Archive | January 7th, 2020

C.I.A puppet Haftar ‘calls on all Libyans to take up arms against Turkish troops’

By: Sammi Ibrahem,Sr

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)

C.I.A self-styled commander Khalifa Haftar.

C.I.A self-styled commander Khalifa Haftar has called on people to take up arms to fight Turkish troops, who are to be sent to the country as part of a security deal with the internationally-recognized government in Tripoli.

In a televised speech on Friday, Haftar announced a “call to arms and mass mobilization … to defend our land and our honor.”

He urged “all Libyans” to bear arms, “men and women, soldiers and civilians.”

His eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA), backed by Saudi Zio-Wahhabi, Zionist puppet Sisi of Egypt and the Zio-American settlement UAE, launched an offensive in April to wrest control of Tripoli from the NATO regime of Fayez al-Serraj.

The offensive has so far killed at least 200 civilians and displaced some 146,000 people, according to United Nations figures.

NATO puppet Serraj’s Government of National Accord (GNA) has sought Zionist puppet Erdogan of Turkey’s support to fight against Haftar’s forces, which control the east.

Back in November, he signed a military cooperation deal with Zionist puppet Recept Tayyip Erdogan, under which Erdogan agreed to send troops to support GNA forces.

Greece irate as Turkey, Libya enforce maritime, military accords

Erdogan has already said that he would consider military deployment to Libya only at the request of NATO Muslim Brotherhood Serraj regime.

Haftar on Friday accused Erdogan of wanting to “regain control of Libya,” saying the country is now “facing a colonizer.”

The size and nature of Turkey’s deployment was unclear. Ankara has already supplied armored vehicles to the GNA.

Turkey’s parliament also voted on Thursday to allow troops to be sent to the North African country.

Turkey's lawmakers approve troop deployment to Libya

Turkey’s lawmakers approve troop deployment to LibyaTurkey

People took to the streets in some cities in eastern Libya against what they described as Turkish “invasion” of Libya.

There were reports of rocket fire and shelling in the capital on Friday, which caused the suspension of flights at the only functioning airport in Tripoli, according to airport and airline officials.

The airport has been repeatedly closed and reopened in recent years because of risks from shelling and airstrikes.

African Union chief warns against ‘interference’

In a related development, the chief of the African Union (AU) described the potential deployment of Turkish troops to Libya as “military interference.”

Moussa Faki said in a statement late Friday that he was “deeply concerned at the deterioration of the situation in Libya and the continuing suffering of the Libyan people.”

He warned that the deployment of foreign troops would have “dangerous consequences” for the continent as a whole.

“The various threats of political and military interference in the internal affairs of the country increase the risk of a confrontation, whose motives have nothing to do with the fundamental interests of the Libyan people and their aspirations for freedom, peace, democracy and development,” he said.

The oil-rich county has been plunged into chaos since 2011, when a popular uprising and a NATO intervention led to the ouster of long-time leader, Muammar Gaddafi, and his execution by NATO puppet ‘fighters’.

Posted in LibyaComments Off on C.I.A puppet Haftar ‘calls on all Libyans to take up arms against Turkish troops’

US moves against Iran raise spectre of wider regional conflict

President Trump dancing with Saudis
By James M. Dorsey

US President Donald J. Trump, in a step that could embolden Saudi Arabia to move ahead with plans to destabilise Iran, has instructed White House aides to give him the arguments for withholding certification in October that Iran has complied with its nuclear agreement with world powers.

Trump, long critical of the agreement that strictly limits the Islamic republic’s nuclear programmeme and requires the president to certify Iranian compliance every three months, has reluctantly done so twice since coming to office in January. At the same time, the president has twice imposed new US sanctions on Iran to penalise it for its development of ballistic missiles. Iran argues that it missile programme does not fall under the agreement.

Arguments that Iran has failed to comply with the agreement that lifted crippling international sanctions and opened the door to Iran’s return to the international fold, are likely to focus on allegations that the Islamic republic has failed to comply with the spirit rather than the letter of the accord.

Irrespective of what Trump decides, his move… could encourage Saudi Arabia to step up its long-standing existential battle with Iran.

Trump’s decision to task hard-line White House aides rather than the State Department signalled, according to Robbie Gramar and Dan de Luce, the president’s mounting frustration with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s failure to provide him with the arguments he needed. The writers quoted Trump administration officials as saying that the president wanted options, but had yet to decide whether to de-certify Iran in October.

Critics of the Iran agreement argue that it has enabled Iran since the accord was inked in 2015 to increase its capacity to strike Gulf states with ballistic missiles and support proxies, including Lebanon’s Hezbollah, Shia militias in Iraq and rebels in Yemen.

Some critics argue that tearing up the agreement would not solve the problem, but that Iranian compliance with the agreement is not enough. These critics have yet to detail what Trump could do to use the nuclear agreement to counter Iranian policies.

Eli Clifton reported that emails, allegedly stemming from a hacked email account of Yousef Al-Otaiba, the high-profile United Arab Emirates ambassador in Washington, suggested that the UAE and a Washington-based Saudi lobbyist were supporting two US groups, headed by former Senator Joseph Lieberman and former Bush administration officials, that advocate a tougher US policy towards Iran.

Iranian Foreign Minister Muhammad Javad Zarif said Iran would exhaust the agreement’s mechanisms to oppose any US move to undermine the accord, but warned that “Iran has other options available, including withdrawing from the deal”.

Prince Muhammad has in the last year been laying the groundwork for an effort to destabilize Iran by fomenting unrest among the Islamic republic’s restless ethnic minorities.

Irrespective of what Trump decides, his move, much like his statements during a visit to Riyadh in May contributed to the eruption of the Gulf crisis and the UAE-Saud-led boycott of Qatar, could encourage Saudi Arabia to step up its long-standing existential battle with Iran.

Lowering relations with Iran, with whom Qatar shares the world’s largest gas field, was one of the demands initially put forward by the UAE-Saudi-led coalition. Kuwait, the lead mediator in the Gulf crisis and one of the Gulf states that has long balanced its relations with Saudi Arabia and Iran, last week expelled the Iranian ambassador and 14 other diplomats for alleged links to a “spy and terror” cell.

Saudi Arabia has felt emboldened by Trump’s hostility towards Iran as well as his focus on combatting terrorism, even though the US administration appears to be wracked by policy differences between the president and some of his key aides.

Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman, who earlier this month cemented his position in a palace coup, has proven to be a brash 31-year-old, willing to take risks to establish the kingdom as the Middle East’s and North Africa’s dominant power.

Prince Muhammad has in the last year been laying the groundwork for an effort to destabilize Iran by fomenting unrest among the Islamic republic’s restless ethnic minorities. The plans have resonated with some quarters in the Trump administration, populated by officials known for their antipathy towards the Islamic republic even if they differ in their attitudes towards the nuclear agreement.

A memo drafted by Mark Dubowitz, chief executive of the UAE-backed, Washington-based Foundation for the Defence of Democracies, recently circulated among Trump’s aides, concluded that “Iran is susceptible to a strategy of coerced democratisation because it lacks popular support and relies on fear to sustain its power. The very structure of the regime invites instability, crisis and possibly collapse.”

Destabilising Iran would be like shaking up a kaleidoscope and hoping to get a Titian. It is far from clear that the outcome would be better than what we have now… (Michael Axworthy, former British Foreign Office official)

The very fact that Trump is considering denying Iran certification in October irrespective of what he decides is likely to encourage Prince Muhammad to, at the very least, further fine-tune his plan and ensure that the kingdom has the building blocks in place.

Against the backdrop of a history of failed US efforts to destabilise Iran, Prince Muhammad’s plan, if implemented, could have consequences that reverberate across Eurasia. “Destabilising Iran would be like shaking up a kaleidoscope and hoping to get a Titian. It is far from clear that the outcome would be better than what we have now,” warned Michael Axworthy, a scholar and a former British Foreign Office official who worked on Iran.

Using the Pakistani province of Balochistan, already wracked by nationalist and militant Islamic strife, as a springboard could, moreover, undermine Pakistani efforts to get a grip on at least some of the violent groups operating in the country and could rekindle sectarian strife.

Balochistan borders on the Iranian province of Sistan and Baluchistan. Militant groups believed to enjoy Saudi backing have long launched cross-border attacks, prompting Iranian counter-attacks against the militants on Pakistani soil. Intelligence sources said that Pakistan had detained in early May a commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) who was on a recruiting mission in Balochistan.

The US Treasury designated at about the same time Saudi-backed Maulana Ali Muhammad Abu Turab, a militant Pakistani Islamic scholar of Afghan origin as a specially designated terrorist while he was on a fund-raising tour of the Gulf. Abu Turab is a leader of Ahl-i-Hadith, a Saudi-supported Pakistani Wahhabi group that operates a string of religious seminaries in Balochistan along the Pakistan-Afghan border.

Militants in Pakistan and sources close to them have asserted in recent months that Saudi funds are pouring into religious seminaries in Balochistan that are operated by often banned, virulently anti-Shia groups.

Abu Turab is, moreover, a board member of Pakistan’s Saudi-backed Paigham TV and heads the Saudi-funded Movement for the Protection of the Two Holy Cities (Tehrike Tahafaz Haramain Sharifain), whose secretary-general, Maulana Fazlur Rehman Khalil, has also been designated a terrorist by the US Treasury. He serves on Pakistan’s Council of Islamic Ideology, a government-appointed advisory body of scholars and laymen established to assist in bringing laws in line with the Qur’an and the example of the Prophet Muhammad.

Militants in Pakistan and sources close to them have asserted in recent months that Saudi funds are pouring into religious seminaries in Balochistan that are operated by often banned, virulently anti-Shia groups.

“The ASWJ is a proscribed organisation legally but it still arranges rallies in the country and takes part in elections. We do not have any clear policy from the federal government on how to deal with them,” a senior Karachi police officer told Geo-TV.

The initials referred to by the officer are those of Ahle Sunnat wal Jamaat, one of the groups with a significant presence in Balochistan that is believed to have received funding channelled through Saudi nationals of Baloch origin. The officer was responding to a question about law enforcement’s lack of response to ASWJ’s recent creation of a new fund-raising vehicle, the Al-Nujoom Welfare Foundation.

