia, Iran and China, Russian Foreign Ministry’s Second Asian Department Director Zamir Kabulov told Sputnik in an interview.

“In our opinion, the United States is in Afghanistan primarily with the aim of controlling and influencing the political processes in its neighboring countries, and also demonstrating its power to its regional competitors, primarily China, Russia and Iran. The United States is clearly trying to achieve destabilization of Central Asia and later transfer it to Russia in order to subsequently present itself as the only defender against potential and emerging threats in the region,” Kabulov said.

According to the diplomat, Russia and other countries neighboring with Afghanistan have questions about the true goals and time frame of the US military presence in the Central Asian country.

“If the United States and its NATO allies intend to continue their destructive policy in Afghanistan, this will mean that the West is heading toward the revival of the Cold War era in this part of the world. We closely monitor the developments and are ready to respond in cooperation with our partners and other like-minded people,” Kabulov noted.

The diplomat pointed out that Washington still failed to understand that the Afghan conflict could not be resolved solely by military means, stressing that it was impossible to defeat the Taliban by force.

Moscow is puzzled by the attempts of the United States and NATO to persuade Afghanistan to replace Russian weapons and military equipment, such move leads to reduction of Afghan’s military potential, Zamir Kabulov told Sputnik in an interview.

“The course taken by the United States and NATO to persuade Kabul to replace Russia-made small arms and aircraft is surprising, as it will inevitably lead to a decrease in the combat capabilities of the Afghan armed forces and further deterioration of the situation,” Kabulov said.

The diplomat reminded that a bilateral intergovernmental agreement on Russia’s defense industry assistance to Afghanistan had entered into force in November 2016, adding that the document created the legal framework for Russian assistance in arming and equipping the Afghan security forces.

“At the moment, negotiations are underway on repairs and supplies of spare parts for the Afghan Air Force’s helicopters for various purposes, produced in Russia (the Soviet Union),” Kabulov added.

Afghanistan Parliamentary Election

The parliamentary election in Afghanistan is unlikely to take place in July in the current circumstances, Kabulov said.

“I do not think that the parliamentary elections in Afghanistan will be held in July this year as scheduled. The Taliban continue to control about half of the country’s territory, engage in hostilities, organize and carry out terrorist attacks in large cities, and, apparently, are not going to make compromises and reconciliation with the Afghan government,” Kabulov said.

Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission (IEC) is also unlikely to accomplish all the necessary procedures before the date set for the vote, given that the commission has announced earlier that the registration of voters will complete only by early August, the diplomat noted.

Furthermore, disagreements between the presidential administration and its political opposition regarding the parameters of the upcoming elections still remain unresolved, the official noted.

“In my opinion, if elections are conducted in the current circumstances, their results will not improve the political situation in the country and confidence in the current government, will not force the armed opposition to cooperate with the government,” Kabulov added.

The diplomat also noted that the Daesh terror group posed a serious threat to holding the election.

“The Daesh jihadists pose a serious threat to the security of the conduct of elections, especially in the north and a number of eastern provinces of Afghanistan. Some polling stations in the provinces of Helmand, Uruzgan, Kunduz, Badakhshan, Faryab and Ghazni are the most problematic in terms of security, according to the IEC data. I think that, in fact, the list of problematic areas in terms of organization of voting is much longer,” Kabulov said.

Afghanistan Reconciliation Talks

Russia considers the so-called Moscow format of talks an optimal platform for the promotion of national reconciliation in Afghanistan, Zamir Kabulov noted.

“Unfortunately, the existence of a large number of international formats on the Afghan issue has not significantly contributed to the involvement of the Taliban in peace negotiations. In this regard, we consider the Moscow format of consultations launched by us in early 2017 as the optimal platform for substantive negotiations to promote national reconciliation and establish a constructive dialogue between the government of Afghanistan and the Taliban movement,” Kabulov said.

Kabulov also noted that Moscow considered the format of talks in the Afghan capital as one approach toward achieving a collective solution to the problems surrounding Afghan settlement.

