Russia, US craft rival UN resolutions on extending chemical probe in Syria

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Russia and the United States have drawn up rival UN Security Council resolutions on extending the mission of a body of international experts probing chemical attacks in Syria.

The Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) was formed by a Security Council resolution in 2015, and is run jointly by the UN and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the world body’s chemical weapons watchdog.

Russia, however, has been exceedingly critical of JIM’s reports, finding faults with its evidence gathering techniques.

On October 14, Russia vetoed a US-sponsored Security Council resolution that would have renewed the experts’ mandate for a year. It said it would wait for an official report on an alleged sarin gas attack last year in northwestern Syria by the mission to decide whether it would back extending its mandate.

The report came out two days after the veto, blaming Syria for the incident which took place in April 2016 in the town of Khan Shaykhun and killed over 90 people.

Both Russia and Syria have rejected the report.

Reacting to the report on Thursday, Russian Foreign Ministry said the JIM experts had produced it without even turning up on site despite being offered guarantees of safety.

Mikhail Ulyanov, the head of the ministry’s arms control and non-proliferation department, said, “Imagine a criminal investigation in which police refuse to visit the site of the crime. No court will ever accept it.” “But they consider it possible to do such thing at the UN Security Council,” he noted.

According to a draft resolution obtained by news agencies, both the American and Russian versions demand the JIM mission’s extension, but under totally different conditions.

According to AFP, Russia wants the UN Security Council to shelve the latest JIM report and launch a new investigation into the Khan Shaykhun incident.

The Russian draft also urged a six-month extension of the UN-led panel’s mission, while the version put forward by the US calls for a two-year extension of the mandate, the report added.

The Associated Press also reported that the Russian draft resolution on the future of JIM’s mandate urges the mission to send investigators to Khan Shaykhun, where the attack reportedly happened, and the Shayrat airfield in Syria’s central Homs Province, which the US attacked later in April with missiles under the pretext of punishing Syria.

The accusations against the Damascus government come while Syria has turned over its entire chemical stockpile under a deal negotiated by Russia and the United States back in 2013. The OPCW supervised that removal process.

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Russia Debunks UN-OPCW Report Blaming Damascus for Idlib Chemical Attack

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Investigation of Alleged Chemical Weapons Use in Syria’s Idlib Province

The Russian Defense Ministry, Foreign Ministry and Ministry of Industry and Trade have presented their own report on chemical attacks in Syria in the wake of a UN-OPCW document, which accuses Damascus of using chemical weapons in Khan Sheikhoun on April 4.

The Russian Foreign Ministry has stated that the risk of crimes related to chemical weapons use outside the Middle East is high.

Russia has voiced strong opposition to the use of chemical weapons, emphasizing that those guilty in such crimes should be brought to justice.

Claims that Russia is allegedly encouraging chemical weapons’ use in Syria are “hysteria” and attempts to discredit Moscow, the Russian Foreign Ministry has stated, adding that it is unacceptable to blame Damascus for it based on media reports. Moscow believes that it makes no sense for Damascus to use chemical weapons as only the opposition could benefit from it.

According to the Russian Foreign Ministry, the UN-OPCW report on the chemical weapons’ use in Syria is biased, “unprofessional and amateur.”

“Of course we expected that the mechanism and the OPCW fact-finding mission would ensure a completely unbiased and a highly professional manner of investigation to decidedly and conclusively establish the guilty party. I shall say straight away that these expectations were not met,” the head of the Non-Proliferation and Arms Control Department of the Russian Foreign Affairs Ministry Mikhail Ulyanov said at a briefing.

First investigators refused to visit the site of the alleged chemical attack in Khan Sheikhoun in the Idlib province, the Russian ministry has recalled, adding that the probe had been conducted remotely.

“The investigation … was carried out remotely in New York and the Hague offices, as well as on the territory of one of the countries bordering Syria. This could not help but affect the quality of the investigation, which turned out to be extremely low.”

When experts finally did arrive, they refused to take samples, the Russian ministry official said, noting that Moscow suspects “sabotage” in the work of the experts.

“Actually, this is a scandal: this is an attempt to mislead the international community,” he told reporters.

The report into the chemical attack contains words “supposedly,” “likely,” etc, which mean that the findings of the document can be questioned, according to Moscow.