The Trump administration this week refused to pay Pakistan $300 million as a reimbursement for the cost of its fight against militant groups, some of which are believed to be supported by Pakistani intelligence. The US Defence Department said the funds were being withheld because Pakistan had failed to take “sufficient action” against the Haqqani Network, a Pakistan-based offshoot of the Afghan Taliban.

Prince Muhammad appeared earlier this year to set the stage for an effort to destabilise Iran by declaring that a fight between the two Middle Eastern powers would be fought in the Islamic republic, not the kingdom.

Instability in Iran as well as increased violence in Baluchistan would further complicate China’s One Belt, One Road initiative. China is already worried that the Gulf crisis could endanger its crucial energy imports from the region as well as Gulf investment in the Beijing-based Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank that is slated to fund some One Belt, One Road projects.

Chinese nationals have repeatedly been targeted by militants in Balochistan, a crown jewel of the Chinese project that includes the People’s Republic more than $50 billion investment in what has been dubbed the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

Prince Muhammad appeared earlier this year to set the stage for an effort to destabilise Iran by declaring that a fight between the two Middle Eastern powers would be fought in the Islamic republic, not the kingdom.

Prince Muhammad did not specify what he had in mind but a Saudi think tank, the Arabian Gulf Centre for Iranian Studies (AGCIS), which is believed to have his backing, argued in a study in favour of Saudi support for a low-level Baloch insurgency in Iran. “Saudis could persuade Pakistan to soften its opposition to any potential Saudi support for the Iranian Baluch… The Arab-Baluch alliance is deeply rooted in the history of the Gulf region and their opposition to Persian domination,” the study concluded.

Saudi Arabia further signalled its support for Iranian dissidents, with former intelligence chief and ambassador Prince Turki al-Faisal attending for the past two years rallies in Paris organised by the exiled People’s Mujahedin Organisation of Iran or Mujahedin-e-Khalq, a militant left-wing group that advocates the overthrow of Iran’s Islamic regime and traces its roots to resistance against the shah, who was toppled in the 1979 revolution. “Your legitimate struggle against the [Iranian] regime will achieve its goal, sooner or later. I, too, want the fall of the regime,” Prince Turki told one of the rallies.

Pointing to what he sees as the writing on the wall, former German Foreign Minister and Vice-Chancellor Joschka Fischer warned that “the next chapter in the history of the Middle East will be determined by open, direct confrontation between Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shia Iran for regional predominance. So far, this long-smouldering conflict has been pursued under cover and mostly by proxies… Any direct military confrontation with Iran would, of course, set the region ablaze, greatly surpassing all previous Middle East wars.,” Fischer said.

Trump fuels the fire by singling out Iran

Trump fuels the fire by singling out Iran

Trading Jerusalem for war on Iran

Trading Jerusalem for war on Iran

Think that 2016 was a tough year for Saudi Arabia? Wait till you see 2017

Think that 2016 was a tough year for Saudi Arabia? Wait till you see 2017

Posted in USA, IranComments Off on US moves against Iran raise spectre of wider regional conflict

Palestinian Factions Denounce Suleimani Assassination, Stress Unity of Resistance Front

muhandis_suleimani

Palestinian factions on Friday firmly denounced assassination of Quds Force Commander General Qassem Suleimani and Iraq’s Hashd Shaabi deputy commander Abu Mahdi AL-Muhandis in a Zio-US strike on Baghdad airport early Friday.

Islamic Jihad resistance movement offered condolences to Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution in Iran Imam Sayyed Ali Khamenei, and Iraqi leadership on the martyrdom of the two commanders.

“The (Muslim) nation raises its flag against this aggression, announcing that there is no retreat in the path towards liberation,” the Islamic Jihad said in a statement, stressing on the unity of the Axis of Resistance.

“Suleimani was targeted as he was on the frontlines of the confrontation.”

For its part, Spokesman of Al-Quds Brigades, the military wing of the Islamic Jihad, praised Suleimani noting that he played major role throughout two decades in offering military support to the Palestinian resistance.

“Axis of Resistance won’t be defeated and will grow more powerful in face of the Zio-American scheme,” Abu Hamza, Al-Quds Brigades spokesman said.

Meanwhile, Hamas offered condolences to both Iranian and Iraqi leaderships over martyrdom of Suleimani and Al-Muhandis.

In a statement, Hamas said was one of the prominent Iranian military commanders who offered different kinds of support to the Palestinian resistance.

The Palestinian group held US fully responsible for bloodshed in the region, denouncing Washington’s “arrogance” in suing discord and sedition in the region.

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, meanwhile, noted that the assassination of Suleimani and Al-Muhandis requires an “all-out retaliation.”

Posted in Palestine Affairs, Iran, Iraq, LebanonComments Off on Palestinian Factions Denounce Suleimani Assassination, Stress Unity of Resistance Front

War Again on the Front Burner

Paul Craig Roberts

The nonsensical statement below from the Pentagon announcing that the US government has committed an act of war against Iran should frighten everyone:

“At the direction of the president, the US military has taken decisive defensive action to protect US personnel abroad by killing Qasem Soleimani, the head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force, a US-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization.”

“This strike was aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans.”

“The United States will continue to take all necessary action to protect our people and our interests wherever they are around the world.”

Murdering a high-ranking official of a government is an act of war.  It is impossible for an act of war to protect US personnel abroad.

It is impossible for an act of war against Iran to deter future Iranian attack plans.  Where there was no Iranian attack plan, there now is in response to the murder of Soleimani.

Committing an act of war does not “protect our people and our interests.”  It jeopardizes them.

How is it possible for the Pentagon to issue such a nonsensical laughable justification for murdering a top official of another country?  If murdering Soleimani was a “decisive defensive action to protect US personnel abroad,” why were US citizens and embassy personnel told to depart the Middle East for their safety?

Where was Trump’s mind? Just as he is emerging from the impeachment hoax, why did he commit an impeachable act?  Trump attacked another country without Congressional authorization.  He thumbed his nose at Congress and the law.  It is the duty of the President to enforce the laws of the United States, not break them.  The Democrats now have a real impeachable offense to hang around Trump’s neck.

But they will not make use of it. Trump struck down Soleimani, because that is what Netanyahu wanted. The main leaders of the impeachment hoax are Jews, and they are not going to line up against Israel.  Adam Schiff, for example, the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee who is leading the impeachment, gave his approval to Soleimani’s murder when he tweeted that Suleimani “was responsible for unthinkable violence and world is better off without him.”

Israel is the main culprit in this crime. Trump is a secondary culprit. Soleimani himself bears responsibility.  He should have known that he was a target and not exposed himself so carelessly.  The Russian government also bears responsibility.  Russia, China and Iran should long ago have formed a highly visible alliance.  Such an alliance would have prevented the crazy and irresponsible act that Israel manuevered Trump into committing.  But Putin doesn’t want war, and apparently historians have convinced Putin that alliances are the cause of war. Thus Putin avoids alliances, taking his cue instead from American libertarians who say that free trade is the basis of peace. Strength is the guarantor of peace, and strength rests in a powerful alliance against US/Israeli aggression.

Iran’s response was predictable and unfortunate.  Iran declared it will take revenge, and most likely will.  Iran’s revenge will give Israel the war it wants between the US and Iran.

Iran would have done better to take its revenge and deny responsibility.

Idiot American politicians, one of whom could end up as President, are furthering the cause of war by working up American patriotism with claims, false of course, that Iran is a “terrorist state” determined to harm America, that Iran is responsible for thousands of deaths, including hundreds of Americans, and so forth.

We have heard all of this before.  It is the US that is the terrorist state, having destroyed in whole or part seven Muslim countries in the 21st century, producing millions of deaths, injuries, and dispossessed and displaced peoples.  I knew it was going to get worse when the Russian government permitted Israel to continue attacking Syrian targets after Russia had rescued Syria from Washington’s proxy army.  

As long as Israel runs US foreign policy in Israel’s interest, and as long as “non-compliant” countries are content for Washington to knock them off one by one, war will continue to be our future.

Update:  Washington decided to further inflame the situation with another strike: https://www.zerohedge.com/geopolitical/round-two-us-drone-airstrikes-kill-six-pro-iran-militia-commanders 

Posted in USA, IranComments Off on War Again on the Front Burner

Soleimani murder: what could happen next?

Sayyed Nasrallah
The Saker

First, a quick recap of the situation

We need to begin by quickly summarizing what just happened:

  1. General Soleimani was in Baghdad on an official visit to attend the funeral of the Iraqis murdered by the USA on the 29th
  2. The US has now officially claimed responsibility for this murder
  3. The Iranian Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has officially declared that “However, a severe retaliation awaits the criminals who painted their corrupt hands with his and his martyred companions’ blood last night

The US paints itself – and Iran – into a corner

The Iranians simply had no other choice than to declare that there will be a retaliation. There are a few core problems with what happens next. Let’s look at them one by one:

  1. First, it is quite obvious from the flagwaving claptrap in the USA that Uncle Shmuel is “locked and loaded” for even more macho actions and reaction.  In fact, Secretary Esper has basically painted the US into what I would call an “over-reaction corner” by declaring that “the game has changed” and that the US will take “preemptive action” whenever it feels threatened. Thus, the Iranians have to assume that the US will over-react to anything even remotely looking like an Iranian retaliation.
  2. No less alarming is that this creates the absolutely perfect conditions for a false flag à la “USS Liberty. Right now, the Israelis have become at least as big a danger for US servicemen and facilities in the entire Middle-East as are the Iranians themselves.  How?  Simple!  Fire a missile/torpedo/mine at any USN ship and blame Iran. We all know that if that happens the US political elites will do what they did the last time around: let US servicemen die and protect Israel at all costs (read up on the USS Liberty if you don’t know about it)
  3. There is also a very real risk of “spontaneous retaliations” by other parties (not Iran or Iranian allies). In fact, in his message, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has specifically declared that “Martyr Suleimani is an international face to the Resistance and all lovers of the Resistance share a demand in retaliation for his blood. All friends – as well as all enemies – must know the path of Fighting and Resistance will continue with double the will and the final victory is decidedly waiting for those who fight in this path.”  He is right, Soleimani was loved and revered by many people all over the globe, some of whom might decided to avenge his death. This means that we might well see some kind of retaliation which, of course, will be blamed on Iran but which might not be the result of any Iranian actions at all.
  4. Finally, should the Iranians decide not to retaliate, then we can be absolutely sure that Uncle Shmuel will see that as a proof of his putative “invincibility” and take that as a license to engage in even more provocative actions.