“A signal of international support for the resolution of the intra-Afghan conflict through political dialogue with the government of Afghanistan has been sent to the Taliban. The Taliban ignored the recent meeting of the ‘Kabul process’ in the Afghan capital, insisting on direct talks with the United States,” the diplomat added.

In February 2017, Russia, China, Pakistan, Iran, India and Afghanistan came together in Moscow for talks to promote the national reconciliation process in Afghanistan through regional cooperation with Kabul in the leading role. Apart from the aforementioned states, the latest round in April gathered five Central Asian countries: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. The United States refused to take part in the meeting.

Afghanistan has long suffered political, social and security-related instability because of the simmering insurgency, including that of the Taliban, but also because of the actions of the Daesh terror group.

The United States has been in Afghanistan for almost 17 years following the 9/11 attacks. Before his election, Trump slammed sending US troops and resources to the Central Asian country.

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US plans to remain in Syria ‘for a long time, if not forever’

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Some officials in Washington are aiming to maintain a foothold in Syria for a long time, “if not forever,” using chemical weapons provocations to achieve this objective, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said.

There are no grounds “to doubt the willingness of some US officials to keep a foothold [in Syria] for a long time, if not forever, and contribute to the collapse of the Syrian Arab Republic,” Lavrov said at a news conference in Moscow on Wednesday.

“Various methods” are being used, including “information revealed via [Russia’s] Defense and Foreign Ministries, which says that other provocations involving chemical weapons are being prepared,” the foreign minister said, noting that one such “staging” might take place in Eastern Ghouta.

On March 5, Lavrov said Russia had evidence that the US involvement in Syria had nothing to do with combatting terrorism. Speaking during a visit to Namibia, the foreign minister asserted that Washington is willing to keep the Al-Nusra Front terrorist group as a “plan B” to change the leadership in Damascus, according to Interfax.

Some policymakers in the American capital, he said, are “harboring plans to disintegrate the Syrian state.”

In February, Lavrov told Euronews that “the US clearly has a strategy that, I think, consists of stationing its armed forces in Syria forever.”

The US pursues the same goal in Iraq and Afghanistan “despite all of its earlier promises.” The Americans are working “to cut a huge chunk of Syrian territory from the rest of the country” while setting up puppet local authorities in that area and “trying in every way to establish an autonomous entity under Kurdish authority,” Lavrov said.

US support for Kurdish militias operating in Syria contributed to damaging relations between Washington and Ankara. Turkey launched Operation Olive Branch earlier this year and entered Syria’s Kurdish enclave in Afrin with the stated goal to drive Kurdish “terrorists” and other militant groupings out of the area.

Speaking alongside Lavrov on Wednesday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Ankara backs Syria’s territorial integrity, although the operation is ongoing. “Our goal is not to seize or attempt to seize Syrian territory,” he said.

Read more:

Islamists in E. Ghouta plan to stage false flag chemical attack – Damascus

Posted in USA, SyriaComments Off on US plans to remain in Syria ‘for a long time, if not forever’

The Novichok Story Is Indeed Another Iraqi WMD Scam

NOVANEWS
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By Craig Murray 

As recently as 2016 Dr Robin Black, Head of the Detection Laboratory at the UK’s only chemical weapons facility at Porton Down, a former colleague of Dr David Kelly, published in an extremely prestigious scientific journal that the evidence for the existence of Novichoks was scant and their composition unknown.

In recent years, there has been much speculation that a fourth generation of nerve agents, ‘Novichoks’ (newcomer), was developed in Russia, beginning in the 1970s as part of the ‘Foliant’ programme, with the aim of finding agents that would compromise defensive countermeasures. Information on these compounds has been sparse in the public domain, mostly originating from a dissident Russian military chemist, Vil Mirzayanov. No independent confirmation of the structures or the properties of such compounds has been published. (Black, 2016)

Robin Black. (2016) Development, Historical Use and Properties of Chemical Warfare Agents. Royal Society of Chemistry

Yet now, the British Government is claiming to be able instantly to identify a substance which its only biological weapons research centre has never seen before and was unsure of its existence. Worse, it claims to be able not only to identify it, but to pinpoint its origin. Given Dr Black’s publication, it is plain that claim cannot be true.

