Archive | August 29th, 2018

US Military Presence in Africa: All Over Continent and Still Expanding

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Around 200,000 US troops are stationed in 177 countries throughout the world. Those forces utilize several hundred military installations. Africa is no exemption. On August 2, Maj. Gen. Roger L. Cloutier took command of US Army Africa, promising to “hit the ground running.”

The US is not waging any wars in Africa but it has a significant presence on the continent. Navy SEALs, Green Berets, and other special ops are currently conducting nearly 100 missions across 20 African countries at any given time, waging secret, limited-scale operations. According to the magazine Vice, US troops are now conducting 3,500 exercises and military engagements throughout Africa per year, an average of 10 per day — an astounding 1,900% increase since the command rolled out 10 years ago. Many activities described as “advise and assist” are actually indistinguishable from combat by any basic definition.

There are currently roughly 7,500 US military personnel, including 1,000 contractors, deployed in Africa. For comparison, that figure was only 6,000 just a year ago. The troops are strung throughout the continent spread across 53 countries. There are 54 countries on the “Dark Continent.” More than 4,000 service members have converged on East Africa. The US troop count in Somalia doubled last year.

When AFRICOM was created there were no plans to establish bases or put boots on the ground. Today, a network of small staging bases or stations have cropped up. According to investigative journalist Nick Turse,

 “US military bases (including forward operating sites, cooperative security locations, and contingency locations) in Africa number around fifty, at least.”

US troops in harm’s way in Algeria, Burundi, Chad, Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan Tunisia, and Uganda qualify for extra pay.

The US African Command (AFRICOM) runs drone surveillance programs, cross-border raids, and intelligence. AFRICOM has claimed responsibility for development, public health, professional and security training, and other humanitarian tasks. Officials from the Departments of State, Homeland Security, Agriculture, Energy, Commerce, and Justice, among other agencies, are involved in AFRICOM activities. Military attachés outnumber diplomats at many embassies across Africa.

Last October, four US soldiers lost their lives in Niger. The vast majority of Americans probably had no idea that the US even had troops participating in combat missions in Africa before the incident took place. One serviceman was reported dead in Somalia in June. The Defense Department is mulling plans to “right-size” special operations missions in Africa and reassign troops to other regions, aligning the efforts with the security priorities defined by the 2018 National Defense Strategy. That document prioritizes great power competition over defeating terrorist groups in remote corners of the globe. Roughly 1,200 special ops troops on missions in Africa are looking at a drawdown. But it has nothing to do with leaving or significantly cutting back. And the right to unilaterally return will be reserved. The infrastructure is being expanded enough to make it capable of accommodating substantial reinforcements. The construction work is in progress. The bases will remain operational and their numbers keep on rising.

A large drone base in Agadez, the largest city in central Niger, is reported to be under construction. The facility will host armed MQ-9 Reaper drones which will finally take flight in 2019. The MQ-9 Reaper has a range of 1,150 miles, allowing it to provide strike support and intelligence-gathering capabilities across West and North Africa from this new base outside of Agadez. It can carry GBU-12 Paveway II bombs. The aircraft features synthetic aperture radar for integrating GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munitions. The armament suite can include four Hellfire air-to-ground anti-armor and anti-personnel missiles. There are an estimated 800 US troops on the ground in Niger, along with one drone base and the base in Agadez that is being built. The Hill called it “the largest US Air Force-led construction project of all time.”

According to Business Insider,

“The US military presence here is the second largest in Africa behind the sole permanent US base on the continent, in the tiny Horn of Africa nation of Djibouti.”

Four thousand American servicemen are stationed at Camp Lemonnier (the US base located near Djibouti City) — a critical strategic base for the American military because of its port and its proximity to the Middle East.

Officially, the camp is the only US base on the continent or, as AFRICOM calls it, “a forward operating site,” — the others are “cooperative security locations” or “non-enduring contingency locations.” Camp Lemonnier is the hub of a network of American drone bases in Africa that are used for aerial attacks against insurgents in Yemen, Nigeria, and Somalia, as well as for exercising control over the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait. In 2014, the US signed a new 20-year lease on the base with the Djiboutian government, and committed over $1.4 billion to modernize and expand the facility in the years to come.

In March, the US and Ghana signed a military agreement outlining the conditions of the US military presence in that nation, including its construction activities. The news was met with protests inside the country.

It should be noted that the drone attacks that are regularly launched in Africa are in violation of US law. The Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), adopted after Sept. 11, 2001, states that the president is authorized to use force against the planners of those attacks and those who harbor them. But that act does not apply to the rebel groups operating in Africa.

It’s hard to believe that the US presence will be really diminished, and there is no way to know, as too many aspects of it are shrouded in secrecy with nothing but “leaks” emerging from time to time. It should be noted that the documents obtained by TomDispatch under the United States Freedom of Information Act contradict AFRICOM’s official statements about the scale of US military bases around the world, including 36 AFRICOM bases in 24 African countries that have not been previously disclosed in official reports.

The US foothold in Africa is strong. It’s almost ubiquitous. Some large sites under construction will provide the US with the ability to host large aircraft and accommodate substantial forces and their hardware. This all prompts the still-unanswered question — “Where does the US have troops in Africa, and why?” One thing is certain — while waging an intensive drone war, the US is building a vast military infrastructure for a large-scale ground war on the continent.

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Iran Asks UN Court to Lift US Sanctions ‘Besieging’ Its Economy

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Lawyers says sole aim of Trump administration’s renewed measures are to bring their country ‘to its knees’

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Iran opened a lawsuit on Monday demanding the UN’s top court, the International Court of Justice (ICJ), order the suspension of renewed US sanctions which it says are devastating its economy.

The Islamic Republic says US President Donald Trump‘s decision to reimpose sanctions over its nuclear programme aims to bring it “to its knees” and is in breach of a 1955 friendship treaty.