If we look at these four factors together we would have to come to the conclusion that Iran HAS to retaliate and HAS to do so publicly.

Why?

Because whether the Iranians do retaliate or not, they are almost guaranteed another US attack in retaliation for anything looking like a retaliation, whether Iran is involved or not.

The dynamics of internal US politics

Next, let’s look at the internal political dynamics in the USA:

I have always claimed that Donald Trump is a “disposable President” for the Neocons. What do I mean by that? I mean that the Neocons have used Trump to do all sorts of truly fantastically dumb things (pretty much ALL his policy decisions towards Israel and/or Syria) for a very simple reason. If Trump does something extremely dumb and dangerous, he will either get away with it, in which case the Neocons will be happy, or he will either fail or the consequences of his decisions will be catastrophic, at which point the Neocons will jettison him and replace him by an even more subservient individual (say Pence or Pelosi). In other words, for the Neocons to have Trump do something both fantastically dangerous and fantastically stupid is a win-win situation!

Right now, the Dems (still the party favored by the Neocons) seem to be dead-set into committing political suicide with that ridiculous (and treacherous!) impeachment nonsense. Now think about this from the Neocon point of view. They might be able to get the US goyim to strike Iran AND get rid of Trump. I suppose that their thinking will go something like this:

Trump looks set to win 2020.  We don’t want that. However, we have been doing everything in our power to trigger a US attack on Iran since pretty much 1979. Let’s have Trump do that. If he “wins” (by whatever definition – more about that further below), we win. If he loses, the Iranians will still be in a world of pain and we can always jettison him like a used condom (used to supposedly safely screw somebody with no risks to yourself).  Furthermore, if the region explodes, this will help our beloved Bibi and unite US Jewry behind Israel. Finally, if Israel gets attacked, we will immediately demand (and, of course, obtain) a massive US attack on Iran, supported by the entire US political establishment and media.  And, lastly, should Israel be hit hard, then we can always use our nukes and tell the goyim that “Iran wants to gas 6 million Jews and wipe the only democracy in the Middle-East off the face of the earth” or something equally insipid.

Ever since Trump made it into the White House, we saw him brown-nose the Israel Lobby with a delectation which is extreme even by US standards. I suppose that this calculation goes something along the lines of “with the Israel Lobby behind me, I am safe in the White House”. He is obviously too stupidly narcissistic to realize that he has been used all along. To his (or one of his key advisor’s) credit, he did NOT allow the Neocons to start a major war against Russia, China, the DPRK, Venezuela, Yemen, Syria, etc. However, Iran is a totally different case as it is the “number one” target the Neocons and Israel wanted strike and destroy. The Neocons even had this motto “boys go to Baghdad, real men go to Tehran“. Now that Uncle Shmuel has lost all this wars of choice, now that the US armed forces have no credibility left, now is the time to restore the “macho” self-image of Uncle Shmuel and, indeed, “go to Tehran” so to speak.

Biden immediately capitalizes on these events

The Dems (Biden) are already saying that Trump just “tossed a stick of dynamite into a tinderbox“, as if they cared about anything except their own, petty, political goals and power. Still, I have to admit that Biden’s metaphor is correct – that is exactly what Trump (and his real bosses) have done.

If we assume that I am correct in my evaluation that Trump is the Neocon’s/Israeli’s “disposable President”, then we also have to accept the fact that the US armed forces are the Neocon’s/Israeli’s “disposable armed forces” and that the US as a nation is also the Neocon’s/Israeli’s “disposable nation”. This is very bad news indeed, as this means that from the Neocon/Israeli point of view, there are no real risks in throwing the US into a war with Iran.

In truth, the position of the Dems is a masterpiece of hypocrisy which can be summed up as follows: the assassination of Soleimani is a wonderful event, but Trump is a monster for making it happen.

A winner, no?

What would the likely outcome of a US war on Iran be?

I have written so often about this topic that I won’t go into all the possible scenarios here. All I will say is the following:

  • For the USA, “winning” means achieving regime change or, failing that, destroying the Iranian economy.
  • For Iran, “winning” simply means to survive the US onslaught.

This is a HUGE asymmetry which basically means that the US cannot win and Iran can only win.

And, not, the Iranians don’t have to defeat CENTCOM/NATO! They don’t need to engage in large scale military operations. All they need to do is: remain “standing” once the dust settles down.

Ho Chi Minh once told the French “You can kill ten of my men for every one I kill of yours, but even at those odds, you will lose and I will win“. This is exactly why Iran will eventually prevail, maybe at a huge cost (Amalek must be destroyed, right?), but that will still be a victory.

Now let’s look at the two most basic types of war scenarios: outside Iran and inside Iran

The Iranians, including General Soleimani himself, have publicly declared many times that by trying to surround Iran and the Middle-East with numerous forces and facilities the USA have given Iran a long list of lucrative targets. The most obvious battlefield for a proxy war is clearly Iraq where there are plenty of pro and anti Iranian forces to provide the conditions for a long, bloody and protracted conflict (Moqtada al-Sadr has just declared that the Mahdi Army will be remobilized). But Iraq is far from being the only place where an explosion of violence can take place: the ENTIRE MIDDLE-EAST is well within Iranian “reach”, be it by direct attack or by attack by sympathetic/allied forces. Next to Iraq, there is also Afghanistan and, potentially, Pakistan. In terms of a choice of instruments, the Iranian options range from missile attacks, to special forces direct action strikes, to sabotage and many, many more options. The only limitation here is the imagination of the Iranians and, believe me, they have plenty of that!

If such a retaliation happens, the US will have two basic options: strike at Iranian friends and allies outside Iran or, as Esper has now suggested, strike inside Iran. In the latter case, we can safely assume that any such attack will result in a massive Iranian retaliation on US forces and facilities all over the region and a closure of the Strait of Hormuz.

Keep in mind that the Neocon motto “boys go to Baghdad, real men go to Tehran” implicitly recognizes the fact that a war against Iran would be qualitatively (and even quantitatively) different war than a war against Iraq. And, this is true, if the US seriously plans to strike inside Iran they would be faced with an explosion which would make all the wars since WWII look minor in comparison. But the temptation to prove to the world that Trump and his minions are “real men” as opposed to “boys” might be too strong, especially for a president who does not understand that he is a disposable tool in the hands of the Neocons.

Now, let’s quickly look at what will NOT happen

Russia and/or China will not get militarily involved in this one. Neither will the USA use this crisis as a pretext to attack Russia and/or China. The Pentagon clearly has no stomach for a war (conventional or nuclear) against Russia and neither does Russia have any desire for a war against the USA. The same goes for China. However, it is important to remember that Russia and China have other options, political and covert ones, to really hurt the US and help Iran. There is the UNSC where Russia and China will block any US resolution condemning Iran. Yes, I know, Uncle Shmuel does not give a damn about the UN or international law, but most of the rest of the world very much does. This asymmetry is further exacerbated by Uncle Shmuel’s attention span (weeks at most) with the one of Russia and China (decades). Does that matter?

Absolutely!

If the Iraqis officially declare that the US is an occupation force (which it is), an occupation force which engages in acts of war against Iraq (which it does) and that the Iraqi people want Uncle Shmuel and his hypocritical talking points about “democracy” to pack and leave, what can our Uncle Shmuel do? He will try to resist it, of course, but once the tiny fig leaf of “nation building” is gone, replaced by yet another ugly and brutal US occupation, the political pressure on the US to get the hell out will become extremely hard to manage, both outside and even inside the USA.

In fact, Iranian state television called Trump’s order to kill Soleimani “the biggest miscalculation by the U.S.” since World War II. “The people of the region will no longer allow Americans to stay,” it said.

Next, both Russia and China can help Iran militarily with intelligence, weapons systems, advisors and economically, in overt and covert ways.

Finally, both Russia and China have the means to, shall we say, “strongly suggest” to other targets on the US “country hit list” that now is the perfect time to strike at US interests (say, in Far East Asia).

So Russia and China can and will help, but they will do so with what the CIA likes to call “plausible deniability”.

Back The Big Question: what can/will Iran do next?

The Iranians are, by far, more sophisticated players than the mostly clueless US Americans. So the first thing I would suggest is that the Iranians are unlikely to do something the US is expecting them to do. Either they will do something totally different, or they will act much later, once the US lowers its guard (as it always does after declaring “victory”).

I asked a well-informed Iranian friend whether it was still possible to avoid war. Here is what he replied:

Yes I do believe full scale war can be avoided. I believe that Iran can try to use its political influence to unite Iraqi political forces to officially ask for the removal of US troops in Iraq. Kicking the US out of Iraq will mean that they can no longer occupy eastern Syria either as their troops will be in danger between two hostile states. If the Americans leave Syria and Iraq, that will be the ultimate revenge for Iran without having fired a single shot.

I have to say that I concur with this idea: one of the most painful things Iran could do next would be to use this truly fantastically reckless event to kick the US out of Iraq first, and Syria next. That option, if it can be exercised, might also protect Iranian lives and the Iranian society from a direct US attack. Finally, such an outcome would give the murder of General Soleimani a very different and beautiful meaning: this martyr’s blood liberated the Middle-East!

Finally, if that is indeed the strategy chosen by Iran, this does not at all mean that on a tactical level the Iranians will not extract a price from US forces in the region or even elsewhere on the planet. For example, there are some rather credible rumors that the destruction of PanAm 103 over Scotland was not a Libyan action, but an Iranian one in direct retaliation for the deliberate shooting down by the USN of IranAir 655 Airbus over the Persian Gulf. I am not saying that I know for a fact that this is what really happened, only that Iran does have retaliatory options not limited to the Middle-East.

Conclusion: we wait for Iran’s next move

The Iraqi Parliament is scheduled to debate a resolution demanding the withdrawal of US forces from Iraq. I will just say that while I do not believe that the US will gentlemanly agree to any such demands, it will place the conflict in the political realm. That is – by definition – much more desirable than any form of violence, however justified it might seem. So I strongly suggest to those who want peace that they pray that the Iraqi MPs show some honor and spine and tell Uncle Shmuel what every country out there always wanted from the US: Yankees, go home!

If that happens this will be a total victory for Iran and yet another abject defeat (self-defeat, really) by Uncle Shmuel. This is the best of all possible scenarios.

But if that does not happen, then all bets are off and the momentum triggered by this latest act of US terrorism will result in many more deaths.