The world’s international chemical weapons experts share Dr Black’s opinion. The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) is a UN body based in the Hague. In 2013 this was the report of its Scientific Advisory Board, which included US, French, German and Russian government representatives and on which Dr Black was the UK representative:

[The SAB] emphasised that the definition of toxic chemicals in the Convention would cover all potential candidate chemicals that might be utilised as chemical weapons. Regarding new toxic chemicals not listed in the Annex on Chemicals but which may nevertheless pose a risk to the Convention, the SAB makes reference to “Novichoks”. The name “Novichok” is used in a publication of a former Soviet scientist who reported investigating a new class of nerve agents suitable for use as binary chemical weapons. The SAB states that it has insufficient information to comment on the existence or properties of “Novichoks”. (OPCW, 2013)

OPCW: Report of the Scientific Advisory Board on developments in science and technology for the Third Review Conference 27 March 2013

Indeed the OPCW was so sceptical of the viability of “novichoks” that it decided – with US and UK agreement – not to add them nor their alleged precursors to its banned list. In short, the scientific community broadly accepts Mirzayanov was working on “novichoks” but doubts he succeeded.

Given that the OPCW has taken the view the evidence for the existence of “Novichoks” is dubious, if the UK actually has a sample of one it is extremely important the UK presents that sample to the OPCW. Indeed the UK has a binding treaty obligation to present that sample to OPCW. Russa has – unreported by the corporate media – entered a demand at the OPCW that Britain submit a sample of the Salisbury material for international analysis.

Yet Britain refuses to submit it to the OPCW.

Why?

A second part of May’s accusation is that “Novichoks” could only be made in certain military installations. But that is also demonstrably untrue. If they exist at all, Novichoks were allegedly designed to be able to be made at bench level in any commercial chemical facility – that was a major point of them. The only real evidence for the existence of Novichoks was the testimony of the ex-Soviet scientist Mizayanov. And this is what Mirzayanov actually wrote.

One should be mindful that the chemical components or precursors of A-232 or its binary version novichok-5 are ordinary organophosphates that can be made at commercial chemical companies that manufacture such products as fertilizers and pesticides.

Vil S. Mirzayanov, “Dismantling the Soviet/Russian Chemical Weapons Complex: An Insider’s View,” in Amy E. Smithson, Dr. Vil S. Mirzayanov, Gen Roland Lajoie, and Michael Krepon, Chemical Weapons Disarmament in Russia: Problems and Prospects, Stimson Report No. 17, October 1995, p. 21.

It is a scientific impossibility for Porton Down to have been able to test for novichoks, without possessing some to develop the tests. As Dr Black has revealed Porton Down had never seen any Russian novichok, they cannot have a test for it unless they synthesised some themselves to develop the tests. And if they can synthesise it, so can many others, not just the Russians.

And finally – Mirzayanov is an Uzbek name and the novichok programme, assuming it existed, was in the Soviet Union but far away from modern Russia, at Nukus in modern Uzbekistan. I have visited the Nukus chemical weapons site myself. It was dismantled and made safe and all the stocks destroyed and the equipment removed by the American government, as I recall finishing while I was Ambassador there. There has in fact never been any evidence that any “novichok” ever existed in Russia itself.

To summarise:

1) Porton Down has acknowledged in publications it has never seen any Russian “novichoks”. The UK government has absolutely no “fingerprint” information that can safely attribute this substance to Russia.
2) Until now, neither Porton Down nor the world’s experts at the Organisation for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) were convinced “Novichoks” even exist.
3) The UK is refusing to provide a sample to the OPCW.
4) “Novichoks” were specifically designed to be able to be manufactured from common ingredients on any scientific bench. The Americans dismantled and studied the facility that allegedly developed them. It is completely untrue only the Russians could make them, if anybody can.
5) The “Novichok” programme was in Uzbekistan not in Russia. Its legacy was inherited by the Americans during their alliance with Karimov, not by the Russians.

With a great many thanks to sources who cannot be named at this moment.