Sanctions had been lifted under a 2015 multilateral agreement in return for Iran committing not to pursue nuclear weapons. In May, Trump announced that the US would abandon the deal.

Then last month, his administration reimposed unilateral sanctions, saying they were needed to ensure Iran never builds a nuclear bomb.

A second wave of sanctions are due to hit Iran in early November, targeting its banking and energy sectors, including oil exports.

The measures have added to Iran’s economic woes, helping to fuel strikes and protests across the country and political spectrum.

Since April, the rial has lost half of its value and a government strategy to keep the currency from sliding even further backfired. On Sunday, Iran’s parliament impeached Masoud Karbasian, the finance minister.

As the suit began, the head of the navy of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard reportedly said that the country had full control of the Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, according to Tasnim news agency.

Iranian officials have repeatedly threatened to block the strait, a major oil shipping route, in retaliation for any hostile US action.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in July that if Iran is not permitted to export oil, no other country in the region should be allowed to.

‘Irreparable prejudice’ 

As the suit opened on Monday, the presiding judge of the UN body – informally known as the World Court – began the hearing by calling on Washington to respect its outcome.

During their decades of animosity, both the United States and Iran have ignored some rulings at the court.

“The US is publicly propagating a policy intended to damage as severely as possible Iran’s economy and Iranian national companies, and therefore inevitably Iranian nationals,” said Mohsen Mohebi, representing Iran, at the start of four days of oral hearings. “This policy is plainly in violation of the 1955 Treaty of Amity.”

He said Iran had sought a diplomatic solution to the countries’ dispute but was rejected.

The United States said in an initial written reaction displayed in court that it believes the ICJ has no jurisdiction in the case, and that Iran’s assertions fall outside the bounds of the treaty.

US lawyers led by State Department adviser Jennifer Newstead, appointed by Trump in 2017, are due to respond on Tuesday. A ruling is expected within a month, though no date has been set.

Tehran filed its case before the court in late July, calling on the Hague-based tribunal’s judges to order the immediate lifting of sanctions pending a definitive ruling.

It said the sanctions would cause it “irreparable prejudice”.

“The current US administration is pushing the sanctions to their maximum with the sole aim of bringing Iran to its knees,” Iran’s lawyers said in the court filing.

“The USA is besieging Iran economically, with all the dramatic consequences that a siege implies for the besieged population.”

The lawyers have also said in their filings that the sanctions threaten tens of billions of dollars’ worth of business deals with foreign companies.

International companies including France’s Total, Peugeot and Renault, and Germany’s Siemens and Daimler, have suspended operations in Iran since Trump announced the US withdrawal from the nuclear deal in May.

Air France and British Airways announced on Thursday that they would halt flights to Tehran next month, saying they were not commercially viable. The British carrier added however that the decision was unrelated to the fresh sanctions.

Trump said the sanctions would turn up the financial pressure on Tehran to come to a “comprehensive and lasting solution” regarding its activities such as its “ballistic missile programme and its support for terrorism”.

Khamenei this month appeared to rule out any immediate prospect of talks, saying “there will be neither war, nor negotiations”, with the US.

The ICJ was set up in 1946 to rule in disputes between countries.

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UN Condemns Likely Saudi and UAE ‘War Crimes’ in Yemen

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Report also condemns Houthi recruitment of child soldiers, but does not explore role of the US and UK in supplying arms to Saudi-led coalition

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A group of UN experts has said that Saudi and Emirati forces may have committed war crimes in Yemen.

report launched on Tuesday by the Group of Eminent Experts on Yemen (YemenGEE) established in 2017 by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, concluded that individuals in the governments of Yemen, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) could be prosecuted for acts that amount to international crimes “subject to determination by an independent and competent court”.

The report comes as US officials have expressed concerns over recent deadly air strikes, with the Pentagon reportedly warning Saudi Arabia that it is prepared to cut its support to the Saudi-led coalition if it continues to target civilians.

According to evidence gathered by YemenGEE, some attacks and actions by the coalition and the Yemeni government have violated “the principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution”, including the imposition of a naval and air blockade on Yemen since March 2015.

“There is little evidence of any attempt by parties to the conflict to minimise civilian casualties. I call on them to prioritise human dignity in this forgotten conflict,” said Kamel Jendoubi, chairperson of YemenGEE.

Based on interviews with victims and witnesses, the group found that the UAE and its allied Yemeni security forces have committed acts of rape and sexual violence against vulnerable groups.

In March 2018, the panel said that 200 male detainees were subjected to anal examinations and rape with tools and sticks by UAE personnel at Bir Ahmed prison in southern Yemen.

The report attributed two-thirds of 842 verified cases of recruitment of children in 2017 to the Houthi forces. In some cases, children as young as eight were conscripted to take part in hostilities.

A Saudi coalition spokesman told Reuters on Tuesday that the UN report had been referred to the coalition’s legal team.

The findings were released a day after top US military commander in the Middle East Lieutenant General Jeffrey Harrigian expressed “frustration” at a recent coalition air strike that killed 40 children in Yemen, using US-supplied bombs.

“Clearly, we’re concerned about civilian casualties, and they know about our concern,” he told the New York Times. “The key here is to take appropriate action.”

Meanwhile, the Pentagon has warned Saudi Arabia that the US is prepared to cut its military and intelligence support to the coalition if it continues to target civilians, CNN reported.

Most recently, a Saudi strike last week killed 27 civilians, mostly children, fleeing the violence in the besieged southern city of Hodeidah.

The US and the UK have provided military and intelligence support to the Saudi-led coalition which was formed in March 2015 to restore the government of president Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi who was ousted by Iranian-backed Houthi rebels that year.

The UN report, however, has not investigated the US and UK role in what it described as potential war crimes committed in Yemen.

The UN panel did not immediately respond to a Middle East Eye request for comment.

At a press conference on Tuesday, US Secretary of State James Mattis told reporters that the US “has not seen any callous disregard” by the Saudi-led coalition, and thus “will continue to work with them to reduce this tragedy,” in reference to the killing of non-combatants in the war using US-supplied weapons.