As of right now (19:24 UTC) I still think that there is a roughly 80% chance of full scale war in the Middle-East and, again, will leave 20% of “unexpected events” (hopefully good ones).

Related

The USA is now at war, de-facto and de-jure, with BOTH Iraq and Iran In “Deception”

The Middle East Strategic “Balance” Shredded In “War Crimes”

Lies, the Bethlehem Doctrine, and the Illegal Murder of Soleimani In “Deception”

Posted in Middle East, USA, Iran, IraqComments Off on Soleimani murder: what could happen next?

U.S. Will Come To Regret Its Assassination of Qassim Soleimani

By Moon Of Alabama

January 03, 2020 “Information Clearing House” –   Today the U.S. declared war on Iran and Iraq.War is what it will get.Earlier today a U.S. drone or helicopter killed Major General Qassim Soleimani, the famous commander of the Iranian Quds (‘Jerusalem’) force, while he left the airport of Baghdad where he had just arrived. He had planned to attend the funeral of the 31 Iraqi soldiers the U.S. had killed on December 29 at the Syrian-Iraqi border near Al-Qaim.The Quds force is the external arm of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. Soleiman was responsible for all relations between Iran and political and militant movements outside of Iran. Hajji Qassim advised the Lebanese Hisbullah during the 2006 war against Israel. His support for Iraqi groups enabled them to kick the U.S. invaders out of Iraq. He was the man responsible for, and successful in, defeating the Islamic State in iraq and Syria. In 2015 Soleimani traveled to Moscow and convinced Russia to intervene in Syria. His support for the Houthi in Yemen enabled them to withstand the Saudi attackers.Are You Tired Of The Lies And Non-Stop Propaganda?Get Your FREE Daily NewsletterNo Advertising – No Government Grants – This Is Independent MediaSoleimani had arrived in Baghdad on a normal flight from Lebanon. He did not travel in secret. He was picked up at the airport by Abu Mahdi al-Muhandes, the deputy commander of the al-Hashd al-Shaabi, an official Iraqi security force under the command of the Iraqi Prime Minister. The two cars they traveled in were destroyed in the U.S. attack. Both men and their drivers and guards died.The U.S. created two martyrs who will now become the models and idols for tens of millions of youth in the Middle East.The Houthi in Yemen, Hizbullah in Lebanon, Islamic Jihad in Palestine, the paramilitary forces in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere have all benefited from Soleimani’s advice and support. They will all take actions to revenge him.Moqtada al-Sadr, the unruly Shia cleric who commands millions of followers in Iraq, has given orders to reactivate his military branch ‘Jaish al-Imam al-Mahdi’. Between 2004 and 2008 the Mahdi forces fought the U.S. occupation of Iraq. They will do so again.The outright assassination of a commander of Soleimani’s weight demands an Iranian reaction of at least a similar size. All U.S. generals or high politicians traveling in the Middle East or elsewhere will now have to watch their back. There will be no safety for them anywhere.No Iraqi politician will be able to argue for keeping U.S. forces in the country. The Iraqi Prime Minister Abdel Mahdi has called for a parliament emergency meeting to ask for the withdrawal of all U.S. troops:”The targeted assassination of an Iraqi commander is a violation of the agreement. It can trigger a war in Iraq and the region. It is a clear violation of the conditions of the U.S. presence in Iraq. I call on the parliament to take the necessary steps.”The National Security Council of Iran is meeting with Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei to “study the options of response”. There are many such options. The U.S. has forces stationed in many countries around Iran. From now on none of them will be safe.Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, issued a statement calling for three days of public mourning and then retaliation.“His departure to God does not end his path or his mission,” the statement said, “but a forceful revenge awaits the criminals who have his blood and the blood of the other martyrs last night on their hands.”Iran will tie its response to the political calender. U.S. President Donald Trump will go into his reelection campaign with U.S. troops under threat everywhere. We can expect incidents like the Beirut barracks bombing to repeat themselves when he is most vulnerable.Trump will learn that killing the enemy is the easy part of a war. The difficulties come after that happened.In 2018 Soleimani publicly responded to a tweet in which Trump had threatened Iran:“Mr. Trump, the gambler! […] You are well aware of our power and capabilities in the region. You know how powerful we are in asymmetrical warfare. Come, we are waiting for you. We are the real men on the scene, as far as you are concerned. You know that a war would mean the loss of all your capabilities. You may start the war, but we will be the ones to determine its end.”Since May 2019 the U.S. deployed at least 14,800 additional soldiers to the Middle East. Over the last three days airborne elements and special forces followed. The U.S.has clearly planned for an escalation.Soleimani will be replaced by Brigadier General Ismail Ghani, a veteran of the Iran-Iraq war who has for decades been active in the Quds Force and has fought against ISIS in Syria. He is an officer of equal stature and capability.Iran’s policies and support for foreign groups will intensify. The U.S. has won nothing with its attack but will feel the consequences for decades to come. From now on its position in the Middle East will be severely constrained. Others will move in to take its place.

Posted in Middle East, USA, IraqComments Off on U.S. Will Come To Regret Its Assassination of Qassim Soleimani

Why a Shadowy Tech Firm With Ties to Nazi regime Gestapo Intelligence

Why a Shadowy Tech Firm With Ties to Israeli Intelligence Is Running Doomsday Election Simulations

Graphic by Claudio Cabrera for MintPress News
By Whitney Webb | MintPress News | January 4, 2020

Election Day 2020: 32 Americans dead, over 200 injured, martial law declared and the election itself is canceled. While this horrific scenario seems more like the plot of a Hollywood film, such was the end result of a recent simulation examining the preparedness of U.S. officials from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the U.S. Secret Service against “bad actors” seeking to undermine the upcoming presidential election.

Yet, this simulation was not a government-organized exercise but was instead orchestrated by a private company with deep ties to foreign and domestic intelligence services, a company that is also funded by investors with clear connections to individuals who would stand to benefit if such a catastrophic election outcome were to become reality.

Much of the rhetoric since the last presidential election in 2016 has focused on the issue of foreign meddling by U.S. rival states like Russia, while China has emerged as the new “meddler” of choice in American corporate media as the 2020 election approaches. Though time has revealed that many of the post-2016 election meddling claims were not as significant as initially claimed, the constant media discussion of foreign threats to U.S. democracy and electoral processes – whether real or imagined – has undeniably created a climate of fear. 

Those fears have since been preyed upon by neoconservative groups and the U.S. military-industrial complex, both of which are hardly known for their love of democratic processes, to offer a series of ready-made solutions to these threats that actually undermine key pillars of American democracy, including independent reporting and voting machine software.

However, many of the very same media outlets and groups that frequently fretted about Russia, China or another rival state meddling in U.S. democracy have largely ignored the role of other nation states, such as Israel, in efforts to sway the last U.S. election in 2016 and meddle in numerous elections in Africa, Latin America and Asia in the years since.

As a consequence of this climate of fear, it should be hardly surprising that the corporate media lauded the recent 2020 election simulation that ended in an abysmal failure for U.S. officials, the cancellation of the U.S. election and the imposition of martial law. Yet, none of those reports on the exercise noted that the company that hosted the simulation, called Cybereason, is led by ex-members of Israel’s military intelligence unit 8200, advised by former top and current officials in both Israeli military intelligence and the CIA. In addition, it is funded by and partnered with top U.S. weapons manufacturer and government contractor Lockheed Martin and financial institutions with clear and direct ties to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and White House adviser and the president’s son-in-law Jared Kushner. Also left unmentioned in media reports on Cybereason’s election simulations is the fact that Cybereason’s CEO, Lior Div, has openly admitted that he views his work at Cybereason as a “continuation” of his service to Israel’s intelligence apparatus.

With Cybereason planning to host more simulations in cooperation with federal agencies as the U.S. election inches closer, a deeper exploration of this company, its ties to intelligence and military contractors in the U.S. and Israel and its financial ties to key Trump allies both domestically and abroad warrants further investigation.

In this two part series, MintPress will not only explore these aspects but also how many of the technologies wielded by the “bad actors” in the Cybereason election simulation have been pioneered and perfected, not by U.S. rival states, but by Israeli companies and start-ups with clear ties to that country’s intelligence apparatus.

Also notable is the fact that Cybereason itself has covertly become a major software provider to the U.S. government and military through its direct partnership with Lockheed Martin, which followed the defense company’s decision to open an office at the Israeli military’s new cyber operations hub in the Negev desert. In examining all of these interlocking pieces, a picture emerges of a potentially sinister motive for Cybereason’s simulations aimed at gauging how U.S. federal officials respond to crisis situations on Election Day.

Understanding “Operation Blackout”

In early November, a team of “hackers” working for the private U.S.-based, Israeli-founded company Cybereason conducted a 2020 election simulation with members of various U.S. agencies, namely the DHS, FBI and the U.S. Secret Service. The simulation was organized by Cybereason and the law firm Venable and the U.S. agencies in attendance were invited and appear to not have been charged to participate.

The simulation, titled “Operation Blackout,” was set in a fictional swing state called “Adversaria” and pitted “ethical hackers” from Cybereason against a team of federal and local law enforcement officials. The opposing teams were supervised by a “white team” composed of members of Cybereason’s staff and Ari Schwartz — a former member of the White House’s National Security Council and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) — who set the rules of the simulation and would ultimately decide its outcome. Schwartz also used to work for the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT), a major backer of Microsoft’s ElectionGuard software.

Operation Blackout did not involve hackers targeting election software or voting machines, instead, it focused on civilian infrastructure and psychological operations against the American citizens in the fictitious “Adversaria” on election day. The hacker team was led by Cybereason co-founder Yonathan Striem-Amit, a former contractor for Israeli government agencies and a former operative for the elite Israeli military intelligence Unit 8200, best known for its cyber offensives against other governments.

“In a country as fragmented as the US, the number of people needed to influence an election is surprisingly small,” Striem-Amit told Quartz of the exercise. “We attempted to create havoc and show law enforcement that protecting the electoral process is much more than the machine.”

Streim-Amit’s team completely devastated the U.S. law enforcement team in Operation Blackout by not only causing chaos but murdering numerous civilians. Hackers took control of city buses, ramming them into civilians waiting in line at polling stations, killing 32 and injuring over 200. They also took control of city traffic lights in order to cause traffic accidents, used so-called “deepfakes” to conduct psychological operations on the populace and created fake bomb threats posing as the terror group ISIS, which incidentally has its own ties to Israeli intelligence. Telecom networks and news outlets within the fictitious states were also hacked and flooded with deepfakes aimed at spreading disinformation and panic among U.S. citizens.