Posted in IraqComments Off on The Novichok Story Is Indeed Another Iraqi WMD Scam

The Death of Dr. Kelly: An Open Case ‘Video’

NOVANEWS

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This documentary studies the suspicious death of Dr. David Christopher Kelly, an internationally recognized British authority on biological weapons, after his claims before the Iraq war.

Posted in UKComments Off on The Death of Dr. Kelly: An Open Case ‘Video’

The U.S. Government Is the Problem in Korea

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By Jacob G. Hornberger | FFF 

There are differing opinions regarding President Trump’s decision to meet with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un in an attempt to resolve the ongoing crisis in Korea.

Some people are happy that the two rulers are meeting because of the possibility that it will result in a peaceful resolution of a crisis that has gotten precariously close to breaking out into renewed warfare. What’s wrong with talking? this group says.

Others are saying that Trump acted too impulsively in accepting the invitation, arguing that summits should be held only after lower-echelon bureaucrats have determined that such a meeting is likely to result in positive developments. These people are suggesting, perhaps accurately, that if the talks fail to arrive at a solution, the situation could be made worse given that “talking” might no longer be viewed as an option for resolving the crisis.

Most people in both groups fail to see something important: that it is the U.S. government, not North Korea, that is the crux of the problem in Korea. Given such, how likely is it that a meeting between Trump and Kim Jong-un is going to arrive at a solution? I hope that I will be proven wrong but my hunch is: Not very likely at all.

The U.S. government has two aims in Korea, both of which are related.

Its principal aim is regime change. It wants to oust the communist regime in North Korea and install a pro-U.S. regime in its place, one that will then “invite” the Pentagon and the CIA into the country to construct U.S. military bases and install U.S. missiles along the Korea-China border.

For many people, the Cold War ended in 1989. Not for the Pentagon and the CIA. Caught off guard by the dismantling of the Soviet Union, the U.S. national-security establishment nonetheless continued viewing communist-socialist countries like Russia, North Korea, and Cuba as official enemies of the United States and threats to U.S. “national security.”

That’s why U.S. officials broke their promise to Russia not to expand NATO. Almost immediately after the Cold War ended, NATO proceeded to absorb Eastern European countries that had been members of the Warsaw Pact, with the aim of placing U.S. military bases and missiles ever closer to Russia. The last step was to incite regime change in Ukraine, with the aim of replacing a pro-Russia regime with a pro-U.S. regime, which would then “invite” the Pentagon and the CIA into the country, where they could install military bases and missiles on Russia’s border and even take over Russia’s longtime military base in Crimea. Russia, of course, forestalled that plan with its takeover of Crimea.

It’s also why U.S. officials have maintained their decades-long embargo against Cuba, a country that has never attacked the United States or even threatened to do so. The aim continues to be to oust the Castro regime and replace it with another pro-U.S. dictatorship, much like the Fulgencio Batista regime that Fidel Castro and Cuban revolutionaries ousted from power in 1959.

That’s their aim with North Korea — regime change, the same aim they had for 11 years with Iraq, which they tried to achieve through 11 years of brutal sanctions, much like the sanctions that the U.S. has been enforcing against North Korea for several years. When the Iraq sanctions failed to succeed in achieving regime change in Iraq, President Bush ordered the Pentagon and the CIA to attack, which then succeeded in ousting Saddam from power and replacing him with a pro-U.S. regime.

The aim is no different in Iran. There are few things U.S. national-security state officials would love more than regime change in Iran, one that replaces the current regime with a pro-U.S. dictatorship, much like that of the Shah of Iran, who CIA officials installed into power in a coup in 1953.

Don’t forget: Prior to the U.S. regime change in Iraq, U.S. officials labeled Iran, Iraq, and North Korea as members of an “axis of evil.”

The U.S. government’s second aim is to have North Korea abandon and dismantle its nuclear-weapons program, which, needless to say, would make it less costly to pursue a U.S. regime-change operation against North Korea.

But North Korean officials are not dumb. They know that in a conventional war against the United States, North Korea wouldn’t stand a chance, any more than Iraq stood a chance when the U.S. government invaded it. Given the overwhelming military might of the U.S. government, virtually no Third World countries can defeat the U.S. in a war. (North Vietnam was a rare exception.)