He also said the US support for the coalition is “not unconditional”. It is conditioned on the coalition “doing everything humanely possible to avoid any possible loss of life” and supporting the UN-brokered peace process.

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The Real Russian Interference in US Politics

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If Russia were trying to interfere in U.S. domestic politics, it wouldn’t be attempting to change the U.S. system but to prevent it from trying to change Russia’s, argues Diana Johnstone.

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The Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union was ostensibly a conflict between two ideologies and two socio-economic systems.

All that seems to be over. The day of a new socialism may dawn unexpectedly, but today capitalism rules the world. At first glance, it may seem to be a classic clash between rival capitalists. And yet, once again an ideological conflict is emerging, one which divides capitalists themselves, even in Russia and in the United States itself. It is the conflict between American unipolar dominance and a multipolar world.

The defeat of communism was brutally announced in a certain “capitalist manifesto” dating from the early 1990s that actually proclaimed: “Our guiding light is Profit, acquired in a strictly legal way. Our Lord is His Majesty, Money, for it is only He who can lead us to wealth as the norm in life.” The authors of this bold tract were Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who went on to become the richest man in Russia (before spending ten years in a Russian jail) and his business partner at the time, Leonid Nevzlin, who has since retired comfortably to Israel.

Loans for Shares

Those were the good old days in the 1990s when the Clinton administration was propping up Yeltsin as he let Russia be ripped off by the joint efforts of such ambitious well-placed Russians and their Western sponsors, notably using the “loans for shares” trick.

In a 2012 Vanity Fair article on her hero, Khodorkovsky, the vehemently anti-Putin journalist Masha Gessen frankly summed up how this worked:

The new oligarchs—a dozen men who had begun to exercise the power that money brought—concocted a scheme. They would lend the government money, which it badly needed, and in return the government would put up as collateral blocks of stock amounting to a controlling interest in the major state-owned companies. When the government defaulted, as both the oligarchs and the government knew it would, the oligarchs would take them over. By this maneuver the Yeltsin administration privatized oil, gas, minerals, and other enterprises without parliamentary approval.”

This worked so well that from his position in the Communist youth organization, Khodorkovsky used his connections to get control of Russia’s petroleum company Yukos and become the richest oligarch in Russia, worth some $15 billion, of which he still controls a chunk despite his years in jail (2003-2013).

His arrest made him a hero of democracy in the United States, where he had many friends, especially those business partners who were helping him sell pieces of Yukos to Chevron and Exxon. Khodorkovsky (image below), a charming and generous young man, easily convinced his American partners that he was Russia’s number one champion of democracy and the rule of law, especially of those laws which allow domestic capital to flee to foreign banks, and foreign capital to take control of Russian resources.

Vladimir Putin didn’t see it that way. Without restoring socialism, he dispossessed Khodorkovsky of Yukos and essentially transformed the oil and gas industry from the “open society” model tolerated by Yeltsin to a national capitalist industry. Khodorkovsky and his partner Platon Lebedev were accused of having stolen all the oil that Yukos had produced in the years 1998 to 2003, tried, convicted and sentenced to 14 years of prison each. This shift ruined U.S. plans, already underway, to “balkanize” Russia between its many provinces, thereby allowing Western capital to pursue its capture of the Russian economy.

The dispossession of Khodorkovsky was certainly a major milestone in the conflict between President Putin and Washington. On November 18, 2005, the Senate unanimously adopted Resolution 322introduced by Senator Joe Biden denouncing the treatment of the Khodorkovsky and Lebedev as politically motivated.

Who Influences Whom?

There is an alternative view of the history of Russian influence in the United States to the one now getting constant attention. It is obvious that a Russian who can get the Senate to adopt a resolution in his favor has a certain influence. But when the “deep state” and the corporate media today growl about Russian influence, they aren’t talking about Khodorkovsky. They are talking about alleged collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. They are seizing, for example, on a joking response Trump made to a reporter’s snide question during the presidential campaign. In a variation of the classic “when did you stop beating your wife?” the reporter asked if he would call on Russian President Vladimir Putin to “stay out” of the election.

Since a stupid question does not deserve a serious answer, Trump said he had “nothing to do with Putin” before adding, “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 [Hillary Clinton] e-mails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”

Many Trump opponents think this proves collusion. Irony appears to be almost as unwelcome in American politics as honesty.

When Trump revoked his security clearance earlier this month, former CIA chief John Brennan got his chance to spew his hatred in the complacent pages of The New York Times. Someone supposed to be smart enough to head an intelligence agency actually took Trump’s joking invitation as a genuine request. “By issuing such a statement,” Brennan wrote, “Mr. Trump was not only encouraging a foreign nation to collect intelligence against a United States citizen, but also openly authorizing his followers to work with our primary global adversary against his political opponent.”

As America’s former top intelligence officer, Brennan had to know that (even if it were true that Trump was somehow involved) it is ludicrous to suggest that Trump would have launched a covert intelligence operation on national television. If this were a Russian operation to hack Clinton’s private server it would have been on a need-to-know basis and there is no evident need for Trump or his campaign team to have known.

Besides, Clinton’s private server on the day Trump uttered this joke, July 27, 2016, had already been about nine months in possession of the Department of Justice, and presumably offline as it was being examined.

Since Brennan knows all this he could only have been lying in The New York Times.

The Russians, Brennan went on, “troll political, business and cultural waters in search of gullible or unprincipled individuals who become pliant in the hands of their Russian puppet masters.”

But which Russians do that? And who are those “individuals?”

‘The Fixer-in-Chief’

To understand the way Washington works, one can focus on the career of lawyer Jonathan M. Winer, who proudly says that in early 2017 the head of the Carnegie Endowment, Bill Burns, referred to him as “The Fixer-in-Chief.” Let’s see what the fixer has fixed.