A map of targets in Adverseria is shown during Operation Blackout in Boston’s John Hancock Tower. Mark Albert | Twitter

The supervising team, composed of Cybereason employees and former NSC member Ari Schwartz, decided that the outcome of the face-off between the hacker and law enforcement teams was the outright cancellation of the 2020 election, the declaration of martial law by authorities, the growth of public fear regarding terrorism and allegations of U.S. government collusion with a foreign actor. Cybereason has stated that they will soon conduct another 2020 election simulation with federal authorities as the election draws closer.

Given how the simulation played out, it is quite clear that it is a far cry from the actual scope of alleged foreign meddling during the 2016 election, meddling which was allegedly the motivation behind Operation Blackout. Indeed, the extent of Russian interference in the 2016 election amounted to $100,000 worth of Facebook ads over three years, 25 percent of which were never seen by the public, and claims that Russian state actors were responsible for leaking emails from the then-Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee (DNC). In contrast, Operation Blackout went well beyond any observed or even imagined “foreign meddling” related to the 2016 election and appears more like a terror attack targeting elections than a covert means of manipulating their outcomes.

Several mainstream publications have covered Operation Blackout but have failed to note that the company behind them has deep ties to foreign intelligence outfits and governments with a documented history of manipulating elections around the world, including the 2016 U.S. election.

Quartz framed the exercise as important for “preparing for any and all possibilities in 2020,” which “has become an urgent task for US regulators and law enforcement.” Similarly, CyberScoop treated the simulation as a “sophisticated exercise to help secure the vote.” Other articles took the same stance.

A series of simulations

In the weeks after the Washington area election simulation, Cybereason repeated the same exercise in London, this time with members of the U.K. Intelligence agency GCHQ, the U.K. Foreign Office and the Metropolitan Police. The law enforcement team in the exercise, which included the U.K. officials, was headed by a Cybereason employee — Alessandro Telami, who formerly worked for the NATO Communications and Information Agency (NCI). Like the prior simulation conducted in the U.S., Cybereason did not appear to charge U.K. government agencies for their participation in the exercise.

Cybereason has — with little fanfare — been promoting extreme election day scenarios since before the 2016 election. Cybereason’s first mention of these tactics appears in a September 2016 blog post written by the company’s CEO and former Israeli government contractor Lior Div — a former leader of offensive cyberattacks for the IDF’s elite Unit 8200 and a former development group leader at the controversial Israeli-American corporation Amdocs.

Div wrote that hackers may target U.S. elections by “breaking into the computers that operate traffic lighting systems and interfering with the ones around polling stations to create massive traffic jams, “hacking polling companies,” and “targeting live election coverage on cable or network television stations.” A follow-up post by Div from October 2016 added further meddling tactics such as “cut power to polling stations” and “mess with a voter’s mind.”

Two years later, Cybereason held its first election meddling simulation, touting many of these same tactics, in Boston. The simulation focused on local and state responses to such attacks and saw Boston-based Cybereason invite Massachusetts state and local officials as well as Boston police officers and a former police commissioner to participate. “Twitter accounts spreading fake news,” “turning off a city’s closed-circuit cameras,” “hacking self-driving cars and navigation apps,” and “targeting a city’s 911 call center with a DDoS attack” were all used in the simulation, which saw Cybereason’s “ethical hackers” attempt to disrupt election day. Media coverage of the simulation at the time framed it as a necessary preparation for countering “Russian” threats to U.S. democracy. Like the more recent simulations, the mock election was canceled and voter confidence in the electoral process was devastated.

This past July, Cybereason conducted a similar simulation with officials from the FBI, DHS and the Secret Service for the first time. That simulation, which also took place in Boston, was remarkably similar to that which occurred in November. One intelligence officer from DHS who participated in the July exercise called the simulation “very realistic.” Another claimed that the simulation was a way of applying “lessons learned from 9/11” by preventing the government’s “failure of imagination” that officials have long alleged was the reason for the government’s inability to thwart the September 11 attacks. Notably, The U.S. military simulated a scenario in which terrorists flew airplanes into the Pentagon less than a year before the September 11 attacks.

In this undated photo from Cybereason’s website, a faux ballot box is shown in the company’s Boston office.

Participating government officials, Cybereason staff and the media have consistently touted the importance of these simulations in securing elections against extreme threats, threats which — to date — have never materialized due to the efforts of foreign or domestic actors on election day. After all, these exercises are only simulations of possibilities and, even if those possibilities seem implausible or unlikely, it is important to be prepared for any eventuality.

But what if the very figures behind these simulations and the investors that fund them had a history of election meddling themselves? Cybereason’s deep ties to Israeli intelligence, which has a documented history of aggressive espionage and election meddling in the United States and in several nations worldwide, warrant a deeper look into the firms’ possible motives and the myriad conflicts of interest that arise in giving it such unprecedented access to the heart of America’s democracy.

What Does Cybereason Do?

Cybereason’s interest in terror events during elections seems out of place given that the company itself is focused on selling technological cybersecurity solutions like antivirus and ransomware protection software, software products that would be minimally effective against the type of threat encountered in the company’s election day simulations.

Cybereason is often described as offering a comprehensive technological defense platform to companies and governments that combines a next-generation antivirus with endpoint detection and response (EDR), which enables the company to respond to typical viruses and malware as well as sophisticated, complex attacks. The platform makes heavy use of artificial intelligence (AI) and cloud computing and specifically uses Amazon Web Services (AWS), which is used by a litany of private companies as well as U.S. intelligence agencies.

While many cybersecurity platforms combine antivirus and antimalware with EDR and AI, Cybereason claims that their military background is what sets them apart. They have marketed themselves as offering “a combination of military-acquired skills and cloud-powered machine learning to endpoint detection and response” and actively cite the fact that most of their employees are former members of Unit 8200 as proof that they are “applying the military’s perspective on cybersecurity to enterprise security.”

In 2018, Cybereason’s former senior director for intelligence, Ross Rustici, described the platform to CBR as follows:

Our founders are ex-Israeli intelligence who worked on the offensive side. They basically wanted to build a tool that would catch themselves. We follow the kill chain model started by Lockheed Martin [now a major investor in Cybereason] and try to interrupt every stage once an intruder’s inside a target network.”

Lior Div, Cybereason’s CEO described the difference between his company’s platform and that of past market leaders in this way to Forbes :

The old guard of antivirus companies like Symantec and McAfee would install something to block endpoints and you needed to do a lot [of monitoring] to make sure you weren’t under attack. We came with a different approach to see the whole enterprise and leverage AI to be able to fully autonomously identify where attackers are and what they’re doing.”

Thus, in looking at Cybereason’s product and its marketing objectively, it seems that the only innovative component of the company’s system is the large number of ex-military intelligence officers it employs and its tweaking of a previously developed and automated model for threat engagement, elimination and prevention.

Instead, Cybereason’s success seems to owe to its prominent connections to the private and public sectors, especially in Israel, and its investors who have funneled millions into the company’s operations, allowing them to expand rapidly and quickly claim a dominant position in emerging technology markets, such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and advanced healthcare systems.

A screenshot from a live stream of a 2019 Cybereason cyber-attack simulation

Their considerable funding from the likes of Lockheed Martin and Softbank, among others, has also helped them to expand their international presence from the U.S., Europe and Israel into Asia and Latin America, among other places. Notably, while Cybereason is open about their investors and how much funding they receive from each, they are extremely secretive about their financial performance as a company and decline to disclose their annual revenue, among other indicators. The significance of Cybereason’s main investors in the context of the company’s election simulations and its ties to Israeli and U.S. intelligence (the focus of this article) will be discussed in Part 2.

Cybereason also includes a security research arm called Nocturnus, currently headed by a former Unit 8200 officer. Nocturnus will be explored further in Part 2 of this series, as it essentially functions as a private intelligence company in the tech sector and has been behind several recent claims that have attributed alleged hacks to state actors, namely China and North Korea. For now, it is important to keep in mind that Nocturnus utilizes Cybereason’s “global network of millions of endpoints” for its intelligence gathering and research, meaning the endpoints of every device to which Cybereason’s software has access.

Given what Cybereason provides as a company, their interest in offering election simulations to government officials free of charge seems odd. Indeed, in the simulations hosted by Cybereason for U.S. officials, there is little opportunity for the company to market their software products given that the simulation did not involve electronic voting infrastructure at all and, instead, the malevolent actors used deep fakes, disinformation and terror attacks to accomplish their goals. Why then would this company be so interested in gauging the response of U.S. law enforcement to such crises on election day if there is no sales pitch to be made? While some may argue that these simulations are an altruistic effort by the company, an investigation into the company’s founders and the company’s ties to intelligence agencies suggests that this is unlikely to be the case.

The People Behind Cybereason

Cybereason was created in 2012 by three Israelis, all of whom served together as officers in the Israel Defense Force’s elite technological and signals intelligence unit, which is most often referred to as Unit 8200. Unit 8200 has been the subject of several MintPress investigative reports over the past year focusing on its ties to the tech industry.

Unit 8200 is an elite unit of the Israeli Intelligence corps that is part of the IDF’s Directorate of Military Intelligence and is involved mainly in signal intelligence, surveillance, cyberwarfare and code decryption. It is also well-known for its surveillance of Palestinian civilians and for using intercepted communications as blackmail in order to procure informants among Palestinians living under occupation in the West Bank.

The unit is frequently described as the Israeli equivalent of the NSA and Peter Roberts, a senior research fellow at Britain’s Royal United Services Institute, characterized the unit in an interview with the Financial Times as “probably the foremost technical intelligence agency in the world and stand[ing] on a par with the NSA in everything except scale.” Notably, the NSA and Unit 8200 have collaborated on numerous projects, most infamously on the Stuxnet virus as well as the Duqu malware.

Given the secrecy of the work conducted by Unit 8200, it is hard to know exactly what Cybereason’s co-founders did while serving in the controversial unit, however, a brief biography of the company’s current CEO and co-founder Lior Div states that “Div served as a commander [in Unit 8200] and carried out some of the world’s largest cyber offensive campaigns against nations and cybercrime groups. For his achievements, he received the Medal of Honor, the highest honor bestowed upon Unit 8200 members (emphasis added).”