The North Koreans know that there is only one way that would be likely to deter a U.S. attack on North Korea — nuclear weapons.

How do they know that? Easy. They know about Cuba. During the JFK administration, the Pentagon and the CIA were exhorting President Kennedy to undertake a full-scale invasion of Cuba because, they said, Cuba (like North Korea) posed a grave threat to U.S. “national security.” To create the false appearance that such an invasion was “defensive” in nature, the Joint Chiefs of Staff unanimously proposed Operation Northwoods to the president, which called for terrorist attacks and plane hijackings carried out by CIA agents secretly posing as Cuban communists.

Even though Kennedy rejected Operation Northwoods, the Pentagon and the CIA kept pressing for a regime-change invasion of Cuba. That’s when Castro invited the Soviets to install nuclear missiles on the island. The idea was that the missiles would hopefully deter U.S. officials from attacking Cuba in a regime-change operation.

The plan worked. Kennedy “blinked” and entered into a deal with the Soviets in which he vowed that the U.S. would not invade Cuba and in which he also secretly agreed to withdraw U.S. nuclear missiles aimed at Russia from Turkey. In return, the Soviets withdrew their missiles from Cuba, confirming that their purpose was deterrence and defense.

How could North Koreans not be impressed with that outcome? Compare the U.S. invasion of Iraq, which did not have nuclear missiles.

Why would North Korea ever agree to give up its nuclear weapons? There is only one slight chance of that happening — if North Korea can be convinced that the U.S. government has permanently abandoned its aim of regime change. But that could only happen if the U.S. government totally withdrew all U.S. forces from Korea and vowed never to attack North Korea (or create an Operation Northwoods type of false pretext attack).

How likely is that? I would say not very likely at all. The Pentagon and the CIA need an ongoing crisis in Korea (and others against Russia, terrorists, Muslims, Syria, the Taliban, drug dealers, etc.) to help justify their ever-growing budgets. Anyway, for them to exit North Korea would, in their minds, constitute “appeasement” in the face of the supposed communist threat to U.S. “national security.”

There is another complication for North Korea — the fact that the U.S. government cannot be trusted to keep its word. Sure, U.S. officials can point to Cuba and argue that succeeding U.S. regimes have complied with Kennedy’s vow not to invade Cuba. But others can point to the U.S. double-cross of Russia with respect to NATO expansion. Or to the U.S. double-cross of Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi, who ended up dead in a U.S. regime-change operation after agreeing to give up his nuclear program. Or to President Trump’s vow to break the U.S. agreement with Iran after it agreed to give up its nuclear program.

Thus, the big problem at the upcoming meeting with Trump and Kim Jong-un is that they are holding what are essentially intractable and irreconcilable positions: U.S. officials wants North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons but refuse to abandon their aim of regime change. Even if they promised to give up regime change, they couldn’t be trusted, especially if U.S. forces remained in Korea. North Korea, on the other hand, will never give up its nuclear weapons so long as the threat of regime change persists.

The real solution to the Korea crisis? Forget a meeting between Trump and Kim Jong-un. It’s not necessary. Simply bring all U.S. forces home, immediately. The Korea civil war is none of the U.S. government’s business. Never has been, never will be. (Neither was Vietnam’s civil war.)

Might North Korea attack South Korea after the U.S. is gone in an attempt to forcibly unite the country? It’s certainly possible. President Lincoln invaded the Confederacy in a successful attempt to unify the country. But given South Korea’s strong economic base and powerful military, it is a virtual certainty that South Korea would end up winning such a war.

Might North Korea use nuclear weapons in a war against South Korea? Why would it? If it is attacking to unify the country, what good would it do to have a unified country if the southern half is radiated for the next hundred or so years, along with much of the north as well?

The U.S. government and the interventionist-imperialist philosophy it stands for are the real problem in Korea. Lift U.S. sanctions, bring all U.S. troops home now, and leave Korea to the Koreans. That’s the solution to the crisis in Korea.

Posted in North Korea, South KoreaComments Off on The U.S. Government Is the Problem in Korea


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