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Russia-gate Is No Watergate or Iran-Contra

NOVANEWS

Special Report: Many comparisons have been made between Russia-gate and the earlier scandals of Watergate and Iran-Contra, but the similarities are at best superficial, explains Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

Russia-gate, the sprawling investigation into whether Russia meddled in last year’s U.S. election, is often compared to the two big political scandals of the latter half of the Twentieth Century, Watergate and Iran-Contra. Sometimes you even hear that Russia-gate is “bigger than Watergate.”

The bugged phone from the Watergate office of Democratic Party official Spencer Oliver. Placed on the phone during a May 1972 break-in, the bug was the only device that worked. A second break-in on June 17. 1972, led to the capture of Richard Nixon’s Watergate burglars.

Yet what is perhaps most remarkable about those two Twentieth Century scandals is how little Official Washington really understands them – and how these earlier scandals significantly contrast, rather than compare, with what is unfolding now.

Although the historical record is still incomplete on Watergate and Iran-Contra, the available evidence indicates that both scandals originated in schemes by Republicans to draw foreign leaders into plots to undermine sitting Democratic presidents and thus pave the way for the elections of Richard Nixon in 1968 and Ronald Reagan in 1980.

As for Russia-gate, even if you accept that the Russian government hacked into Democratic emails and publicized them via WikiLeaks, there is still no evidence that Donald Trump or his campaign colluded with the Kremlin to do so. By contrast, in the origins of Watergate and Iran-Contra, it appears the Nixon and Reagan campaigns, respectively, were the instigators of schemes to enlist foreign governments in blocking a Vietnam peace deal in 1968 and negotiations to free 52 American hostages in Iran in 1980.

Though Watergate is associated directly with the 1972 campaign – when Nixon’s team of burglars was caught inside the Democratic National Committee offices in the Watergate building – Nixon’s formation of that team, known as the Plumbers, was driven by his fear that he could be exposed for sabotaging President Lyndon Johnson’s Vietnam peace talks in 1968 in order to secure the White House that year.

After Nixon’s narrow victory over Vice President Hubert Humphrey in the 1968 election, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover informed Nixon that Johnson had a secret file, complete with wiretapped phone calls, detailing the Nixon campaign’s backchannel messages to South Vietnamese officials convincing them to boycott Johnson’s Paris peace talks. Later, Nixon learned that this incriminating file had disappeared from the White House.

So, in 1971, after the leaking of the Pentagon Papers, which recounted the lies that had been used to justify the Vietnam War through 1967, Nixon fretted that the missing file about his peace-talk gambit in 1968 might surface, too, and would destroy him politically. Thus, he organized the Plumbers to find the file, even contemplating fire-bombing the Brookings Institution to enable a search of its safe where some aides thought the missing file might be found.

In other words, Watergate wasn’t simply a break-in at the Democratic National Committee on June 17, 1972, in pursuit of useful political intelligence and Nixon’s ensuing cover-up; the scandal had its origins in a far worse scandal, the derailing of peace talks that could have ended the Vietnam War years earlier and saved the lives of tens of thousands of U.S. soldiers and possibly more than 1 million Vietnamese.

Iran-Contra Parallels

Similarly, the Iran-Contra scandal exploded in 1986 with revelations that President Reagan had authorized secret arms sales to Iran with some of the profits going to fund the Nicaraguan Contra rebels, but the evidence now indicates that the connections between Reagan’s team and Iran’s revolutionary regime traced back to 1980 when emissaries from Reagan’s campaign worked to stymie President Jimmy Carter’s negotiations to free 52 American hostages then held in Iran.

PBS Frontline’s 1991 documentary, entitled “The Election Held Hostage,” co-written by Robert Parry

According to multiple witnesses, including former Assistant Secretary of State for Middle Eastern Affairs Nicholas Veliotes, the pre-election contacts led to the opening of a weapons pipeline to Iran (via Israel), after Reagan was sworn in on Jan. 20, 1981, which was the precise moment when Iran finally released the American hostages after 444 days.

Some key players in the 1980 Reagan-Iran contacts reappeared four years later at the start of direct (again secret) U.S. arms shipments to Iran in 1985, which also involved Israeli middlemen. These key players included Iranian CIA operative Cyrus Hashemi, former CIA clandestine services chief Theodore Shackley, Reagan’s campaign chief and then-CIA Director William Casey, and former CIA Director and then-Vice President George H.W. Bush.

In other words, the Iran-Contra weapons shipments of 1985-86 appear to have been an outgrowth of the earlier shipments dating back to 1980 and continuing under Israeli auspices until the supply line was taken over more directly by the Reagan administration in 1985-86.

Thus, both the Watergate scandal in 1972 and the Iran-Contra Affair in 1986 could be viewed as “sequels” to the earlier machinations driven by Republican hunger to seize the enormous powers of the U.S. presidency. However, for decades, Official Washington has been hostile to these underlying explanations of how Watergate and Iran-Contra began.

For instance, The New York Times, the so-called “newspaper of record,” treated the accumulation of evidence regarding Nixon’s 1968 peace-talk gambit as nothing more than a “rumor” until earlier this year when a scholar, John A. Farrell, uncovered cryptic notes taken by Nixon’s aide H.R. Haldeman, which added another piece to the mosaic and left the Times little choice but to pronounce the historical reality finally real.

Grasping the Watergate Narrative

Still, the Times and other major news outlets have failed to factor this belated admission into the larger Watergate narrative. If you understand that Nixon did sabotage President Johnson’s Vietnam War peace talks and that Nixon was aware that Johnson’s file on what LBJ called Nixon’s “treason” had disappeared from the White House, the early “Watergate tapes” from 1971 suddenly make sense.

President Richard Nixon with his then-National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger in 1972.

Nixon ordered White House chief of staff H.R. “Bob” Haldeman and National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger to locate the missing file but their search came up empty. Yet, some Nixon aides thought the file might be hidden at the Brookings Institution, a liberal think tank in Washington. So, in his desperate pursuit of the file, Nixon called for a break-in at Brookings, possibly even fire-bombing the building as a cover for his team of burglars to slip in amid the confusion and rifle the safe.

The old explanation that Nixon simply wanted to find some file related to Johnson’s 1968 pre-election Vietnam bombing halt never made sense given the extreme steps that Nixon was prepared to take.

The relevant portions of Nixon’s White House tapes include an entry on June 17, 1971, coincidentally one year to the day before the Watergate burglars were caught. Nixon summoned Haldeman and Kissinger to the Oval Office and pleaded with them again to locate the file.

“Do we have it?” Nixon asked Haldeman. “I’ve asked for it. You said you didn’t have it.”

Haldeman: “We can’t find it.”

Kissinger: “We have nothing here, Mr. President.”

Nixon: “Well, damn-it, I asked for that because I need it.”

Kissinger: “But Bob and I have been trying to put the damn thing together.”

Haldeman: “We have a basic history in constructing our own, but there is a file on it.”

Nixon: “Where?”

Haldeman: “[Presidential aide Tom Charles] Huston swears to God that there’s a file on it and it’s at Brookings.”

Nixon: “Bob? Bob? Now do you remember Huston’s plan [for White House-sponsored break-ins as part of domestic counter-intelligence operations]? Implement it.”

Kissinger: “Now Brookings has no right to have classified documents.”

Nixon: “I want it implemented. Goddamn-it, get in and get those files. Blow the safe and get it.”

Haldeman: “They may very well have cleaned them by now, but this thing, you need to “

Kissinger: “I wouldn’t be surprised if Brookings had the files.”

Haldeman: “My point is Johnson knows that those files are around. He doesn’t know for sure that we don’t have them around.”

But Johnson did know that the file was no longer at the White House because he had ordered his national security adviser, Walt Rostow, to remove it in the final days of Johnson’s presidency.

Forming the Burglars

On June 30, 1971, Nixon again berated Haldeman about the need to break into Brookings and “take it [the file] out.” Nixon suggested using former CIA officer E. Howard Hunt to conduct the Brookings break-in.