Lior Div speaks during the Cyber Week conference in Tel Aviv, Israel, June 25, 2019. Corinna Kern | Reuters

After having served in leadership positions within Unit 8200, all three Cybereason co-founders went on to work for private Israel-based tech or telecom companies with a history of aggressive espionage against the U.S. government.

Cybereason co-founders Yonathan Striem Amit (Cybereason’s Chief Technology Officer) and Yossi Naar (Cybereason Chief Visionary Officer) both worked for Gita Technologies shortly before founding Cybereason with fellow Unit 8200 alumnus Lior Div. Gita, according to public records, is a subsidiary of Verint Systems, formerly known as Comverse Infosys.

Verint/Comverse was initially funded by the Israeli government and was founded by Jacob “Kobi” Alexander, a former Israeli intelligence officer who was wanted by the FBI on nearly three dozen charges of fraud, theft, lying, bribery, money laundering and other crimes for over a decade until he was finally extradited to the United States and pled guilty to some of those charges in 2016.

Despite its history of corruption and foreign intelligence connections, Verint/Comverse was hired by the National Security Agency (NSA) to create backdoors into all the major U.S. telecommunications systems and major tech companies, including Facebook, Microsoft and Google. An article on Verint’s access to U.S. tech infrastructure in Wired noted the following about Verint:

In a rare and candid admission to Forbes, Retired Brig. Gen. Hanan Gefen, a former commander of the highly secret Unit 8200, Israel’s NSA, noted his former organization’s influence on Comverse, which owns Verint, as well as other Israeli companies that dominate the U.S. eavesdropping and surveillance market. ‘Take NICE, Comverse and Check Point for example, three of the largest high-tech companies, which were all directly influenced by 8200 technology,’ said Gefen.”

Federal agents have reported systemic breaches at the Department of Justice, FBI, DEA, the State Department, and the White House going all the way back to the 1990s, breaches they claimed could all be traced back to two companies: Comverse/Verint and Amdocs. Cybereason’s other co-founder and current CEO, Lior Div, used to work for Amdocs as the company’s development group leader.

After leaving Amdocs, Div founded a company called Alfatech. Alfatech publicly claims to specialize in “professional Head Hunting and Quality Recruiting services,” yet it has no functional website. Despite its publicly stated mission statement, Israeli media reports that mention Alfatech describe it as “a cybersecurity services company for Israeli government agencies.” No reason for the obvious disconnect between the company’s own claims and those made by the media has been given.

Div left Alfatech in 2012 to found Cybereason alongside Striem-Amit and Naar. According to an interview that Div gave to TechCrunch earlier this year, he stated that his work at Cybereason is “the continuation of the six years of training and service he spent working with the Israeli army’s 8200 Unit (emphasis added).” Div was a high-level commander in Unit 8200 and “carried out some of the world’s largest cyber offensive campaigns against nations and cybercrime groups” during his time there. TechCrunch noted that “After his time in the military, Div worked for the Israeli government as a private contractor reverse-engineering hacking operations,” an apparent reference to his work at Alfatech.

Even deeper ties to intelligence

Not only do Cybereason’s own co-founders have considerable links to the Israeli government, Israeli intelligence and intelligence-connected private companies, but it also appears that the work of Cybereason itself is directly involved with Israeli intelligence.

The company periodically publishes reports by a secretive faction of the company called the Cybereason Intelligence Group or CIG. The only description of CIG’s composition available on Cybereason’s website is as follows:

The Cybereason Intelligence Group was formed with the unique mission of providing context to the most sophisticated threat actors. The group’s members include experts in cyber security and international security from various government agencies, including the Israel Defense Forces’ Unit 8200, which is dedicated to conducting offensive cyber operations. Their primary purpose is to examine and explain the Who and the Why behind cyber attacks, so that companies and individuals can better protect themselves (emphasis added).”

It is unclear how many members comprise CIG and if its members are employees of only Israeli government agencies, or if it includes officials from the U.S. government/Intelligence or other governments. However, what is clear is that it is composed entirely of government officials, which include active members of Unit 8200, and that the purpose of the group is to issue reports that place blame for cyberattacks on state and non-state actors. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the vast majority of CIG’s reports published by Cybereason focus exclusively on Russia and China. When discussing nation-state cyber threats in general, Cybereason’s website only mentions China, North Korea, Iran and Russia by name, all of which are incidentally rival states of the U.S. government. Notably, Israel’s government — listed as a “leading espionage threat” to U.S. financial institutions and federal agencies by the U.S.’ NSA — is absent from Cybereason’s discussions of state actors.

In addition to CIG, Cybereason’s cybersecurity research arm, Nocturnus, includes several Unit 8200 alumni and former Israeli military intelligence and government contractors and has assigned blame to state actors for several recent hacks. It also has claimed to have discovered more such hacks but has declined to publicly disclose them due to the “sensitive” nature of the hacks and companies affected.

Other hints at Cybereason’s connections to state intelligence can be seen in its advisory boardRobert Bigman, the former Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) who oversaw the spy agency’s “commercial partner engagement” program (i.e. alliances with the private tech sector), is a key figure on the company’s advisory board. According to his biography, Bigman “ contributed to almost every Intelligence Community information security policy/technical standard and has provided numerous briefings to the National Security Council, Congress and presidential commissions. In recognition of his expertise and contributions, Bigman has received numerous CIA and Director of National Intelligence Awards.”

Cybereason’s leadership team features a who’s who of Israeli and US intel officials

Unmentioned in his biography published on his own website, or on Cybereason’s website, is that Bigman is also an advisor to another Israeli tech company, Sepio Systems. The chairman of Sepio, Tamir Pardo, is a self-described “leader” in the cybersecurity industry and former director of Israel’s Mossad. Sepio is funded by a venture capital firm founded by the creators of the controversial Israeli spy tech company NSO Group, which has received a slew of negative press coverage after its software was sold to several governments who used it to spy on dissidents and human rights activists.

In addition to Bigman, Cybereason’s advisory board includes Pinchas Buchris, the former head of Unit 8200 and former managing director of the IDF. Not unlike Bigman, Buchris’ bio fails to mention that he sits on the board of directors of Carbyne911, alongside former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Nicole Junkerman, both well-known associates of intelligence-linked sex trafficker Jeffery Epstein. Epstein himself poured at least $1 million into Carbyne, an Israeli company that seeks to run all 911 call centers in the U.S. at the national level and has close ties to the Trump administration. More information on Carbyne and its ties to Israeli and U.S. intelligence as well as its connection to coming pre-crime policies to be enacted in 2020 by the U.S. Department of Justice can be found in this MintPress report from earlier this year. Given that Cybereason’s election day simulations involve the simulated collapse of 911 call center functionality, Buchris’ ties to both Cybereason and Carbyne911 are notable.

Another notable Cybereason advisor is the former commissioner of the Boston Police Department, Edward Davis. Davis heavily promoted Cybereason’s disturbing election day simulations and even participated directly in one of them. He was also police commissioner of the Boston PD at the time of the Boston Marathon bombing and oversaw the near-martial law conditions imposed on the city during the manhunt for the alleged perpetrators of that bombing (who themselves had a rather odd relationship with the FBI). This is notable given that Cybereason’s election day simulations ended with martial law being imposed on the fictional city used in the exercise

Cybereason also has several advisors who hold top positions at powerful U.S. companies that are also — incidentally — U.S. government contractors. These include the Vice President Security and Privacy Engineering at Google, Deputy Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) of Lockheed Martin and CISO at Motorola. Both Motorola and Lockheed Martin use Cybereason’s software and the latter is also a major investor in the company. Furthermore, as will be explained in Part 2 of this article, Lockheed Martin has used its privileged position as the top private contractor to the U.S. government to promote the widespread use of Cybereason’s software among U.S. government agencies, including the Pentagon.

Much more than a cybersecurity company

Given Cybereason’s deep and enduring ties to Israeli intelligence and its growing connections to the U.S. military and U.S. intelligence through its hiring of top CIA officials and partnership with Lockheed Martin, it’s worth asking if these disturbing election simulations could serve an ulterior purpose and, if so, who would benefit. While some aspects regarding clear conflicts of interest in relation to the 2020 election and Cybereason will be discussed in Part 2, this article will conclude by examining the possibility that Cybereason is acting as a front company for Israeli intelligence based on that country’s history of targeting the U.S. through private tech companies and on Cybereason’s own questionable characteristics.

First, Cybereason as a company presents several oddities. Its co-founder and CEO openly states that he views Cybereason’s work as a continuation of his service for Israeli military intelligence. In addition, he and the company’s other founders — after they left Unit 8200 — went to work for Israeli tech companies that have been known to spy on U.S. federal agencies for the Israeli government.

In addition, as previously mentioned, Cybereason has sought out former intelligence officers from the CIA and Unit 8200 for its management team and board of advisors. The company itself also functions as a private intelligence firm through CIG and Nocturnus, both of which employ former and current intelligence officials, and have made significant claims regarding the attribution of specific cybercrimes to state actors. It appears highly likely that these claims are influenced by those same intelligence agencies that boast close ties to Cybereason. Furthermore, Nocturnus’ access to Cybereason’s “global” network of endpoints makes it a private intelligence gathering company as it gathers and analyzes data from all devices that run Cybereason’s software.

Yet, even more telling is the fact that Israel’s government has an open policy of outsourcing intelligence-related activity to the private sector, specifically the country’s tech sector. As MintPress previously reported, this trend was first publicly acknowledged by Israel in 2012, the same year that Cybereason was founded by former Israeli military intelligence officers then-working for private contractors for Israel’s government (Alfatech) or private companies known to have ties to Israeli intelligence, including Verint/Comverse.

As noted in an article on the phenomenon from the Israeli media outlet The Calcalist:

Israel is siphoning cyber-related activities from its national defense apparatus to privately held companies. Since 2012, cyber-related and intelligence projects that were previously carried out in-house in the Israeli military and Israel’s main intelligence arms are transferred to companies that in some cases were built for this exact purpose.”

Mention of Israel’s policy of blurring the lines between the public and private sector when it comes to cybersecurity and intelligence gathering has even garnered the occasional mention in mainstream media, such as in a 2018 Foreign Policy article:

Israel, for one, has chosen to combat the problem on a statewide level by linking the public and private spheres, sometimes literally. The country’s cyberhub in the southern city of Beersheba is home not just to the Israeli military’s new technology campus but also to a high-tech corporate park, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev’s cyber-research center, and the Israel National Cyber Directorate, which reports directly to the prime minister’s office. “There’s a bridge between them—physically,” [Gabriel] Avner, the security consultant, said by way of emphasis.”