Winer served in the Clinton State Department as its first Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Law Enforcement from 1994-1999. One may question the selectivity of Bill Clinton’s concern for international law enforcement, which certainly did not cover violating international law by bombing defenseless countries.

In any case, in 1999 Winer received the State Department’s second highest award for having “created the capacity of the Department and the U.S. government to deal with international crime and criminal justice as important foreign policy functions.” The award stated that “the scope and significance of his achievements are virtually unprecedented for any single official.”

After the Clinton administration, from 2008 to 2013, Winer worked as a high-up consultant at one of the world’s most powerful PR and lobbying firms, APCO Worldwide. As well as the tobacco industry and the Clinton Foundation, APCO also works for Khodorkovsky. To be precise, according to public listings, the fourth biggest of APCO’s many clients is the Corbiere Trust, owned by Khodorkovsky and registered in Guernsey. The trust tends and distributes some of the billions that the oligarch got out of Russia before he was jailed.

Corbiere money was spent to lobby both for Resolution 322 (supporting Khodorkovsky after his arrest in Russia) and for the Magnitsky Act. APCO president Margery Kraus is a member of the Institute of Modern Russia, which is headed by Khodorkovsky’s son Pavel, with the ostensible purpose of “promoting democratic values” – in other words, of building political opposition to Putin.

When John Kerry replaced Hillary Clinton as secretary of state, allowing Hillary to prepare her presidential campaign, Winer went back to the State Department. Winer’s extracurricular activities at State brought him into the public spotlight early this year when House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA) named him as part of a network promoting the notorious “Steele Dossier,” which accused Trump of illicit financial dealing and compromising sexual activities in Russia, in a word, “collusion” with Moscow.

By Winer’s own account, he had been friends with former British intelligence agent Christopher Steele since his days at APCO. Back at State, he regularly channeled Steele reports, ostensibly drawn from contacts with friendly Russian intelligence agents, to Victoria Nuland, in charge of Russian affairs, as well as to top Russia experts. Among these reports was the infamous “Steele dossier,” opposition research on Trump financed by the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee.

But dirt seemed to pass the other way too. According to a Feb. 6 Washington Post story, Winer passedon to Steele the story of Trump being urinated on by prostitutes in a Moscow hotel with Russian agents allegedly filming it for blackmail material. The Post says the story was written by Cody Shearer, a Clinton confidante. A lawyer for Winer told the paper that Winer “was concerned in 2016 about information that a candidate for the presidency may have been compromised by a hostile foreign power. Any actions he took were grounded in those concerns.” Shearer did not respond to a request for comment from Consortium News. (Full disclosure: Cody Shearer is a member of the advisory board of the Consortium for Independent Journalism, which publishes Consortium News, and has been asked to resign.)

All this Democrat paid-for and created dirt was spread through government agencies and mainstream media before being revealed publicly just before Trump’s inauguration. The Steele dossier was used by the Obama Justice Department to get a warrant to spy on the Trump campaign. 

Winer and the Magnitsky Act

Winer played a major role in Congress’s adoption of the “Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act of 2012” (the Magnitsky Act), a measure that effectively ended post-Cold War hopes for normal relations between Washington and Moscow. This act was based on a highly contentious version of the November 16, 2009 death in prison of accountant Sergei Leonidovich Magnitsky as told to Congress by hedge fund manager Bill Browder.  According to Browder, Magnitsky was a lawyer beaten to death in prison as a result of his crusade for human rights.

However, as convincingly established by dissident Russian film-maker Andrei Nekrasov’s investigative documentary (blacklisted in the U.S.), Magnitsky was neither a human rights crusader, nor a lawyer, nor beaten to death. He was an accountant jailed for his role in Browder’s business dealings, who died of natural causes as a result of inadequate prison care. The case was hyped as a major human rights drama by Browder in order to discredit Russian tax fraud charges against himself.

By adopting a law punishing Magnitsky’s alleged persecutors, the U.S. Congress acted as a supreme court judging internal Russian legal issues.

The Magnitsky Act also condemns legal prosecution of Khodorkovsky. Browder, on a much smaller scale, also made a fortune ripping off Russians during the Yeltsin years, and later got into trouble with Russian tax collectors. Since Browder had given up his U.S. citizenship in order to avoid paying U.S. taxes, he had reason to fear Russian efforts to extradite him for tax evasion and other financial misdeeds.

It was Winer who found a solution to Browder’s predicament. As Winer wrote in The Daily Beast:

When Browder consulted me, he wanted to know what he could do to hold those involved in the case accountable. As Browder describes in his bookRed Notice, I suggested creating a new law to impose economic and travel sanctions on human-rights violators involved in grand corruption. Browder decided this could secure a measure of justice for Magnitsky. He initiated a campaign that led to the enactment of the Magnitsky Act. Soon other countries enacted their own Magnitsky Acts, including Canada, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and most recently, the United Kingdom.”

Meanwhile, Russian authorities have been trying for years to pursue their case against Browder (image on the right). Putin brought up the case in his press conference following the Helsinki meeting with Trump. Putin suggested allowing U.S. authorities to question the 12 Russian GRU military intelligence agents named in the Mueller indictment in exchange for allowing Russian officials to question individuals involved in the Browder case, including Winer and former U.S. ambassador to Moscow Michael McFaul, among others. Putin observed that such an exchange was possible under the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty signed between the two countries in 1999, back in the Yeltsin days when America was posing as Russia’s best friend.

But the naïve Russians underestimated the craftiness of American lawyers.

As Winer wrote, “Under that treaty, Russia’s procurator general can ask the U.S. attorney general … to arrange for Americans to be ordered to testify to assist in a criminal case. But there is a fundamental exception: The attorney general can provide no such assistance in a politically motivated case (my emphasis). I know this because I was among those who helped put it there. Back in 1999, when we were negotiating the agreement with Russia, I was the senior State Department official managing U.S.-Russia law-enforcement relations.”