“You talk to Hunt,” Nixon told Haldeman. “I want the break-in. Hell, they do that. You’re to break into the place, rifle the files, and bring them in. Just go in and take it. Go in around 8:00 or 9:00 o’clock.”

Haldeman: “Make an inspection of the safe.”

Nixon: “That’s right. You go in to inspect the safe. I mean, clean it up.”

For reasons that remain unclear, it appears that the Brookings break-in never took place (nor did the fire-bombing), but Nixon’s desperation to locate Johnson’s peace-talk file was an important link in the chain of events that led to the creation of Nixon’s burglary unit under Hunt’s supervision. Hunt later oversaw the two Watergate break-ins in May and June of 1972.

While it’s possible that Nixon was still searching for the file about his Vietnam-peace sabotage when the ill-fated Watergate break-ins occurred a year later, it’s generally believed that the burglary was more broadly focused, seeking any information that might have an impact on Nixon’s re-election, either defensively or offensively.

However, if you think back on 1971 when the Vietnam War was tearing the country apart and massive antiwar demonstrations were descending on Washington, Nixon’s desperation to locate the missing file suddenly doesn’t seem quite so crazy. There would have been hell to pay if the public learned that Nixon had kept the war going to gain a political advantage in 1968.

Walt Rostow’s “‘X’ Envelope”

Through 1972 – and the early days of the Watergate scandal – former President Johnson had stayed silent about Nixon’s sabotage of the Paris peace talks. But the ex-President became livid when – after Nixon’s reelection in 1972 – Nixon’s men sought to pressure Johnson into helping them shut down the Watergate investigation, in part, by noting that Johnson, too, had deployed wiretaps against Nixon’s 1968 campaign to obtain evidence about the peace-talk sabotage.

While it’s not clear whether Johnson would have finally spoken out, that threat to Nixon ended two days after Nixon’s second inaugural when on Jan. 22, 1973, Johnson died of a heart attack. However, unbeknownst to Nixon, Johnson had left the missing file, called “The X-Envelope,” in the care of Rostow, who – after Johnson’s death – gave the file to the LBJ presidential library in Austin, Texas, with instructions that it be kept under wraps for at least 50 years. (Rostow’s instructions were overturned in the 1990s, and I found the now largely declassified file at the library in 2012.)

So, with the “The X-Envelope” squirreled away for more than two decades at the LBJ library and with the big newspapers treating the early sketchy reports of Nixon’s peace-talk sabotage as only “rumors,” Watergate remained a scandal limited to the 1972 campaign.

Still, Nixon’s cover-up of his campaign’s role in the Watergate break-in produced enough clear-cut evidence of obstruction of justice and other offenses that Nixon was forced to resign on Aug. 9, 1974.

A Failed Investigation

The 1979-81 hostage confrontation with Iran was not nearly as devastating a crisis as the Vietnam War but America’s humiliation during the 444-day-long ordeal became a focus of the 1980 election, too, with the first anniversary of Iran’s seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran coincidentally falling on Election Day 1980.

President Jimmy Carter signing the Camp David peace agreement with Egypt’s Anwar Sadat and Israel’s Menachem Begin.

President Carter’s failure to gain freedom for the 52 embassy personnel turned what had been a close race into a landslide for Ronald Reagan, with Republicans also gaining control of the U.S. Senate and ousting some of the most influential Democratic senators.

In 1984, Reagan won reelection in another landslide, but two years later ran afoul of the Iran-Contra scandal. Reagan’s secret arms sales to Iran and diversion of profits to the Contras “broke” in November 1986 but focused only on Reagan’s 1985-1986 arms sales and the diversion. Still, the scandal’s crimes included violations of the Arms Export Control Act and the so-called Boland Act’s prohibitions on arming the Contras as well as perjury and obstruction of justice. So there was the prospect of Reagan’s impeachment.

But – from the start of Iran-Contra – there was a strong pushback from Republicans who didn’t want to see another GOP president driven from office. There was also resistance to the scandal from many mainstream media executives who personally liked Reagan and feared a public backlash if the press played an aggressive role similar to Watergate.

And, moderate Democrats, such as Rep. Lee Hamilton of Indiana who co-chaired the congressional investigation, sought to tamp down the Iran-Contra fires and set up firebreaks to prevent the investigation from spreading to related crimes such as the Reagan administration’s protection of Contra cocaine traffickers.

“Ask about the cocaine,” pleaded one protester who was dragged from the Iran-Contra hearing room, as the congressional investigators averted their eyes from such unseemly matters, focusing instead on stilted lectures about the Congress’s constitutional prerogatives.

It was not until 1990-91 that it became clear that secret U.S.-approved arms shipments to Iran did not start in 1985 as the Iran-Contra narrative claimed but traced back to 1981 with Reagan’s approval of arms sales to Iran through Israel.

Reagan’s politically risky move of secretly arming Iran immediately after his inauguration and the hostage release was nearly exposed when one of the Israeli flights strayed into Soviet airspace on July 18, 1981, and crashed or was shot down.

In a PBS interview nearly a decade later, Nicholas Veliotes, Reagan’s assistant secretary of state for the Middle East, said he looked into the incident by talking to top administration officials.

“It was clear to me after my conversations with people on high that indeed we had agreed that the Israelis could transship to Iran some American-origin military equipment,” Veliotes said.

In checking out the Israeli flight, Veliotes came to believe that the Reagan camp’s dealings with Iran dated back to before the 1980 election. “It seems to have started in earnest in the period probably prior to the election of 1980, as the Israelis had identified who would become the new players in the national security area in the Reagan administration,” Veliotes said. “And I understand some contacts were made at that time.”

However, in 1981, Veliotes said, the State Department issued misleading press guidance to cover the administration’s tracks and the Washington media failed to follow up. Thus, the U.S.-Israeli arms pipeline to Iran stayed secret from the American people until November 1986 when — despite Reagan’s long-running insistence that he would never trade arms with a terrorist state like Iran — the operation was exposed.

When I re-interviewed Veliotes in 2012, he said he couldn’t recall who the “people on high” were who had described the informal clearance of the Israeli shipments of U.S.-manufactured weapons, but he indicated that “the new players” were the young neoconservatives who were working on the Reagan campaign, many of whom later joined the administration as senior political appointees.

Documents that I discovered at the Reagan presidential library revealed that Reagan’s neocons at the State Department, particularly Robert McFarlane and Paul Wolfowitz, initiated a policy review in 1981 to allow Israel to undertake secret military shipments to Iran.

McFarlane and Wolfowitz also maneuvered to put McFarlane in charge of U.S. relations toward Iran and to establish a clandestine U.S. back-channel to the Israeli government outside the knowledge of even senior U.S. government officials.

Another Failed Investigation

In 1991, faced with the accumulating evidence of a prequel to the Iran-Contra scandal, Congress grudgingly agreed to take a look at these so-called “October Surprise” allegations. But Republicans, then led by President George H.W. Bush and his White House team, mounted an aggressive cover-up to “spike” the story.

Former Rep. Lee Hamilton, D-Indiana.

And, with the congressional inquiry largely in the hands again of Rep. Hamilton, the Democrats timidly folded their tent despite a growing body of evidence that the Reagan team was indeed guilty.

Much of that evidence flowed into the House Task Force in December 1992 when President George H.W. Bush had already been defeated for reelection and the Democrats were looking forward to their renewed control of Washington. So, instead of giving a careful review to the new evidence, the House Task Force ignored, disparaged or buried it.

The late-arriving material included sworn testimony on Dec. 18, 1992, from David Andelman, the biographer of French intelligence chief Alexandre deMarenches, describing how deMarenches had confided that he had helped arrange the Republican-Iranian contacts. Andelman, an ex-New York Times and CBS News correspondent, said that while he was working on deMarenches’s autobiography, the arch-conservative spymaster admitted arranging meetings between Republicans and Iranians about the hostage issue in the summer and fall of 1980, with one meeting held in Paris in October.