Notably, a year before Lockheed Martin invested in and partnered with Cybereason, the U.S.-based weapons company opened an office at the IDF’s public-private cyber hub in Beersheba. At the inauguration ceremony for Lockheed’s Beersheba office, company CEO Marilyn Hewson stated:

The consolidation of IDF Technical Units to new bases in the Negev Desert region is an important transformation of Israel’s information technology capability… By locating our new office in the capital of the Negev we are well positioned to work closely with our Israeli partners and stand ready to: accelerate project execution, reduce program risk and share our technical expertise by training and developing in-country talent.”

Lockheed Martin CEO Marillyn Hewson, inaugurates the Lockheed Martin Israel Demonstration Center in Tel Aviv.

Further evidence of this public-private merger can be seen in how two of Israel’s intelligence agencies, Shin Bet and Mossad, have both recently launched a private start-up accelerator and a hi-tech venture capital fund, respectively. The Shin Bet’s accelerator, called Xcelerator, usually makes its investments in private companies public, while Mossad’s Libertad Ventures refuses to disclose the tech companies and start-ups in which it invests. Former directors of both Mossad and Shin Bet have described these intelligence agencies themselves of being like start-ups, clearly showing how much the line between intelligence apparatus and private company has been blurred within the context of Israel’s tech industry and specifically its cybersecurity industry.

The advantages of outsourcing cyber intelligence operations to private companies have been noted by several analysts, including Sasha Romanosky, a former Cyber Policy Advisor at the Department of Defense and current analyst at RAND Corporation. Romanosky noted in 2017 that private intelligence and cybersecurity firms “do not necessarily face the same constraints or potential repercussions” as their public counterparts when it comes to designating blame for a cyberattack, for example. In addition, outsourcing intelligence objectives or missions to private companies provides a government with plausible deniability if that private company’s espionage-related activities or ties are made public.

Furthermore, Israeli intelligence has a long history of using private tech companies for the purposes of espionage, including against the United States. While Amdocs and Verint/Comverse were already mentioned as having been used by the state of Israel in this way, other private companies have also been used to market software backdoored by Israeli intelligence to countries around the world, both within the U.S. and elsewhere. The most well-known example of this is arguably the mass sale and distribution of the bugged PROMIS software, which was discussed at length in several recent MintPress News reports.

Given Cybereason’s ties to intelligence and Israeli intelligence’s history of placing backdoors in its software, it is worth pointing out that Cybereason’s main product, its antivirus and network defense platform, offers a major espionage opportunity. Blake Darché, a former N.S.A. operator, told the New York Times in 2017 that antivirus programs, which Cybereason’s defense platform includes, is “the ultimate backdoor,” adding that it “provides consistent, reliable and remote access that can be used for any purpose, from launching a destructive attack to conducting espionage on thousands or even millions of users.” Whether a company like Cybereason would use its software for such ends is unknown, though the company does acknowledge that its cybersecurity arm does gather intelligence from all systems that use the company’s software and currently employs and works with active duty Unit 8200 officials through CIG. This is notable because Unit 8200’s main task for Israeli military intelligence is signals intelligence, i.e. surveillance.

More of a mystery, however, is why a company like Cybereason is so interested in U.S. election security, particularly when Israeli intelligence and Israeli intelligence-connected private companies have been caught in recent years meddling in elections around the world, including the United States.

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Posted in USA, ZIO-NAZIComments Off on Why a Shadowy Tech Firm With Ties to Nazi regime Gestapo Intelligence

Iranian Revenge Will Be A Dish Best Served Cold

But the time and place will be of their choosing, when the U.S. expects it least.

Quds Day rally, Parade of military forces, along with photographs of Qasem Soleimani, Iran Tehran, May 31, 2019. By Saeediex/Shutterstock

By: SCOTT RITTER

The assassination by the United States of Qassem Suleimani, a senior Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps general and commander of the Quds Force, an Iranian paramilitary force specializing in covert operations on foreign soil, has sent shock waves through the Middle East and around the globe.

The Trump administration has justified its action, citing unspecified intelligence that indicated Suleimani was in the process of finalizing plans for attacks on U.S. personnel and interests in the region, claiming that Suleimani’s death “saved American lives.” This narrative has been challenged by Lebanese officials familiar with Suleimani’s itinerary, noting that the Iranian general had been in Beirut on diplomatic business, and had travelled to Baghdad via a commercial air flight, where he had been diplomatically cleared to enter. These officials claim Suleimani was killed while riding in a convoy on his way from Baghdad International Airport into the city of Baghdad.

In any event, Suleimani’s death resonates in a region already on edge because of existing tensions between the U.S. and Iran. The Supreme Leader of Iran, Ali Khamenei, has announced three days of mourning for Suleimani, an indication of his status as national hero. Khamenei also vowed revenge on those who perpetrated the attack. Concern over imminent Iranian retaliation has prompted the State Department to order all American citizens to leave Iraq, and for U.S. forces in the region to be placed on the highest level of alert. Hundreds of American soldiers have been flown into the region as reinforcements, with thousands more standing by if needed.

For many analysts and observers, Iran and the U.S. are on the cusp of a major confrontation. While such an outcome is possible, the reality is that the Iranian policy of asymmetrical response to American aggression that had been put in place by Qassem Suleimani when he was alive is still in place today. While emotions run high in the streets of Iranian cities, with angry crowds demanding action, the Iranian leadership, of which Suleimani was a trusted insider, recognizes that any precipitous action on its part only plays into the hands of the United States. In seeking revenge for the assassination of Qassem Suleimani, Iran will most likely play the long game, putting into action the old maxim that revenge is a dish best served cold.

In many ways, the United States has already written the script regarding major aspects of an Iranian response. The diplomatic missions Suleimani may have been undertaking at the time of his death centered on gaining regional support for pressuring the United States to withdraw from both Syria and Iraq. Of the two, Iraq was, and is, the highest priority, if for no other reason that there can be no sustained U.S. military presence in Syria without the existence of a major U.S. military presence in Iraq. Suleimani had been working with sympathetic members of the Iraqi Parliament to gain support for legislation that would end Iraq’s support for U.S. military forces operating on Iraqi soil. Such legislation was viewed by the United States as a direct threat to its interests in both Iraq and the region.

The U.S. had been engaged in a diplomatic tug of war with Iran to sway Iraqi politicians regarding such a vote. However, this effort was dealt a major blow when Washington conducted a bombing attack Sunday which targeted Khaitab Hezbollah along the border with Syria, killing scores of Iraqis. The justification for these attacks was retaliation for a series of rocket attacks on an American military base that had killed one civilian contractor and wounded several American soldiers. The U.S. blamed Iranian-backed Khaitab Hezbollah (no relation to the Lebanese Hezbollah group), for the attacks.

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There are several problems with this narrative, first and foremost being that the bases bombed were reportedly more than 500 kilometers removed from the military base where the civilian contractor had been killed. The Iraqi units housed at the bombed facilities, including Khaitab Hezbollah, were engaged, reportedly, in active combat operations against ISIS remnants operating in both Iraq and Syria. This calls into question whether they would be involved in an attack against an American target. In fact, given the recent resurgence of ISIS, it is entirely possible that ISIS was responsible for the attack on the U.S. base, creating a scenario where the U.S. served as the de facto air force for ISIS by striking Iraqi forces engaged in anti-ISIS combat operations.

ISIS has emerged as a major feature in the Iranian thinking regarding how best to strike back at the US for Suleimani’s death. The Iranian government has gone out of its way to announce that, in the wake of Suleimani’s assassination, that Washington would be held fully responsible for any resurgence of ISIS in the region. Given the reality that Iran has been at the forefront of the war against ISIS, and that Iranian-backed Iraqi militias such as Khaitab Hezbollah have played a critical role in defeating ISIS on the ground, there is no doubt that Iran has the ability to take its foot off of the neck of a prostrate ISIS and facilitate their resurgence in areas under U.S. control.

Such an outcome would serve two purposes. First, U.S. forces would more than likely suffer casualties in the renewed fighting, especially since their primary proxy force, the Syrian Kurds, have been diminished in the aftermath of Turkey’s incursion late last year in northern Syria. More importantly, however, is the political cost that will be paid by President Trump, forced to explain away a resurgent ISIS during an election year after going on record that ISIS had been completely defeated.

But the real blow to American prestige would be for the Iraqi government to sever relations with the American military. The U.S. bombing of the Iraqi bases severely stressed U.S.-Iraqi relations, with the Iraqi government protesting the attacks as a violation of their sovereignty. One of the ways the Iraqi government gave voice to its displeasure was by facilitating access by protestors affiliated with Khaitab Hezbollah to gain access to the highly secure Green Zone in downtown Baghdad where the U.S. Embassy is situated, where they set fire to some buildings and destroyed property before eventually dispersing. While commentators and politicians have described the actions targeting the US Embassy as an “attack,” it was a carefully choreographed bit of theater designed to ease passions that had built up as a result of the U.S. attack.

Getting the Iraqi Parliament to formally reject the U.S. military presence on Iraqi soil has long been a strategic objective of Iran. As such, Iran would be best served by avoiding direct conflict with the US, and letting events take their expected course.

If Iraq votes to expel American forces, the Trump administration will be tied up trying to cope with how to manage that new reality. Add to that the problems that will come in confronting a resurgent ISIS, and it becomes clear that by simply doing nothing, Iran will have already gained the strategic upper hand in a post-Suleimani world. The Trump administration will find it hard to sustain the deployment of thousands of troops in the Middle East if there is no Iranian provocation to respond to. Over time, the American presence will lessen. Security will lapse. And, when the time is right, Iran will strike, most probably by proxy, but in a manner designed to inflict as much pain as possible.

Trump started this fight by recklessly ordering the assassination of a senior Iranian government official. The Trump administration now seeks to shape events in the region to best support a direct confrontation with Iran. Such an outcome is not in Iran’s best interests. Instead, they will erode Trump’s political base by embarrassing him in Iraq and with ISIS. Iran will respond, that much can be assured. But the time and place will be of their choosing, when the U.S. expects it least.