The clever treaty is a perfect Catch-22. It doesn’t apply to a case if it is politically motivated, and if it is Russian, it must be politically motivated. (The irony is that Mueller’s indictment of 12 GRU Russian military intelligence agents appears to be more a political than a legal document. For one thing, it accused the agents of interfering in a U.S. election but never charges them under U.S. electoral law.)

On July 15, 2016, Browder’s Heritage Capital Management firm registered a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice accusing both American and Russian opponents of the Magnitsky Act of violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA); adopted in 1938 with Nazis in mind.

As for Russian lawyers attempting to bring their case against the Act to the U.S., the Heritage Capital Management brief declared:

While lawyers representing foreign principals are exempt from filing under FARA, this is only true if the attorney does not try to influence policy at the behest of his client. By disseminating anti-Magnitsky material to Congress, [lawyer Natalia] Veselnitskaya is clearly trying to influence policy and is therefore in violation of her filing requirements under FARA.”

Veselnitskaya was at the infamous Trump Tower meeting in the summer of 2016 to lobby a possible incoming Trump administration to oppose the Magnitsky Act. A British music promoter, not a spokesman for the Russian government, offered dirt on Clinton in an email to Donald Trump Jr. No dirt was apparently produced and Don Jr. saw it as a lure to get him to the meeting on Magnitsky. Democrats are furiously trying to prove that this meeting was “collusion” between the Trump camp and Russia, though it was the Clinton campaign that paid for opposition research and received it from foreigners, while the Trump campaign neither solicited nor apparently received any at that meeting.

The Ideological Conflict Today

Needless to say, Khodorkovsky’s Corbiere Trust lobbied hard to get Congress to pass the Magnitsky Act. This type of “Russian interference intended to influence policy” goes unnoticed while U.S. authorities scour cyberspace for evidence of trolls.

The basic ideological conflict here is between Unipolar America and Multipolar Russia. Russia’s position, as Putin made clear in his historic speech at the Munich security conference in 2007, is to allow countries to enjoy national sovereignty and develop in their own way. The current Russian government is against interference in other countries’ politics on principle. It would naturally prefer an American government willing to do the same.

The United States, in contrast, is in favor of interference in other countries on principle: because it seeks a Unipolar world, with a single “democratic” system, and considers itself the final authority as to which regime a country should have and how it should run its affairs.

So, if Putin were trying to interfere in U.S. domestic politics, he would not be trying to change the U.S. system but to prevent it from trying to change his own.

U.S. policy-makers practice interference every day. And they are perfectly willing to allow Russians to interfere in American politics – so long as those Russians like Khodorkovsky, who aspire to precisely the same unipolar world sought by the State Department. Indeed, the American empire depends on such interference from Iraqis, Libyans, Iranians, Russians, Cubans – all those who come to Washington to try to get U.S. power to settle old scores or overthrow the government in the country they came from and put themselves in power. All those are perfectly welcome to lobby for a world ruled by America.

Russian interference in American politics is totally welcome so long as it helps turn public opinion against “multipolar” Putin, glorifies American democracy, serves U.S. interests, including the military industries, helps break down national borders (except those of the United States and Israel) and puts money in appropriate pockets in the halls of Congress.

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On a Collision Course: Is the US at War with Turkey?

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On a Collision Course: Is the US at War with Turkey? US Installs Air Defense System in Northern Syria? Preparations for No Fly Zone?

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According to Ugur Ergan, Hurriyet Daily News, (yet to be confirmed) the US is installing an Air Defense system and electronic radar systems in Northern Syria, in Kobani, close to the border with Turkey. The Western media has not covered these developments.

The Kobani region is controlled by US supported YPG Kurdish rebels, together with a contingent of 2000 US forces. Turkey is fighting the YPG rebels, which Ankara considers “as the illegal PKK’s Syrian offshoot and, thus, designated as terrorist organizations”.  In fact this last statement constitutes the  justification for the illegal deployment of Turkish troops in Northern Syria.

In other words, the Turkish Armed forces are fighting Kurdish rebels who are supported and generously financed by the United States.

The Hurriyet report intimates that the US air defense system is to be used against Turkish air strikes with a view to protecting the Kurdish YPG rebels within an area now controlled by the U.S. Does this mean that Turkey and the US are at war with one another?

According to Hurriyet:

The Ankara government is closely monitoring the news regarding the installation of airdefense and radar systems reported by some foreign media outlets.  A video circulating on social media purportedly shows U.S. soldiers installing the systems shipped to Kobani with military transport aircraft.

… Radar systems are being installed [by the US] in the rural areas of Kobani just across the Turkish border town of Suruç in the southeastern province of Şanlıurfa, foreign media outlets reported citing local sources.

(see screenshot of Google map below, the black line indicate the border between Syria and Turkey)

Press TV also confirmed that the US had installed advanced radar systems  at the Ayn al-Arab (Kobane) military airport and the town of Rmelan in Hasakah Province.

The Pentagon has already established a military base in  Manbij, which was initially described as a safe zone (see map)

 

On August 25, a senior official of the US State Department William Roebuck traveled to Manbij:

“We are prepared to stay here, as the president (Donald Trump) has made clear … We are prepared to stay here [in Syria] to ensure the enduring defeat of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant [ISIL],”

US forces in Manbij area, March 2018 source Sputnik

Roebuck was referring to more than 2,000 US and allied troops deployed in territories in Northeast Syria under Kurdish YPG control. (Press Tv, 25 August 2018).

In an earlier article (August 26) I raised the issue of a US sponsored “No Fly Zone” in Northern Syria:

“The no fly zone” appears to be modelled on that imposed on Iraq in the wake of the 1991 Gulf War, allegedly to protect Kurds in Northern Iraq.

But in this case the US zone of influence is on Turkey’s door step, the No Fly Zone extends to Turkey’s border.