Moscow Debunks All Three Points in Report Blaming Idlib Chemical Attack on Damascus

The report blamed Damascus for the Idlib chemical attack based on three claims that 1) a bomb with sarin has been dropped by the Syrian military aviation on Khan Sheikhoun; 2) photo and video from the site; 3) analysis of sarin.

According to Russia’s findings, a Syrian warplane was in the area, but it was 5 km away from the site and couldn’t drop the bomb on the site due to the plane’s technical characteristics. Eyewitnesses also didn’t see a jet above Khan Sheikhoun, a Russian Defense Ministry official has said, emphasizing that due to these facts it is incorrect to say that a Syrian Su-22 could have dropped a bomb on the town in Idlib.

“If the plane had flown on the route which was registered by the United States… it could not have attacked Khan Sheikhoun from a simply technical point of view.”

Moscow has been calling on OPCW-UN experts to probe whether the Khan Sheikhoin events had been staged but have received a negative response.Based on the way the bomb crater looks, the ammunition that hit Khan Sheikhoun exploded on the ground, the Russian Defense Ministry said.

As a Russian chemistry expert has noted, claims of unique characteristics of sarin, which was confirmed to be used in Idlib, are baseless. According to the photos of White Helmet volunteers, they touched the alleged chemical weapon with their bare hands, if it was sarin, they would have died.

The ammunition shown in the OPCW report was self-made from a water-pipe, according to the Russian Defense Ministry.

In conclusion, the Russian diplomat has said that the all findings of the report have been proved to be false by Moscow.

However, Moscow has welcomed that the report agreed that photos made by the White Helmets organization’s volunteers who are believed to be connected with al-Nusra Front-linked are fake and staged.

Khan Sheikhoun Incident

The Khan Sheikhoun incident that took place in Syria’s Idlib province on April 4, 2017, left 80 people dead and injured 200 more. While the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, supported by the United States, immediately blamed the Syrian government for using the chemical weapons against civilian population, Damascus has strongly denied the allegations and reiterated that it does not possess any chemical weapons’ arsenal, the full destruction of which was confirmed by the OPCW.

Commenting on the accusations against the Syrian government, Russia has multiple times reiterated its position that all chemical weapons were taken out of Syria in mid-2014with Washington’s assistance and called for a thorough probe into the Khan Sheikhoun events.

Despite Washington immediately blaming Damascus for the alleged chemical attack even before the probe into it was launched, the US has admitted that terrorists in the country are in possession of such weapons.

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US Withdrawal From UNESCO: The Problematic History of US Legislation on I$raHell and Palestine

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US Withdrawal From UNESCO: The Problematic History of US Legislation on Israel and Palestine

By Carly A. KrakowTruthout 

A picture taken on October 12, 2017 shows the flags flying in front of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) headquarters in Paris. The United States said on October 12, 2017 that it was pulling out of the UN's culture and education body, accusing it of 'anti-Israel bias' in a move that underlines Washington's drift away from international institutions. (Photo: Jacques Demarthon / AFP / Getty Images)

A picture taken on October 12, 2017 shows the flags flying in front of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) headquarters in Paris. The United States said on October 12, 2017, that it was pulling out of the UN’s culture and education body, accusing it of “anti-Israel bias” in a move that underlines Washington’s drift away from international institutions. (Photo: Jacques Demarthon / AFP / Getty Images)

The October 12 announcement that the US will withdraw from UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) is a shortsighted, damaging and hyperbolic move from the Trump administration, but just the latest in a series of harmful policies, isolationist on the surface but driven by a dangerous nationalist and militarist approach. When compared to other recent Trump edicts — such as the January executive order restricting citizens of seven countries from entering the US (the “Muslim Ban”), the June announcement that the US will withdraw from the Paris climate agreement or most recently, the destructive decision to “decertify” the Iran Nuclear Deal — US withdrawal from UNESCO (quickly followed by Israeli withdrawal) initially appears to less urgently threaten US stability, particularly since the US will retain UNESCO membership through December 2018. When the context of the withdrawal and the history of US-UNESCO relations are analyzed, however, this action’s symbolic impact and repercussions are alarming — and reveal a problem with roots deeper than the Trump administration’s latest antics.