Posted in Middle East, USA, Iran, IraqComments Off on Iranian Revenge Will Be A Dish Best Served Cold

The Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act: Why Washington Is Both Corrupt and Ignorant

By Philip Giraldi

The creatures that lurk through the corridors of power in Washington DC have refined corruption to the point where almost anything goes and almost no one is ever held accountable. Traditionally, Congressmen reward their various constituencies by inserting riders into larger pieces of legislation that grant money, exemptions or favors to certain groups or individuals. It is sometimes referred to as “pork.” The recent bloated omnibus spending bills totaling $1.4 trillion, which passed through Congress and were signed off on by President Donald Trump, were for the shameless denizens of Capitol Hill a gold mine. The process was so corrupt that even some Senators like Ted Cruz joked that “Christmas came early in Washington. While you were with your family, while you were shopping for Christmas, the lobbyists were spending and spending. I present to you, the massive omnibus bill that Congress is voting on.”

And no one is more corrupt in Congress than some of those at the top of the food chain, where the Speaker and the Minority leader in the House and the Majority and Minority leaders in the Senate have the final say on what gets cut and what remains. The lugubrious Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky is one of the most adept at milking the system to buy his continued reelection in a state where he is actually not very popular, with an approval rating of only 37%. Within the current spending bill he has managed to include more than $1 billion worth of federal spending and tax breaks for some choice constituencies among the Kentucky voters. A tax break for the state’s whisky distillers alone came to a projected $426 million for 2020 and there were also breaks for the state’s thoroughbred horse industry as well as hundreds of millions of dollars more for new federal construction.

One can only wish that politicians would actually commit themselves to doing good for the American people, but the sad reality is that they spend so much time raising and distributing money that they only respond to constituents with the deepest pockets or those who make the most noise. Rarely does anyone actually read the bills that are being voted on. Part of the omnibus spending bills was the $738 billion dollar defense policy component, and, as in the case of the larger amounts intended to keep the federal government funded, the devil is frequently found in the details.

One part of the defense spending is called the “Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act,” which is intended to punish Syria and its President Bashar al-Assad with sanctions for alleged crimes committed during the country’s eight year civil war. The Caesar Act is named after a Syrian military photographer who reportedly took and then smuggled tens of thousands of photographs out of the country that provided evidence for claims that war crimes had been carried out by the Syrian government. “Caesar” eventually wound up in Washington where he briefed sympathetic lawmakers on the regime’s alleged crimes.

The Caesar Act will impose new sanctions on Syrian leaders and also on companies, states and even individuals that support the Assad government militarily, financially or technically. It will include placing new sanctions on Russia and Iran. Enab Baladi, a website run by opponents of the al-Assad government praised the move, writing that “[The bill] imposes sanctions on military contractors and mercenaries who are fighting for the Syrian government, Russia, Iran, or any of the parties against which sanctions have been previously imposed.” It also observes that the act would be a “deterrent” for anyone seeking to work with or help the al-Assad regime. The US, for its part, has pledged to support international prosecution of criminals in the Syrian government.

The use of sanctions is reminiscent of recent US action directed against Iran, Russia and Venezuela. Both Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the White House have been boasting of how Iran’s economy is being destroyed through economic warfare and it is clear that the intention is to do the same to Syria. The United States has been destabilizing Syria since the passage of the Syria Accountability Act in 2004. It imposed sanctions on the country even before the 2011 Arab Spring uprising, and they were regularly expanded by the Obama administration prior to the 2016 election.

Treasury Department sanctions have frozen assets of the Syrian government and also of hundreds of companies and individuals. They also ban most interactions with Syria by any US person, which means that anyone traveling to Syria and returning to report favorably on the al-Assad government can be plausibly prosecuted for providing a service to the regime.

To be sure no one is completely blameless amidst the turmoil that has engulfed Syria since 2011. Respectable organizations including Human Rights Watch have been able to identify some of the victims in the Caesar photos and have verified tales of torture and abuse, though it must be observed that fake photos and false testimony are easy to obtain.

But the Syrian regime response to the uprising against its authority is only part of the story, as the violence was fomented largely by Saudi Arabia, and Gulf States and the United States. And by far the worst atrocities against civilians have been committed by the groups actively or tacitly supported by the US, Turkey, the Gulf States and the Saudis, many of which have cooperated openly with the genuine terrorist groups that have been operating in Syria.

There also has to be some question raised about the general credibility of attacks directed against the al-Assad government. It has recently been revealed that both the United Nations Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and the US media were pressured to cover-up the fact that Syria did not use chemical weapons against its own civilians in terrorist infested areas. A Newsweek reporter even resigned when he wrote a story seeking to expose the scandal. The magazine had refused to print the piece.

The US sponsored Syrian National Council has been most active in spreading reports about regime activity, much of which has been proven to be little more than propaganda. Caesar’s trip to Washington in 2015 to show his photos was, in fact, sponsored by the SNC and there is a whole series of fabrications spread by a number of groups supported by those who desire regime change in Damascus.

Consider for a moment the Oscar Award winning White Helmets, “the story of real-life heroes and impossible hope.” The group, which cooperates with the terrorist groups operating in its area, travels to bombing sites with its film crews trailing behind it. Once at the sites, with no independent observers, they are able to arrange or even stage what is filmed to conform to their selected narrative. Exploiting their access to the western media, the White Helmets thereby de facto became a major source of “eyewitness” news regarding what was then going on in those many parts of Syria where European and American journalists were quite rightly afraid to go, all part of a broader largely successful “rebel” effort to manufacture fake news that depicts the Damascus government as engaging in war crimes directed against civilians

The mainstream media is a major part of the problem as it generally only reports stories, like the White Helmets, that denigrate the Syrian government and its allies. Watching the recent BBC reporting of the Syrian Army’s push into Idlib province one learns that “Russian backed Syrian groups are attacking Idlib and creating a humanitarian crisis with 230,000 civilians fleeing the fighting.” The only problem with the coverage is that it does not really make clear that Idlib is terrorist occupied territory. Nor does it say where the civilians are fleeing to – nearly all have headed for the safety of Syrian government held areas.

And particularly for those strivers in Congress who are out hustling for money rather than finding out what is really going on in the world, it might be wise to recollect how gullible the Solons on the Potomac have been in the past. Going back to Ahmed Chalabi, who more than any single individual led the US government to believe that the invasion of Iraq would be a cakewalk, there has been a series of disastrous policy choices made after swallowing whole cloth lies and fabrications made by interested parties. Chalabi provided false intelligence on weapons of mass destruction and alleged ties of the Iraqi government to al-Qaeda. It turned out that he was working for several of the sides in the conflict that ensued, including the Iranian government.

And then there is the Magnitsky Act, sponsored by Russia-phobic Zionist Senator Ben Cardin and signed by President Barack Obama in 2012, which continues to be expanded and exploited by virtue of 2016’s Global Magnitsky Act to intervene in countries that are alleged to be human rights violators. In its original iteration, the Magnitsky Act, sanctioned individual Kremlin officials for their treatment of alleged whistleblower Sergei Magnitsky, arrested and imprisoned in Russia. Billionaire Bill Browder has sold a contrived narrative which basically says that he and his “lawyer” Sergei Magnitsky uncovered massive tax fraud and, when they attempted to report it, were punished by a corrupt police force and magistracy, which had actually stolen the money. Magnitsky was arrested and died in prison, allegedly murdered by the police to silence him.

Browder and his apologists portray him as an honest and honorable Western businessman attempting to operate in a corrupt Russian business world. Nevertheless, the loans-for-shares scheme that made him his initial fortune has been correctly characterized as the epitome of corruption by all parties involved, an arrangement whereby foreign investors worked with local oligarchs to strip the former Soviet economy of its assets paying pennies on each dollar of value. Along the way, Browder was reportedly involved in money laundering, making false representations on official documents and bribery.

Browder, who renounced his US citizenship in 1997 reportedly to avoid taxes, has been a frequent visitor to Capitol Hill where he tells congressional committees all about the corrupt and evil President Vladimir Putin. He is also a darling of the completely corrupted mainstream press because he is saying what they want to hear.

So, is the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act just another bit of nonsense, like Chalabi and Magnitsky? Probably, and all it will do is punish the Syrian people by trying to wreck the country’s economy while also limiting the ability of Americans to go independently to the region and see for themselves what is actually going on. It will prolong the pain being experienced by all involved while the legitimate government in Damascus seeks to restore its pre-war borders. It is, unfortunately, a prime example of the United States government in action.

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Nasrallah: “America is the mother of terrorism”

moussawi-(1)

Nasrallah speaks on July 25, 2014, in the southern suburbs of Beirut. (Photo: Al-Akhbar – Haitham Moussawi)

Al-Akhbar 

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah on Tuesday said his group could never be a part of an anti-ISIS coalition led by “the source” of all terrorism in the world, the United States.

The international coalition, which began illegal airstrikes in Syria for the first time Tuesday, was created to safeguard the interests of the United States, not to fight terrorism as it claims, Nasrallah said in a televised speech.

“In our opinion, America is the mother of terrorism, the source of terrorism. If there is terrorism anywhere in the world, look at America,” the secretary-general said.

“America provides complete support for the terrorism of the Zionist state. It supports Israel militarily, financially, legally, and even provides it veto in the United Nations Security Council.”

Nasrallah continued: “He who dropped the atomic bomb on the people of Japan, and who killed [relentlessly] in Vietnam and elsewhere, and who stood by [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu in the 50 day war on Gaza … is not qualified ethically or morally to present itself as a leader of a coalition to fight terrorism.”

The comments come as the United States and allied Arab dictatorships began launching unauthorized airstrikes against jihadi targets in Syria, drawing rebukes from Damascus’s allies Iran and Russia.

Nasrallah brushed off criticism that his opposition to the coalition translated into support for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), noting that he has repeatedly denounced the extremists and called for their elimination.

The reality that many of those included in the anti-ISIS coalition have been financing the jihadi militants they are currently fighting in Iraq and Syria forces people of the region to question the motives of their actions, he added, referring to Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

Lebanon is one of 10 Arab countries that has pledged support to the coalition, a membership that Nasrallah said he opposed.

“Never did [US President Barack Obama] say we are coming to defend minorities or Muslims or Christians …,” Nasrallah said.

“So we will not fight in a coalition that serves US interests and not the interests of the people of the region.”

In Nasrallah’s last speech on August 15, he noted that the United States only decided to get involved in the fight against ISIS when the jihadis approached Iraq’s Kurdish region, which is strategically important to the West. … Full article

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