According to Sputnik News (August 28): “The US military is laying the groundwork to close the airspace over northern Syria” (without consultation with its ally: Turkey?).

While Turkey has established an alliance of convenience with Russia and Iran (both of which are involved militarily in Syria), the  US and Turkey are potentially on a “Collision Course” which could lead the Middle East into a broader war.

Direct military confrontation between two member states of the Atlantic Alliance would inevitably lead to a deep seated crisis within NATO. (This crisis is already ongoing). 

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Trump Threatens to Axe WTO – What Now for No-Deal Brexit

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We keep hearing hard Brexiteers like Jacob Rees Mogg, Boris Johnson and Liam Fox saying that Britain is heading for a no-deal exit from the EU and that leaving on World Trade Organisation (WTO) terms is now likely. For most of Britain’s population, they have no idea what this really means, only that there is some sort of deal, even if it’s a bad one.

What you might not know is that the WTO is under serious threat of extinction anyway, just at the moment Britain needs the trade body more than ever.

The EU is launching its last-ditch plan to save the World Trade Organization just as U.S. President Donald Trump demonstrates ever more increasing signs that he is about to kill it off.

This week, Trump’s administration pushed the WTO closer to the brink by blocking, yet again, the reappointment of another judge at its Geneva-based court that arbitrates trade disputes. With only three judges out of seven left in the WTO, it will now face increasing difficulties in passing rulings on international disputes over tariffs, unfair trade barriers and subsidies. This effectively means that the WTO will not be looked upon as an effective global arbitration service.

Politico.eu reports Tuesday (28th Aug) that

Many in Europe think Washington wants to destroy the court because it is not sufficiently tough on China and has been too interventionist in criticizing America’s high tariff calculations.

The American’s are looking for WTO reform to work in its favour and says it’s prepared to talk and negotiate. However, European officials are sceptical and are now out to test whether Washington is bluffing.

“Brussels thinks the WTO plays a vital role as a referee in global trade disputes, so it has prepared reform proposals for next month to tackle exactly the sort of complaints that the U.S. has raised in Geneva. If Washington takes up the offer, it should lift its opposition to the judges, Brussels officials say. If Trump snubs the EU’s suggestions to reform the court, the Europeans will know that he simply wants to blow up the WTO.”

“This is certainly about calling America’s bluff,” said Bernd Lange, chair of the European Parliament’s trade committee. “The EU will make proposals to the WTO in September to kickstart the [reform] process and to test who is really willing to work on reform. Those who frequently issue criticism will then also have to commit to such a reform. And this means first and foremost the United States.”

If that’s not bad enough, it does get worse. While the WTO can theoretically operate at such bare-minimum levels with just three judges out of seven, there are now growing legitimacy problems with this arrangement. These remaining judges are from the U.S., China and India, the three countries right at the heart of some of the world’s biggest and most sensitive trade disputes. Judges are required to recuse themselves if there are conflicts of interest from their previous careers and that is highly likely for all three, especially the judges from the US and China.

Trump has made no secret of his contempt for the WTO. He takes the view that it is far too lenient toward Beijing. And as Politico points out, Trump has often mapped out strategies where the U.S. bypasses the WTO and wins trade wars simply by flexing its muscle as the world’s biggest economy. In a world without arbitration, Trump simply thinks he can’t lose.

United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, who is spearheading US actions over the WTO wrote that

the WTO is undermining our country’s ability to act in its national interest … First among those concerns is that the WTO dispute settlement system has appropriated to itself powers that the WTO Members never intended to give it.”

Simon Lester, associate director of the Cato Institute’s Herbert A. Stiefel Center for Trade Policy Studies, said that the current blockage is “dangerous” and that “It’s still not clear whether America is willing to negotiate in good faith.”

In reality, without the WTO, America would simply bully its way through trade deals as there would be no effective trade body to act an independent judge on disputes.

As for the much reported no-deal Brexit. With no WTO rules to protect it, where would that leave Britain other than capitulating to the US – exactly as Trump wants it?

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Erasing the Truth and Fabricating Fake Narratives

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Western media monopolies, appendages of the billionaire ruling class, select for narratives which glorify criminal foreign policies. Hence, these monopolies are cheerleaders for uninterrupted wars of aggression. 

Ruling class policymakers hide their criminality beneath banners of freedom, democracy, and human rights. [1] These lies provide cover for what amounts to a Western- orchestrated and sustained overseas holocaust and the thirdworldization of domestic populations. 

The lies are further reinforced when those who advance these toxic policies are celebrated as heroes. This misplaced adulation negates the struggle for Peace and the rule of International Law. The lies and misplaced adulation also serve to legitimize the West’s proxies, which include al Qaeda [2] in Syria, and neo-Nazis [3] in Kiev.

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МОСКОУИЦ ?@iFortknox

What’s great thing about the pic accompanying this piece in the Washington Post sanctifying McCain as a human rights advocate is that the guy to his left is an actual Nazi. He’s Oleh Tyahnybok, a Ukrainian Nazi. Too good!

The adulation, then, is part of the apparatus of deception. It brands those who should be facing trials at the Hague as heroes, as it erases the truth, which is a vital component for Peace and International Justice.

*

Mark Taliano is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG) and the author of Voices from Syria, Global Research Publishers, 2017.

Notes

1. Mark Taliano, “The War on Syria: Driving Home the Truth and the Need to Act Now.” Global Research. 12 July, 2018. (https://www.globalresearch.ca/the-war-on-syria-driving-home-the-truth-and-the-need-to-act-now/5647214) Accessed 29 August, 2018.

2. Prof. Tim Anderson. “The Unspoken Truth is that America is Supporting Al Qaeda: Heavy Propaganda Rages in the Battle for Aleppo. The Terrorists are Portrayed as ‘ Freedom Fighters ‘.” Global Research. 01 May, 2016. (https://www.mondialisation.ca/the-unspoken-truth-is-that-america-is-supporting-al-qaeda-heavy-propaganda-rages-in-the-battle-for-aleppo-the-terrorists-are-portrayed-as-freedom-fighters/5522594) Accessed 29 August, 2018.