Andelman said deMarenches ordered that the secret meetings be kept out of his memoirs because the story could otherwise damage the reputations of his friends, William Casey and George H.W. Bush. Andelman’s testimony corroborated longstanding claims from a variety of international intelligence operatives about a Paris meeting involving Casey and Bush. But the Task Force report brushed this testimony aside, paradoxically terming it “credible” but then claiming it was “insufficiently probative.”

The Task Force’s report argued that Andelman could not “rule out the possibility that deMarenches had told him he was aware of and involved in the Casey meetings because he, deMarenches, could not risk telling his biographer he had no knowledge of these allegations.”

In the last weeks of the investigation, the House investigators also received a letter from former Iranian President Bani-Sadr detailing his behind-the-scenes struggle with Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and his son Ahmad over their secret dealings with the Reagan campaign. But the House investigators dismissed Bani-Sadr’s first-hand account as hearsay and thus also lacking “probative value.”

I later unearthed some of the evidence in unpublished Task Force files. However, in the meantime, Official Washington had dismissed the “October Surprise” and other Iran-Contra-connected scandals, like Contra drug trafficking, as conspiracy theories.

The Russian Report

Ironically, another piece of late-arriving evidence was a January 1993 report from a national security committee of the Russian parliament about the Kremlin’s intelligence data confirming that key Republicans, including George H.W. Bush and William Casey, had met with Iranian officials in Europe regarding the hostages during the 1980 campaign.

Then-Vice President George H.W. Bush with CIA Director William Casey at the White House on Feb. 11, 1981. (Photo credit: Reagan Library)

Hamilton had requested the Russian assistance before the U.S. election in 1992, but the report was not sent until there were only two weeks left in George H.W. Bush’s presidency.

Lawrence Barcella, who served as the Task Force chief counsel, later told me that so much incriminating evidence arrived late that he asked Hamilton to extend the inquiry for three months but that Hamilton said no (although Hamilton told me that he had no recollection of denying Barcella’s request).

The other fatal flaw of the House investigation was that it left much of the actual investigating up to President George H.W. Bush’s White House counsel’s office and the State Department, although Bush was one of the chief suspects and, in 1991-92, was running for re-election, a campaign that would have been derailed if the 1980 October Surprise allegations were confirmed.

The naivete of this decision was underscored years later when I located a memo at Bush’s presidential library stating that the State Department had informed the White House counsel’s office that Casey had traveled to Madrid in 1980, corroborating a key October Surprise allegation.

The confirmation of Casey’s trip was passed along by State Department legal adviser Edwin D. Williamson to Associate White House Counsel Chester Paul Beach Jr. in early November 1991, just as the October Surprise inquiry was taking shape, according to Beach’s memorandum for record” dated Nov. 4, 1991.

Williamson said that among the State Department “material potentially relevant to the October Surprise allegations [was] a cable from the Madrid embassy indicating that Bill Casey was in town, for purposes unknown,” Beach noted.

Two days later, on Nov. 6, 1991, Beach’s boss, White House counsel C. Boyden Gray, arranged an inter-agency strategy session and explained the need to contain the congressional investigation into the October Surprise case. The explicit goal was to ensure the scandal would not hurt President Bush’s reelection hopes in 1992.

In 2013, when I interviewed Hamilton about the Beach memo, he lamented that the Madrid information had not been shared with his investigation, saying “you have to rely on people” in authority to comply with information requests.

“We found no evidence to confirm Casey’s trip to Madrid,” Hamilton told me. “We couldn’t show that. The [George H.W. Bush] White House did not notify us that he did make the trip. Should they have passed that on to us? They should have because they knew we were interested in that.”

Asked if knowledge that Casey had traveled to Madrid might have changed the Task Force’s dismissive October Surprise conclusion, Hamilton said yes, because the question of the Madrid trip was key to the task force’s investigation.

Not Moving the Needle

However, the Madrid trip revelation and other post-investigation disclosures failed to move the needle on Official Washington’s disdain for the October Surprise story.

Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir shaking hands with President Ronald Reagan’s Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger in 1982. (U.S. government photo)

The later disclosures included a 1993 interview in Tel Aviv in which former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir said he had read the 1991 book, October Surprise, by Carter’s former National Security Council aide Gary Sick, which made the case for believing that the Republicans had intervened in the 1980 hostage negotiations to disrupt Carter’s reelection.

With the topic raised, one interviewer asked, “What do you think? Was there an October Surprise?”

“Of course, it was,” Shamir responded without hesitation. “It was.”

And, there were other corroborating statements as well. In 1996, for instance, while former President Carter was meeting with Palestine Liberation Organization leader Arafat in Gaza City, Arafat tried to confess his role in the Republican maneuvering to block Carter’s Iran-hostage negotiations.

“There is something I want to tell you,” Arafat said, addressing Carter in the presence of historian Douglas Brinkley. “You should know that in 1980 the Republicans approached me with an arms deal [for the PLO] if I could arrange to keep the hostages in Iran until after the [U.S. presidential] election,” Arafat said, according to Brinkley’s article in the fall 1996 issue of Diplomatic Quarterly.

In 2013, after the movie “Argo” appeared regarding an early facet of the Iran-hostage crisis, former Iranian President Bani-Sadr elaborated on his account of Republican overtures to Iran in 1980 and how that secret initiative prevented release of the hostages.

In a Christian Science Monitor commentary, Bani-Sadr wrote, “Ayatollah Khomeini and Ronald Reagan had organized a clandestine negotiation which prevented the attempts by myself and then-U.S. President Jimmy Carter to free the hostages before the 1980 U.S. presidential election took place. The fact that they were not released tipped the results of the election in favor of Reagan.”

Then, Bani-Sadr added a new detail, that “two of my advisors, Hussein Navab Safavi and Sadr-al-Hefazi, were executed by Khomeini’s regime because they had become aware of this secret relationship between Khomeini, his son Ahmad, … and the Reagan administration.” [For more details on the October Surprise case, see Robert Parry’s Trick or Treason and America’s Stolen Narrative.]

Compare and Contrast

So how do Watergate and Iran-Contra compare and contrast with Russia-gate? One key difference is that in Watergate in 1972-73 and Iran-Contra in 1985-86, you had clear-cut crimes (even if you don’t want to believe the two “prequels” from 1968 and 1980, respectively).

President Donald Trump being sworn in on Jan. 20, 2017. (Screen shot from Whitehouse.gov)

In Watergate, five burglars were caught inside the DNC offices on June 17, 1972, as they sought to plant more bugs on Democratic phones. (An earlier break-in in May had installed two bugs, but one didn’t work.) Nixon then proceeded to mount a cover-up of his 1972 campaign’s role in funding the break-in and other abuses of power.

In Iran-Contra, Reagan secretly authorized weapons sales to Iran, which was then designated a terrorist state, without informing Congress, a violation of the Arms Export Control Act. He also kept Congress in the dark about his belated signing of a related intelligence “finding.” And the creation of slush funds to finance the Nicaraguan Contras represented an evasion of the U.S. Constitution.

There was also the attendant Iran-Contra cover-up mounted both by the Reagan White House and later the George H.W. Bush White House, which culminated in Bush’s Christmas Eve 1992 pardons of six Iran-Contra defendants as special prosecutor Lawrence Walsh was zeroing in on possible indictment of Bush for withholding evidence.

By contrast, Russia-gate has been a “scandal” in search of a specific crime. President Barack Obama’s intelligence chieftains have alleged – without presenting any clear evidence – that the Russian government hacked into the emails of the Democratic National Committee and of Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta and released those emails via WikiLeaks and other Internet sites. (The Russians and WikiLeaks have both denied the accusations.)