3. Ben Norton. “WaPo Uses Photo of John McCain Next to Nazi to Praise His ‘Human Rights’ Work.” FAIR. 29 August, 2018. (https://fair.org/home/john-mccain-human-rights-ukrainian-nazi-photo-washington-post/) Accessed 29 August, 2018.

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Are Trump Regime Hardliners Sabotaging US -North Korea Talks?

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Washington can never be trusted. Its promises are consistently broken. Accepting US pledges at face value is hazardous.  Washington has been in a state of undeclared war on the DPRK since adoption of the uneasy 1953 armistice. 

What’s going on post-mid-June Kim Jong-Un/Trump summit talks is reminiscent of how US/DPRK relations unravelled earlier.

In 1994, US/North Korean talks were held. An Agreed Framework was signed.

Pyongyang agreed to replace its nuclear power plant program with a light water nuclear reactor, along with steps toward normalizing relations with Washington.

The Clinton regime agreed to build two light-water reactors by 2003. It promised to supply Pyongyang with 500,000 tons of heavy fuel annually.

US sanctions would be lifted. The DPRK would no longer be designated a state sponsor of terrorism.

Both countries agreed to provide “formal assurances” against threatened or actual use of nuclear weapons.

Pyongyang agreed to allow Washington to monitor its nuclear sites. The deal collapsed after GW Bush called North Korea part of an axis of evil in his first State of the Union address.

The DPRK upheld its part of the deal. Washington systematically breached it, reneging on its word. North Korea responded by resuming plutonium enrichment.

In August 2003, six-party talks were initiated, involving North and South Korea, China, Russia, America and Japan.

In 2005, Pyongyang pledged to abandon “all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs.” In 2009, talks broke down following disagreements over verification, along with international condemnation of a DPRK ballistic missile test – what many other countries do without criticism of their programs.

Hostility and betrayal defined US policy toward North Korea throughout its post-WW II history.

Washington breached earlier agreements, not Pyongyang – eager for rapprochement and normalized relations, what the US consistently rejected.

Is this time different with the most extremist/belligerent ever US regime in power?

Since Kim/Trump summit talks in mid-June, US relations toward North Korea deteriorated. Trump regime hardliners demand everything in return for empty promises.

Russia is furious about a leaked confidential UN report on the DPRK – prior to discussion by the UN Security Council Sanctions Committee members on North Korea, a gross violation of Committee rules and standards.

World body leadership was likely complicit with Trump regime hardliners, opposed to improved relations with Pyongyang.

An early August leaked UN report claimed DPRK nuclear and missile programs are still active. It also accused its government of breaching sanctions that never should have been imposed in the first place.

Washington may resume provocative regional military exercises North Korean officials believe are rehearsals for invasion.

The DPRK’s ruling party newspaper, Rodong Sinmun, accused US forces in Okinawa, Japan of conducting drills, simulating an “infiltration into Pyongyang…involving man-killing special units while having a dialogue with a smile on its face,” calling what’s going on US “double-dealing.”

Cancellation of Pompeo’s visit to Pyongyang days earlier for a fourth round of talks on DPRK denuclearization apparently was over Deputy Workers’ Party of Korea Kim Yong Chol’s letter, expressing understandable concern over the Trump regime’s unwillingness to sign a peace treaty – ending Harry Truman’s war.

Kim suggested one-sided US demands may undermine talks. An unnamed senior Trump official said Bolton and likely Pompeo favor toughness in dealing with Pyongyang.

They support stiffer sanctions, including a full oil and gas embargo, certain to undermine negotiations like earlier if things move in this direction.

Washington doesn’t negotiate in good faith. Sputnik News quoted an unnamed policy analyst, saying “in almost all of the give-and-take” between officials of both countries, “the ‘give’ has come from North Korea” – the take demanded by the Trump regime.

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A New Space Race for a New Cold War

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Space weapons, not economy, might prove to be the decisive argument in the geopolitical standoff

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The New Cold War, despite being very different from its predecessor in many ways, is replicating it when it comes to the impending resumption of the Space Race.

The world is in the midst of a New Cold War between the unipolar and multipolar forces, or as one can argue, between the American-led and Chinese-led direction of multipolarity. The US’ post-(Old) Cold War unipolar hegemony over global affairs during the 1990s has progressively given way to the emergence of a handful of influential Great Powers that are exerting ever more influence over the course of International Relations, thus leading to the overall system’s diversification away from its previous American centrality. The US is using a variety of proactive kinetic (e.g. military, “insurgent”) and non-kinetic (e.g. sanctions, infowar) means to retain its predominant hold over the world, with the resultant friction that it’s creating with its Russian, Chinese, and Iranian challengers manifesting itself in the most dramatic way in the Ukrainian, South China Sea, and Syrian battlefields of the New Cold War.

Some observers are of the opinion that the US will never regain the near-total control over international affairs that it had immediately after the dissolution of the USSR, instead settling to be the “first among equals” in what increasingly seems to be the irreversibly multipolar system of the future. To that end, the US is relying on a combination of Kissingerian Great Power “balancing” through its “Lead From Behind” strategy of co-opting stakeholders to participate in campaigns of shared interest (e.g. convincing India to cooperate with America in “containing” China) and the Brzezinskite “weaponization of chaos theory” to provoke Hybrid Wars in pivotally important transit states along China’s New Silk Road. Whether one believes that unipolarity can still be saved or that the US is trying to shape the emerging Multipolar World Order, the aforementioned situational description roughly describes the general contours of contemporary International Relations.

For as dynamic as events may be on earth, the real game-changer in the New Cold War will be all about what happens in space.