The DNC emails revealed that senior Democrats did not maintain their required independence regarding the primaries by seeking to hurt Sen. Bernie Sanders and help Clinton. The Podesta emails pulled back the curtain on Clinton’s paid speeches to Wall Street banks and on pay-to-play features of the Clinton Foundation.

Hacking into personal computers is a crime, but the U.S. government has yet to bring any formal charges against specific individuals supposedly responsible for the hacking of the Democratic emails. There also has been no evidence that Donald Trump’s campaign colluded with Russians in the hacking.

Lacking any precise evidence of this cyber-crime or of a conspiracy between Russia and the Trump campaign, Obama’s Justice Department holdovers and now special prosecutor Robert Mueller have sought to build “process crimes,” around false statements to investigators and possible obstruction of justice.

Railroading Flynn

In the case of retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, Trump’s first national security adviser, acting Attorney General Sally Yates used the archaic Logan Act of 1799 to create a predicate for the FBI to interrogate Flynn about a Dec. 29, 2016 conversation with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, i.e., after Trump’s election but before the Inauguration.

Green Party leader Jill Stein and retired Lt. General Michael Flynn attending a dinner marking the RT network’s 10-year anniversary in Moscow, December 2015, sitting at the same table as Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The Logan Act, which has never resulted in a prosecution in 218 years, was enacted during the period of the Alien and Sedition Acts to bar private citizens from negotiating on their own with foreign governments. It was never intended to apply to a national security adviser of an elected President, albeit before he was sworn in.

But it became the predicate for the FBI interrogation — and the FBI agents were armed with a transcript of the intercepted Kislyak-Flynn phone call so they could catch Flynn on any gaps in his recollection, which might have been made even hazier because he was on vacation in the Dominican Republic when Kislyak called.

Yates also concocted a bizarre argument that the discrepancies between Flynn’s account of the call and the transcript left him open to Russian blackmail although how that would work – since the Russians surely assumed that Kislyak’s calls would be monitored by U.S. intelligence and thus offered them no leverage with Flynn – was never explained.

Still, Flynn’s failure to recount the phone call precisely and the controversy stirred up around it became the basis for an obstruction of justice investigation of Flynn and led to President Trump’s firing Flynn on Feb. 13.

Trump may have thought that tossing Flynn overboard to the circling sharks would calm down the sharks but the blood in the water only excited them more. According to then-FBI Director James Comey, Trump talked to him one-on-one the next day, Feb. 14, and said, “‘I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”

Trump’s “hope” and the fact that he later fired Comey have reportedly led special prosecutor Mueller to look at a possible obstruction of justice case against Trump. In other words, Trump could be accused of obstructing what appears to have been a trumped-up case against Flynn.

Of course, there remains the possibility that evidence might surface of Trump or his campaign colluding with the Russians, but such evidence has so far not been presented. Or Mueller’s investigation might turn over some rock and reveal some unrelated crime, possibly financial wrongdoing by Trump or an associate.

(Something similar happened in the Republican investigation of the Sept. 11, 2012 Benghazi attack, a largely fruitless inquiry except that it revealed that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sent and received official emails over a private server, which Comey decried during last year’s campaign as “extremely careless” but not criminal.)

Curb the Enthusiasm

Another contrast between the earlier scandals (Watergate and Iran-Contra) and Russia-gate is the degree of enthusiasm and excitement that the U.S. mainstream media and congressional Democrats have shown today as opposed to 1972 and 1986.

The Washington Post’s Watergate team, including from left to right, publisher Katharine Graham, Carl Bernstein, Bob Woodward, Howard Simons, and executive editor Ben Bradlee.

Though The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein aggressively pursued the Watergate scandal, there was much less interest elsewhere in major news outlets until Nixon’s criminality became obvious in 1973. Many national Democrats, including DNC Chairman Bob Strauss, were extremely hesitant to pursue the scandal if not outright against it.

Similarly, although Brian Barger and I at The Associated Press were pursuing aspects of Iran-Contra since early 1985, the big newspapers and networks consistently gave the Reagan administration the benefit of the doubt – at least before the scandal finally burst into view in fall 1986 (when a Contra-supply plane crashed inside Nicaragua and a Lebanese newspaper revealed U.S. arms shipments to Iran).

For several months, there was a flurry of attention to the complex Iran-Contra scandal, but the big media still ignored evidence of a White House cover-up and soon lost interest in the difficult work of unraveling the convoluted networks for arms smuggling, money laundering and cocaine trafficking.

Congressional Democrats also shied away from a constitutional confrontation with the popular Reagan and his well-connected Vice President George H.W. Bush.

After moving from AP to Newsweek in early 1987, I learned that the senior executives at Newsweek, then part of The Washington Post Company, didn’t want “another Watergate”; they felt another such scandal was not “good for the country” and wanted Iran-Contra to go away as soon as possible. I was even told not to read the congressional Iran-Contra report when it was published in October 1987 (although I ignored that order and kept trying to keep my own investigation going in defiance of the wishes of the Newsweek brass until those repeated clashes led to my departure in June 1990).

So, perhaps the biggest similarity between Russia-gate and Watergate is that Richard Nixon and Donald Trump were both highly unpopular with the Washington establishment and thus had few influential defenders, while an important contrast with Iran-Contra was that Reagan and Bush were very well liked, especially among news executives such as Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham who, by all accounts, did not care for the uncouth Nixon. Today, the senior executives of The New York Times, The Washington Post and other major news outlets have made no secret of their disdain for the buffoonish Trump and their hostility toward Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In other words, what is driving Russia-gate – for both the mainstream news media and the Democrats – appears to be a political agenda, i.e., the desire to remove Trump from office while also ratcheting up a New Cold War with Russia, a priority for Washington’s neoconservatives and their liberal-interventionist sidekicks.

If this political drama were playing out in some other country, we would be talking about a “soft coup” in which the “oligarchy” or some other “deep state” force was using semi-constitutional means to engineer a disfavored leader’s removal.

Of course, since the ongoing campaign to remove Trump is happening in the United States, it must be presented as a principled pursuit of truth and a righteous application of the rule of law. But the comparisons to Watergate and Iran-Contra are a stretch.

Posted in USA, Russia0 Comments

Is Michael Foster a Chameleon?

NOVANEWS
Image result for Zionist Michael Foster CARTOON
By Gilad Atzmon 

The utterly repellent Michael Foster who has spent the last 2 years waging a relentless campaign against Jeremy Corbyn has now apparently become a Corbyn supporter. Foster now admits that he was wrong on Corbyn.”  The Jewish labour donor used the notorious Zionist Times of Israel to “tip his hat to the leader’s success”

In a spectacular admission that portrays total cultural and political detachment Foster says, “I was wrong on that his brand of leadership and socialism would not appeal.”

The same character who a year ago professed that he despised Corbyn and labelled his supporters “Sturm Abteilung” (Nazi storm troopers) has conveniently changed his spots.

However, don’t let the sly Foster mislead you. Foster is not a chameleon. He didn’t transform into a British patriot who cares for the working people or the resurrection of the NHS. Foster is a Jewish ethnic campaigner. Foster is interested in only one thing: Jewish tribal interests.

“To the future, Jeremy (note the shift to personal language) from my point of view has two things that matter to me, to deal with. He must continue to stamp out any sign of anti Semitism within Labour; and he must on that score make I think more of an effort, both private and public to meet with, and meet the legitimate fears of, the Jewish Community.”

And now the warning: “Jeremy’s legitimacy as a leader of all factions within Britain will in part depend on him achieving this. He can make the Jews of Britain feel safe, without in any way abandoning his strong and righteous belief in the need for a self governing and free, Palestinian homeland.”

Can he? Will the Fosters of this world let Corbyn be? Will they let him support Palestine and denounce Israeli brutality? Seemingly Foster and the Jewish lobby have yet to read the picture. Corbyn’s success means that although every Jewish institution in the kingdom was determined to destroy him, Corbyn was able to prevail by turning Labour into a popular movement. He is likely to become PM within a year.

Corbyn proved that Western politics can survive without an injection of shekels. This must be devastating news for the Lobby, for AIPAC, ADL, BOD, LFI, CFI, Criff and for the Michael Fosters. However, for the rest of us, it is  encouraging news, it arouses a spirit of emancipation.

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The West’s War on Free Speech

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By Tony Cartalucci – New Eastern Outlook 

With a name like the “National Democratic Institute” (NDI) one might expect the US State Department-funded, corporate-financier chaired front to be the premier proponent of freedom and democracy worldwide. And although it poses as such, it does precisely the opposite. It uses principles like free speech, democracy, press freedom, and human rights as a facade behind which it carries out a politically motivated agenda on behalf of the special interests that fund and direct its activities.

In a recent Tweet, NDI linked to a New York Times article titled,In Europe’s Election Season, Tech Vies to Fight Fake News.” It claimed in the Tweet that the article featured:

A look at some of the projects aiming to use automated algorithms to identify and combat fake news.

The article itself though, reveals nothing short of a global effort by US tech-giants Google and Facebook, in collaboration with the Western media, to censor any and all media that fails to align with Western-dominated narratives.

The article itself claims:

The French electorate heads to the polls in the second round of presidential elections on May 7, followed by votes in Britain and Germany in the coming months. Computer scientists, tech giants and start-ups are using sophisticated algorithms and reams of online data to quickly — and automatically — spot fake news faster than traditional fact-checking groups can.

The goal, experts say, is to expand these digital tools across Europe, so the region can counter the fake news that caused so much confusion and anger during the United States presidential election in November, when outright false reports routinely spread like wildfire on Facebook and Twitter.

The article then explains that once “fake news” is spotted, it is expunged from the Internet. It reports that:

After criticism of its role in spreading false reports during the United States elections, Facebook introduced a fact-checking tool ahead of the Dutch elections in March and the first round of the French presidential election on April 23. It also removed 30,000 accounts in France that had shared fake news, a small fraction of the approximately 33 million Facebook users in the country.

Were foreign government-linked tech companies purging tens of thousands of accounts ahead of elections in say, Thailand or Russia, it is very likely organizations like NDI and media platforms like the New York Times would cry foul, depicting it as censorship.

In determining what is and isn’t “fake news,” the New York Times offers some clues (emphasis added):

Using a database of verified articles and their artificial intelligence expertise, rival groups — a combination of college teams, independent programmers and groups from existing tech companies — already have been able to accurately predict the veracity of certain claims almost 90 percent of the time, Mr. Pomerleau said. He hopes that figure will rise to the mid-90s before his challenge ends in June.

In other words, “fake news” is determined by comparing it directly to narratives presented by establishment media platforms like the New York Times, the BBC, CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, and others who have notorious track records of serial deception, false reporting, and even war propagandizing.

Nowhere does the New York Times explain how these “verified articles” have been determined to be factually accurate, and instead, it appears that all these algorithms are doing is ensuring all media falls in line with Western narratives.

If media in question coincides with Western-dominated media platforms, it is given a pass – if not, it is slated for expunging as described elsewhere in the New York Times’ piece.

Thus, the National Democratic Institute, who claims on its website to “support and strengthen democratic institutions worldwide through citizen participation, openness and accountability in government,” finds itself promoting what is essentially a worldwide agenda of malicious censorship, manipulating the perception of the globe’s citizenry, not supporting or strengthening it’s participation in any sort of honest political process.

To answer the question as to what the NDI is referring to when it claims other nations are “censoring” free speech and press freedoms, it involves defending local fronts funded by the NDI and its parent organization, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) who merely repeat Western propaganda in local languages and with local spins. When foreign nations attempt to deal with these instances of “fake news,” US fronts like NDI and NED depict it as censorship.

While the West poses as the premier champion of free speech, citizen participation, openness, and accountability, the New York Times article reveals an unfolding plan to utterly crush any narrative that deviates from Western media talking points, thus controlling citizen perception, not encouraging “participation,” and ensuring that the West alone determines what is “opened” and held “accountable.”

No worse scenario can be referenced in human history or even among human fiction than plans to determine for the world through automatic algorithms and artificial intelligence almost in real time what is heard and read and what isn’t. It is even beyond the scope and scale of George Orwell’s cautionary dystopian “1984” novel.

In a truly free society, an educated citizenry is capable of deciding for itself what is “fake news” and what isn’t. Because of the rise of alternatives to the West’s monopoly over global information, many people are doing just that – determining that Western narratives are in fact deceptions. At no other point in modern history has the Western media faced as many alternatives, and as much skepticism on this scale, as well as an ebbing of trust domestically and abroad. It is no surprise then, to find the West resorting to outright censorship, even if it cushions mention of it with terms like “fake news.”

Posted in USA, Europe0 Comments

Russian Senator Vows Response Over Potential US’ Restrictions on Russian Media

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Russia’s Federation Council may suggest reciprocal measures for the US press in Russia, if Russian media in the United States face any limitations, the first deputy chairman of the Russian parliament’s upper house International Affairs Committee told Sputnik on Friday.

On June 7, US Congressmen David Cicilline and Matthew Gaetz introduced legislation, called The Foreign Agents Registration Modernization and Enforcement Act, which would provide the US Department of Justice with “the increased investigative authority to identify and prosecute entities that seek to unlawfully influence the political process.” The legislation is specifically targeting such media outlets, as RT broadcaster, obliging them to register as foreign agents and report their activity to the Department of Justice.

Cecilline called the RT broadcaster the Kremlin’s “propaganda” arm “dressed up as a legitimate news outlet,” and said that the new bill will help to prevent “spread of fake news” among the US nationals.

“There are attempts to prevent the Russian media in the United States from delivering objective information, different from the made-to-order [information] which they spread themselves. At the same time, Voice of America [broadcaster] and other organizations, unfriendly to us, have been spreading anti-Russian propaganda for decades and they continue to work, with no worries. The commission of the Federation Council [on countering foreign interference in Russian internal affairs], which will be established on June 14 will look into issues like this one. Possibly, we will begin working on reciprocal measures to respond to such actions,” Vladimir Dzhabarov said.

In accordance with the new legislation, the US Justice Department will be able to compel the production of documents from any person or entity while investigating any case, which is within the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) compliance. As of now, the authority to compel the production of such documents appears only after initiation of civil or criminal proceeding.

Russian media outlets broadcasting in Europe and the United States have been facing a barrage of accusations by Western officials about allegedly spreading fake news and attempting to influence public life. In the United States, the intelligence community has claimed Russia used its media outlets to swing the outcome of the US presidential election in favor of Donald Trump, but have not provided any evidence to back their claims.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and other senior officials have repeatedly stated that Moscow refrains from meddling in internal affairs of foreign countries.

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Lavrov: Deconfliction zones in Syria announced without Damascus’ consent illegitimate

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Russia considers the US-led coalition airstrike against pro-Damascus fighters in Syria an act of aggression and rejects the justification for the attack issued by the Pentagon, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said.

The Tuesday airstrike near the town of At Tanf in eastern Syria “was an aggressive act, that violated the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Syrian Arab Republic and – deliberately or not – targeted the forces which are most effective in fighting terrorists on the ground,” the minister said on Wednesday.

The Pentagon justified the attack by saying that the pro-government forces “advanced inside the well-established deconfliction [sic] zone in southern Syria.”

The US claimed that it attacked the pro-Damascus convoy because it posed threat to “partner forces” based in At Tanf. The US military earlier stated that an area within 55km from the town was a designated “deconfliction zone,” where forces not allied with the US are apparently not allowed to enter.

Lavrov rejected that reasoning, saying that he is not familiar with the term.

“I don’t know anything about such zones. This must be some territory, which the coalition unilaterally declared [deconfliction zones] and where it probably believes to have a sole right to take action. We cannot recognize such zones,” he said.