Russia’s recently unveiled hypersonic missile technology neutralized decades’ worth of the US’ anti-missile investments and restored the nuclear strategic parity that America was dangerously trying to undermine in order to blackmail its nuclear-armed rivals in Moscow and Beijing. Caught flat-footed and unable to conceive of how its current technological investments in the field could be modified to adapt to this new development, the US realized that the only way for it to regain what it originally believed could be its edge over everyone else was to take the New Cold War into space through the creation of a so-called “Space Force”. Previously discussed in the media over the past year and obviously deliberated on in private among the members of the US’ permanent military bureaucracy for decades, one of the many purposes of this newly proposed branch of the armed forces is to respond to Russia’s hypersonic missiles.

There’s literally no technology on earth that could detect these missiles in time to respond to them, let alone intercept them, which is why the US has been publicly flirting with the creation of a planetary space-based sensor network that would realistically be the most visible element of the Space Force. Because of its presumably “defensive” (or at the very least, “non-offensive”) role, the US would portray its unprecedented official military foray into space as “reinforcing peace” instead of disrupting it, even though its true purpose would be to detect hypersonic missile launches and then feed the information into possibly automated space-based attack vehicles such as the secretive X-37B that would be part of its “Prompt Global Strike” strategy for immediately responding to such scenarios. In layman’s terms, the public face of this program would be “defensive”/sensory while the clandestine one would be offensive/”retaliatory”.

If the US acquires the capability to respond to Russia’s hypersonic missile advancements, then the aforesaid “superweapon” would no longer have the peacemaking strategic edge that it once did.

It would still theoretically be capable of restoring the pre-2001 strategic balance with the US prior to America’s unilateral development of its so-called “missile defense shield”, which is in and of itself a tremendous achievement because it would keep the US’ conventional military forces in check, but only so long as the Pentagon doesn’t move its anti-missile infrastructure to space and enhance it to the point of being able to shoot down Russia’s hypersonic missiles. Should that happen, then the same dangerous state of affairs that Russia originally sought to rectify through this technology would return, with the main difference being that the US would now be relying on assets in outer space to assist in its campaign to neutralize its rivals’ nuclear second-strike capability and thus make them susceptible to nuclear blackmail. Nevertheless, Russia could still devise solutions for combatting this.

The most realistic options presently at its disposal are to continue investing in its hypersonic missile technology in parallel with building up the submarine component of its nuclear triad. Looking forward, however, Russia will eventually need to unveil anti-satellite weapons such as lasers, missiles, and kamikaze satellites that can take out the US’ space-based sensors in the event of war and blind its retaliatory systems such as the X-37B. Of course, it should be assumed that the US is preparing for these eventualities and is also deviously planning to pretend that Russia already has this technology in order to “justify” its proactive deployment of these same weapons on the false pretense that it’s doing so “defensively” and in “response” to so-called “Russian aggression” even though Moscow once again promised not to be the first one to field this technology in that domain.

At the end of the day, the outcome of the New Cold War might not be decided by geostrategic or economic factors, but by whichever side wins the military ones related to the New Space Race.

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UN Report on Yemen Ignores US Responsibility for War

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Post-9/11, Washington launched a drone war on Yemen as part of the “global war on terrorism” – largely killing defenseless civilians, supporting terrorists, not combatting them. The Bush/Cheney regime began what Obama and Trump escalated. 

US-backed full-scale Saudi/UAE-led aggression on the country began in March 2015.

Operating covertly, US special forces aid the blockade and slaughter, along with CIA/Pentagon intelligence and logistical support, along with direct US involvement in conflict on the ground – responsible for the world’s severest humanitarian crisis.

The campaign against Houthi fighters aims to restore US-appointed puppet president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi to power – no matter the human cost, regardless of millions of Yemenis suffering from malnutrition, famine, untreated diseases, and Saudi/UAE terror-bombing.

A UN-sponsored report by a so-called Group of Regional And International Eminent Experts on Yemen said

“the Government of Yemen and the coalition, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, and in the de facto authorities have committed acts that may, subject to determination by an independent and competent court, amount to international crimes.”

There’s no ambiguity about what’s going on and the culpable parties.

Airstrikes on civilian sites caused most casualties, targeting residential areas, markets, mosques, funerals, weddings, detention facilities, medical facilities, and other non-military related sites – flagrant war crimes under international law.

The so-called “Group of Experts (said they have) reasonable grounds to believe that individuals in the Government of Yemen and the coalition may (sic) have conducted attacks in violation of the principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution that may amount to war crimes.”

“There is little evidence of any attempt by parties to the conflict to minimize civilian casualties.”

Throughout years of full-scale war from March 19, 2015 through August 23, 2018, the UN Human Rights Office turned truth on its head, way-understating the casualty count – claiming 6,600 civilians killed, another 10,563 injured, while admitting the real figures are likely much higher.

An earlier UNICEF report said at least one Yemeni child under age-five dies every 10 minutes from starvation alone.

Annualized that’s 52,560 deaths – plus countless numbers of older children and adults perishing from starvation, many more from untreated diseases, and other war related factors, along with deaths from Saudi/UAE terror-bombing.

Three-and-a-half years of US-orchestrated, Saudi/UAE-led naked aggression and blockade likely caused hundreds of thousands of casualties – many times more than the way understated UN figures, the casualty count increasing daily, a genocidal holocaust killing a sovereign nation, largely ignored by world leaders and major media.

There’s no ambiguity about horrific ongoing war crimes, Washington, NATO, the Saudis and UAE largely responsible, even Israel to blame for supporting US-orchestrated aggression.

The so-called Group of Experts ignored US responsibility for orchestrating naked aggression on the region’s poorest country.

Houthi fighters aren’t free from culpability for illegal actions throughout the war. Yet their offenses are minor compared to US-sponsored aggression on the country, along with Saudi/UAE-led bombing and other high crimes, including illegal detentions, torture, and other abuses.

The so-called Group of Experts failed to lay blame where it mostly belongs. The scourge of US imperialism is what its endless wars of aggression are all about.

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