Lavrov said Russia, Turkey and Iran have signed a deal, which has been endorsed by the UN Security Council, to establish so-called “de-escalation zones” in several parts of Syria. Damascus agreed to this approach and the exact borders and mechanisms for observing a truce inside those zones are currently being negotiated.

“This approach was agreed to by Syria. We consider illegitimate any unilateral declaration of ‘deconfliction zones’ not endorsed by Damascus. We hope the coalition will adhere to the agreement it has reached with us, which states that the de-escalation zones must be agreed to in detail by all stakeholders,” he said.

He added that, according to some reports, the force attacked by the coalition was being deployed to prevent Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) fighters from destroying two bridges and a road connecting Syria with Iraq, and that the intervention had allowed the terrorists to carry out their plan.

Posted in USA, Russia, Syria0 Comments

EU: Another Step Down the Slippery Slope

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By Andrei AKULOV | Strategic Culture Foundation 

The EU Commission has launched legal action against Hungary, the Czech Republic and Poland which refused to take in refugees from Italy and Greece. The three EU states have acted «in breach of their legal obligations», the Commission said in a statement, adding that it had previously warned the countries to observe «their commitments to Greece, Italy and other member states». The three member states «have not yet relocated a single person», the statement says. The EU members under fire remain defiant.

In September 2015, the EU committed to relocating up to 160,000 refugees from the two countries within two years. However, not all EU states have found the measures acceptable, saying that the migrant crisis cannot be solved through obligatory quotas. Hungary and Slovakia are currently challenging the decision in the EU Court of Justice, and an advocate-general of the court will issue an opinion on July 26. Slovakia was able to avoid legal action against it by responding to EU warnings and opening its doors to a small group of migrants.

Only 20,869 of the 160,000 refugees have so far been relocated in the EU. More than 1.6 million asylum seekers have arrived in Europe since the start of the refugee crisis in 2014.

Now the Commission has launched infringement procedures against the three nations refusing to comply, before possibly referring them to the top European court. The legal battle could last many months or, even, years. As a result, the three states could be imposed financial penalties.

The very fact of launching legal procedures heats up tensions inside the EU at the time the bloc is going through a period of instability and uncertainty, with its unity tested by Brexit, weak economies and growing support for Eurosceptic and nationalist-minded parties.

Perhaps, it’s easier to pay fines than take in refugees and face grave security problems as a result. Going to the bottom of it – it’s not fines that really matter. All the countries opposing the EU migration policy are net beneficiaries of EU funding. A mood is developing among the older EU members to withhold cohesion funds from countries that oppose the relocation of refugees, although no legal basis for this actually exists. But if it starts, the EU will become a battlefield to make the vaunted unity a pipedream. If the events turn this way, the EU will become very much different from what it is today.

The Visegrád countries (V4) – Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary – have found common ground in recent years opposing the EU’s relocation policy and rejecting the idea of a two-speed Europe, but also in advocating the preservation of the Union’s cohesion policy. Indeed, why should East Europeans share the burden of the immigration crisis, especially in view that security policy is a national, not European, competence? These countries call for strengthening of the national states in EU decision-making process.

Poland and Hungary have joined together recently to oppose Brussels stance on human rights.

The V4 also oppose the two-speed» and «multi-speed» concepts supported by EU founders. They believe that the idea would turn them into «second class» members of the bloc.

The «East European revolt» is just part of a bigger process with deepening EU divisions and alliances being formed inside the alliance.

Prospect for the future? The situation inside the EU has bleak prospects for improvement. It calls for a closer look at the recent developments inside the EU. In February, the European Parliament backed three resolutions on strengthening centralization of the bloc. One of the resolutions proposes limiting or even totally abolishing the right of individual member states not to comply with collective decisions – just exactly what the East European members oppose so vehemently. The adoption of the resolutions may be the first step towards a fundamental change in the EU Treaty.

In February, leaders of the lower chambers of parliaments of Germany, Italy, France, and Luxembourg published a letter demanding a «Federal Union» be implemented without delay. It was published by Italian La Stampa on February 27. They call for «closer political integration — the Federal Union of States with broad powers. «Those who believe in European ideals, should be able to give them a new life instead of helplessly observing its slow sunset», the paper reads.

The idea to create a «common European defense» is a dubious endeavor; it presupposes additional financial burden at the time the US increases pressure to make Europeans raise NATO expenditure. Add to this the need to pay more for the migrants against the background of stagnating economy to see how unrealistic all these plans are. Europeans have already been made pay more for US liquefied gas for political reasons, while Russia can offer supplies at much lower prices.

Guy Verhofstadt, the former Belgian Prime Minister and European Parliament’s chief Brexit negotiator, believes that the European Union must reform, or face the risk of collapse as a result of internal and external challenges. Noam Chomsky, a prominent US scholar, has predicted that the EU will disintegrate. The EU will collapse in 2017, predicts Mark Blyth, a lecturer in political economy at Brown University in the US, known for forecasts to come true.

The event marks a turning point in EU history. This is the first time EU members will face legal procedures for non-compliance with the rules established by Brussels. It shows how the migration crisis has divided the bloc. The process will not die away, migrants will continue their route north to the wealthier countries and the tensions inside the EU will grow. Rival blocs and perpetuate divisions will not disappear, turning the EU into a patchwork of blocs within blocs. The project of European integration does not look viable anymore. Legal actions cannot bridge the differences dividing its members.

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US backs down as Russia targets US aircraft in Syria

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By Alexander Mercouris | The Duran 

Back in April, in the immediate aftermath of the US cruise missile attack on Syria’s Al-Shayrat air base, Russia retaliated by switching off the ‘de-confliction’ hotline between the US and Russian militaries in Syria, which enables these militaries to avoid accidental clashes with each other.

The immediate response to this Russian switching off of the ‘de-confliction’ hotline was a dramatic reduction in US air operations in Syria, as the US air force was forced to scale down its air operations rather than risk a confrontation with the powerful air defence system the Russians have established in Syria.

That this was the case was confirmed by an article in The New York Times dated 8th April 2017, which said the following

The American-led task force that is battling the Islamic State has sharply reduced airstrikes against the militants in Syria as commanders assess whether Syrian government forces or their Russian allies plan to respond to the United States’ cruise missile strike on a Syrian airfield this past week, American officials said.

So far, the Russian military does not appear to have taken any threatening actions, such as directing its battlefield radar or air defense systems to confront the Americans, or carrying out aggressive actions in the skies, United States officials said.

But officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal planning said the commanders needed time to determine whether the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, and the Russian military would treat the American cruise missile strike as a one-time operation that they would not respond to militarily. As a precaution, the Pentagon is flying patrols in Syrian skies with F-22 jets, the Air Force’s most advanced air-to-air fighter……

Some American and other Western counterterrorism officials have said the missile strike could……… make the fight against the Islamic State in Syria more difficult.

“It seems clear that the strikes will complicate our efforts to pursue our counter-ISIS campaign in Syria,” said Matthew Olsen, a former director of the National Counterterrorism Center. “In particular, the ability to carry out U.S. airstrikes in Syria in support of the coalition against ISIS requires some degree of cooperation with Russia, which is now in serious jeopardy.”

Other security experts said that much depended on the Trump administration’s next steps, and how the Assad government and its Russian patrons responded.

“U.S. aircraft operating over Al-Tabqah are already ostensibly in range of the Russian S-400 system at the Humaymin Air Base, and we might see Russia deploy more air defense assets to Syria,” Jeremy Binnie, the Middle East editor of Jane’s Defense Weekly, said in an email. “But if the U.S. makes no moves to threaten Assad’s position, then they may well accept the punishment and move on.”

William McCants, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and the author of “The ISIS Apocalypse,” offered a similar assessment. (bold italics added)

The words I have highlighted in this article from 8th April 2017 make clear the difference with the situation today.

After weeks of frantic diplomatic activity the US finally managed to persuade the Russians a few weeks ago to switch the ‘de-confliction’ hotline back on.  In response to yesterday’s US shooting down of the SU-22 the Russians have however now once again switched it off.

However this time the Russians have not only once more switched off the ‘de-confliction’ hotline.  They have also done what they did not do in April by saying that this time they will take “threatening action by directing their battlefield radar or air defense systems to confront the Americans”.

That this is so is explicitly confirmed in the statement made public yesterday by the Russian Defence Ministry

As of June 19 this year, the Defense Ministry of the Russian Federation has ended its interaction with the US side under a memorandum for preventing incidents and providing for safe flights during operations in Syria and demands that the US command carry out a careful investigation and report about its results and the measures taken.

The shooting down of a Syrian Air Force jet in Syria’s airspace is a cynical violation of Syria’s sovereignty. The US’ repeated combat operations under the guise of ‘combating terrorism’ against the legitimate armed forces of a UN member-state are a flagrant violation of international law, in addition to being actual military aggression against the Syrian Arab Republic,” the ministry said.

Russia will regard any flights within the area of its air force group’s operation in Syria as legitimate targets, the ministry stressed.

Any aircraft, including planes and drones of the international coalition, detected in the operation areas west of the Euphrates River by the Russian air forces will be followed by Russian ground-based air defense and air defense aircraft as air targets.

……. the coalition command did not use the existing communication line between the air commands of Al Udeid Air Base (Qatar) and Khmeimim Air Base to prevent incidents in Syria’s airspace.  We consider the actions of the US command as a deliberate default on their obligations under the memorandum on on preventing incidents and providing for safe flights during operations in Syria signed on October 20, 2015. (bold italics added)

In other words, the Russian response to the shooting down of the Syrian SU-22 fighter near Taqbah has been much stronger than was the Russian response to the US cruise missile attack on Syria’s Al-Shayrat air base.

This is so even though the attack on Al-Shayrat air base attracted massive international media attention, whilst the US shooting down of the SU-22 has attracted very little.

This time however the Russians have announced that they will do precisely the thing which they did not do in April following the US attack on Al-Shayrat air base – and which the New York Times says is very threatening – which is track US aircraft, treating them as targets if they fly west of the Euphrates.

Why have the Russians taken this extraordinary step?

The US claims yesterday justifying the shooting down of the SU-22 aircraft have unravelled.  Even the strongly anti-Assad British based Syrian Observatory of Human Rights has confirmed that the SU-22 was not bombing Kurdish forces as the US claims but was bombing ISIS fighters as the Syrians say.

A regime warplane was targeted and dropped in the skies of the al-Resafa area […] the warplane was shot down over Al-Resafa area of which the regime forces have reached to its frontiers today, and sources suggested to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights that warplanes of the International Coalition targeted it during its flight in close proximity to the airspace of the International Coalition’s warplanes, which caused its debris to fall over Resafa city amid an unknown fate of its pilot, the sources confirmed that the warplane did not target the Syria Democratic Forces in their controlled areas located at the contact line with regime forces’ controlled areas in the western countryside of Al-Tabaqa to the road of Al-Raqqah – Resafa.

(bold italics added)

Another thing that may have provoked the Russians is that the US has tried to pass off the downing of the SU-22 as caused by Syrian encroachment of an agreed ‘de-confliction area’.

Ja’Din sits approximately two kilometers north of an established East-West SDF-Syrian Regime de-confliction area.

This uses a term – ‘de-confliction area’ – used to describe certain regions of Syria covered by an international agreement reached by Russia, Iran and Turkey in May.

The area where the SU-22 was shot down is not within any of these regions.  Al-Jazeera has provided details of where these four ‘de-confliction areas’, and none of them is close to the territory where the SU-22 was shot down

Zone 1 : Idlib province, as well as northeastern areas of Latakia province, western areas of Aleppo province and northern areas of Hama province. There are more than one million civilians in this zone and its rebel factions are dominated by an al-Qaeda -linked alliance.

Zone 2: The Rastan and Talbiseh enclave in northern Homs province. There are approximately 180,000 civilians in this zone and its network of rebel groups includes al-Qaeda-linked fighters.

Zone 3 : Eastern Ghouta in the northern Damascus countryside. Controlled by Jaish al-Islam, a powerful rebel faction that is participating in the Astana talks. It is home to about 690,000 civilians. This zone does not include the adjacent, government-besieged area of Qaboun.

Zone 4 : The rebel-controlled south along the border with Jordan that includes parts of Deraa and Quneitra provinces. Up to 800,000 civilians live there.Wh

Whilst it is possible that the term “established East-West SDF-Syrian Regime de-confliction area” refers to a term used in some informal agreement between the US and Russia, it seems more likely that the US is trying to unilaterally establish ‘no-go’ areas for the Syrian army, and is using the term ‘de-escalation areas’ to conceal the fact.

If so the Russians will want to put a stop to this practice and this may partly explain the strength of the Russian reaction.

However the single most important reason for the strong Russian reaction is what caused the US to shoot down the SU-22 down in the first place.

As the report from the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights shows, the real reason the SU-22 was shot down was because it was supporting a Syrian army offensive to capture the strategically important town of Rusafa from ISIS.

Rusafa lies south east of Tabqah – the main base of the US backed Kurdish militia in this area – and within striking distance of the main highway between Raqqa and Deir Ezzor, the eastern desert city currently besieged by ISIS.

By capturing Rusafa the Syrian army is now in a position to intercept columns of ISIS fighters who might try to flee Raqqa for Deir Ezzor.

The Syrians and the Russians have in recent weeks complained that the US and the Kurds have been doing nothing to prevent ISIS fighters fleeing Raqqa for Deir Ezzor, and in recent days there have even been reports of movements by Kurdish militia to try to block the Syrian army’s offensive to relieve Deir Ezzor.

The shooting down of the Syrian SU-22 fighter appears to have been intended as a warning to stop the Syrian army from capturing Rusafa, so as to block the Syrian army’s attempt to relieve the pressure on Deir Ezzor.

The Russian warning to the US looks in turn to have been intended to make clear to the US that this sort of interference in the Syrian army’s operations to relieve Deir Ezzor is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.

The US has heeded the Russian warning. The various statements made by the US and by various US officials today, though full of the usual bluster about the US defending itself and its allies anywhere and everywhere, in fact clearly signal that the US is backing off.

The key words – as my colleague Adam Garrie has said – are those of Colonel Ryan Dillon, chief U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad.

As a result of recent encounters involving pro-Syrian regime and Russian forces, we have taken prudent measures to reposition aircraft over Syria so as to continue targeting ISIS forces while ensuring the safety of our aircrews given known threats in the battle space. (bold italics added)

“Prudent measures to reposition aircraft over Syria to ensure the safety of aircrews given known threats in the battle space” is code for withdrawal of aircraft from air space where they are at risk of being shot down.

That is what is taking place. Note that Colonel Dillon is careful not to say where the “known threats in the battle space” that are forcing the redeployment of the aircraft are coming from.

The US has no choice. If the Russian decision to switch off the ‘de-confliction’ hotline in April was enough to force the US to reduce sharply its air activity in Syria, the Russian decision to switch off the ‘de-confliction’ hotline and to threaten to treat as aerial targets US aircraft flying west of the Euphrates is a threat the US cannot afford to disregard.

Not surprisingly, shortly before the Russian warning was made public, but probably after it was communicated to the US, the Syrian army captured Rusafa with no further hindrance from the US. Latest reports speak of Syrian army reinforcements flooding into the area.

In the meantime the US is frantically signalling to the Russians its urgent wish to de-escalate the situation. Note for example the markedly conciliatory language of White House spokesman Sean Spicer, and how he repeatedly passed up opportunities to utter words of defiance against Russia or to threaten the Russians with counter-measures during the latest White House press briefing

Q    Thanks, Sean.  How are you responding to this Russian threat to shoot down American planes over Syria?

MR. SPICER:  Well, obviously, we’re going to do what we can to protect our interests. And this is something that we’re going to continue to work with — keep the lines of communication open. And ISIS represents a threat to all nations, and so we’ve got to do what we can to work with partners. And we’re going to continue to keep an open mind of communication with the Russians.

Q    So will the U.S. change its flight patterns or behavior in Syria?

MR. SPICER:  I’m going to refer — I mean, I think this is a question more for DOD to answer. But I think, obviously, it’s important and crucial that we keep lines of communication open to de-conflict potential issues.

Zeke.

Q    Thanks, Sean.  Following up on that — and a second one for you, as well — what would the U.S. government’s response be? Is the White House going to issue a warning to the Russian government if they were to follow through on this threat? It seems that your statement — would that be a provocation or something worse, potentially?

MR. SPICER:  I mean, I think that the escalation of hostilities among the many factions that are operating in this region doesn’t help anybody. And the Syrian regime and others in the regime need to understand that we will retain the right of self-defense, of coalition forces aligned against ISIS.

Ultimately the situation in Syria is the same as it has been since the US-Russian confrontation in October.

The fact that the Russians have installed a powerful air defence system in Syria incorporating advanced S-400 and S-300VM Antey 2500 missiles means that the US is unable to confront the Russians directly unless it is prepared to risk possibly very serious casualties.

That is an option neither the US military nor the civilian officials of the Obama and Trump administrations are prepared to face. This is because they know the extraordinary dangers such a clash with the armed forces of a nuclear superpower would risk. They also know US public opinion is strongly opposed to the US becoming drawn into such a clash.

What that means is that though the Russians must act carefully so as not to provoke the US into an unnecessary confrontation which would serve no-one’s interests, ultimately it is the Russians who in Syria have the whip hand.

The chess game in Syria is far from over. The game of move and counter-move continues. With the capture of Rusafa the Syrians and the Russians have however just won another important piece.  In the meantime Russia’s warning limits the range of US moves across the Syrian chessboard.

The net result of all these recent moves is that end of the Syrian war may have drawn a little closer.

Posted in USA, Russia, Syria0 Comments

Ukrainian regime arrests owner of Russian language news outlet

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By Adam Garrie | The Duran 

The Ukrainian regimes notorious Secret Service, the SBU has arrested the owner of a Russian language news outlet Strana.ua.

Igor Guzhva was arrested while his offices were raided. Authorities loyal to the Poroshenko regime have stated that the charges related to allegations of blackmail, although many see this is yet another attempt to forcibly shut-down domestically owned Russian language news media after a law was passed banning Russian owned media in the country.

The regime authorities are also cracking down on the large domestically owned and produced Russian language media and entertainment sectors.

Strana.ua was harassed by the SBU throughout 2014 and 2015.

This looks increasingly like another politically motivated arrest by a regime engaged in crimes against humanity in Donbass.

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Ukraine Registers 500 Suicides by Donbass Military Operation Participants

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KIEV – Around 500 cases of suicide were registered among the Ukrainian servicemen who had been participating in the military operation in Donbass, Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said in an article published Thursday.

“How is the state of affairs in Ukraine three years after the outbreak of the war?… According to the military prosecutor’s office, as of the beginning of June, 2017, approximately 500 cases of suicides were registered, among participants of the… operation [in Donbass area] after having returned from the combat zone,” Avakov said in an article published by Ukrayinska Pravda newspaper.

According to the interior minister, around 90-95 percent of combatants develop various social and medical, specially pertaining to the nervous system, problems after participating in military conflict, which is the universally recognized international standard. About one-third of these soldiers were diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which often led to suicide, Avakov noted.

Avakov said, citing the international human rights center La Strada — Ukraine, that the number of family members of Donbass conflict participants complaining of domestic violence increased eightfold in 2015.

In February 2015, the warring parties to the Ukrainian conflict in Donbass signed the Minsk peace accords in order to end the fighting in the crisis-torn region. Germany, France, Russia and Ukraine, as the members of the so-called Normandy Four, helped negotiate the Donbas ceasefire. The truce, however, has been repeatedly breached, with Kiev forces and Donbas militia accusing each other of violating it.

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Uproar as Zionist racist ugly Melanie Phillips spouts racist bile live on Sky TV [VIDEO]

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Uproar as Times columnist spouts racist bile live on Sky TV [VIDEO]
Uproar as Times columnist spouts racist bile live on Sky TV [VIDEO]

People have lashed out at Times columnist Melanie Phillips after she appeared on Sky News to deliver an inflammatory, Islamophobic, and incorrect statement about 90% of the world’s Muslims. And some think the racist and false slur is a sackable offence.

Islamophobe

Reviewing the papers on Sky News on 20 June, Phillips comes onto the subject of “religious Islamic fanaticism” and broad-brushes 1.6 billion people:

The problem being faced by not just Britain, not just the West, but the whole of the free world, and the not-Muslim-enough world, is the problem of religious Islamic fanaticism

She then goes on to misquote Egyptian military dictator President Sisi, saying he told imams that:

We cannot anymore have a situation where 1.6 billion Muslims are trying to murder the rest of the world.

The problem being that Sisi actually said:

Does this mean that 1.6 billion people (Muslims) should want to kill the rest of the world’s inhabitants – that is 7 billion – so that they themselves may live? Impossible!

‘Racist and bigoted’

Many have pointed out that to write off 90% of the world’s Muslim population to not only extreme ideological views but also murderous tendencies is “racist” and “bigoted”. Yet the mainstream media is again giving such attitudes a platform.

“1.6Bn Muslims are trying to murder the rest of the world” @TheTimes is this Islamophobic slur acceptable from one of your star writers?

disgusting Melanie Phillips the bigot on @SkyNews equating 1.6bn muslims with a tiny minority of extremists.

Baseless bile

Phillips also hit out at her co-guest who suggested there is a growing radical front from the white far right. The Finsbury Park attack saw an attacker use a hire van to run over Muslim worshippers outside a mosque. He killed one and injured several others. The police and government have described it as a terrorist attack. But Phillips had this to say:

Finsbury Park is being leapt upon by the people who want to pretend that the real problem facing the world is not Islamic religious fanaticism, has been leapt on for people to say, ‘you see, it’s nothing to do with Islam, it’s basically a problem of terrorism’. It’s not true. There is every difference in the world between an interpretation of the religion, which is inspiring millions of people to try and kill others…

While citing the most wild statistic, suggesting “millions” are inspired to kill, she downgraded the incident that took place on 18 June, despite the driver reportedly saying he wanted to “kill all Muslims”. And she declared with authority that you cannot equate the two.

But evidence does not back her up. For instance, an MI5 report in 2008 found that religious zealotry was not really a factor in radicalisation, with perpetrators being fairly ‘illiterate’ on religion. In fact, it concluded that a better established “religious identity” may actually prevent “violent radicalisation”.

And there is evidence of there being much in common between far-right extremism and so-called ‘Islamist’ extremism. Devon Arthurs is a case in point. Arthurs allegedly sieged a Florida smoke shop because he was “upset about America bombing Muslim countries”. But he was also a former neo-Nazi who converted to Islam at some point. And some experts believe it’s less ideology and more a “propensity for violence” that leads people to extremism.

Stop pandering to racists

But this doesn’t fit Phillips’ narrative. And neither does acknowledging the Muslim community’s rallying in times of grief to help wider communities they are part of.

For instance, many Muslims were praised for their response after the Grenfell Tower fire. Muslim organisations, meanwhile, started crowdfunding campaigns after the recent terror attacks in Manchester and London. And small displays of compassion have shown that they are not separated from their communities by faith.

Some may regard this to be the radical notion. But such views, like Phillips’, ignore the facts and base their arguments on bigotry alone. And there comes a point where news outlets, whether The Times or Sky News, must stop pandering to racist views such as hers and deny them a platform.

Posted in ZIO-NAZI, UK0 Comments

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