US Congress, Israel and Palestinian Statehood

Heather Nauert, US State Department spokesperson, cited “concerns with mounting arrears at UNESCO, the need for fundamental reform in the organization, and continuing anti-Israel bias at UNESCO” to justify the withdrawal. The move was lauded by many right-wing members of Congress, consistent with UN-phobic policies. The first point, “mounting arrears,” refers to the US decision to stop funding UNESCO in 2011 under the Obama administration (eliminating approximately one-fifth of UNESCO’s budget), which led to loss of the US vote at the organization and UNESCO budget cuts.

Discontinued payment is inextricably linked with the State Department’s third point, alleged “anti-Israel bias at UNESCO.” The 2011 decision to halt UNESCO funding arose when the organization granted membership to the state of Palestine. UNESCO was the first UN agency in which the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) sought full member status, following the state of Palestine’s September 2011 application for full UN membership.

US legislation from 1990, enacted under the George H.W. Bush administration, established that any UN agency that recognizes Palestinian statehood becomes ineligible to receive US funding. Public Law 101-246 states: “No funds authorized to be appropriated by this Act or any other Act shall be available for the United Nations or any specialized agency thereof which accords the Palestine Liberation Organization the same standing as member states.”

Meanwhile, Public Law 103-236, enacted in 1994 under the Clinton administration, forbids “voluntary or assessed contribution to any affiliated organization of the United Nations which grants full membership as a state to any organization or group that does not have the internationally recognized attributes of statehood.”

What is the history behind this US legislation, which appears to blatantly and unabashedly oppose possible recognition of Palestinian statehood?

The US as an “Indispensable Middleman”?

Proponents of Public Laws 101-246 and 103-236 argue that the laws prevent Palestinian attempts to “circumvent the Middle East peace process … to gain unilateral recognition of statehood.” Closer analysis of the laws and the political climate in which they arose suggests, however, that the laws — and failure to amend them to reflect the changed political climate in the over 20 years that have passed — impede rather than facilitate resolution. Possible recognition of Palestinian statehood is now considered essential to peace, not a threat to peace.

Public law 101-246 arose in the lead-up to the 1991 Madrid peace conference, convened by the US and Soviet Union (already near complete dissolution). Despite public perception of an unprecedented degree of Palestinian success at Madrid, as political economist Sara Roy argues, the Palestinians found themselves in a “weak position” after the conference. Then Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir believed, as Israeli historian Ilan Pappe puts it, that “the status quo was Israel’s best strategy,” and was utterly reluctant to participate.

“Plans for a new wave” of Israeli settlements, designed to “double the Jewish population in the occupied territories in four years,” violating previous promises, were introduced in the lead-up to Madrid, and as Israeli historian Avi Shlaim notes, were “not just incompatible with the peace process,” but were “designed to wreck it.” An emerging internal divide between Fatah and Hamas — which presented itself as a “counterhegemonic force” to Fatah as the Palestinian economy suffered under Israeli control — contributed to peace process stagnation following Madrid.

In the context of the US-Soviet Cold War struggle for global dominance, the US succeeded in assuming “the role of the sole and indispensable middleman and broker” in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as historian James Gelvin writes, and the Madrid conference was one of several key opportunities to solidify this role.

George H.W. Bush did attempt to leverage US funding to pressure Israel to meet international demands to restrict its settlement expansion in 1992. Shlaim describes an unprecedented “American-Palestinian axis” achieved at Madrid, due largely to the Palestinians’ strong performance and moderate approach, an approach the US arguably found closer to its own position than Israel’s intransigent stance spearheaded by Shamir.

However, as Lara Friedman, president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace, wrote in 2011, “Congress was not entirely behind White House efforts related to Madrid.” Hence Public Law 101-246 came about during the Madrid era, and Public Law 103-326 during the Oslo peace process era — ensuring that whatever progress was made in the US-Palestinian relationship, this progress would be legally impeded from culminating in recognition of a Palestinian state by UN bodies. Or, at least UN bodies would only be able to do so while losing sizable US contributions to their budgets.

The 2011 decision to stop funding UNESCO paved the way for the Trump administration to enact a full withdrawal.

2011 was not the US’s first rift with UNESCO. In 1984, the Reagan administration withdrew, also on the grounds that the organization was too critical of Israel, compounded by fears in the midst of the Cold War that UNESCO was “corrupt and too susceptible to Moscow’s influence.” The US rejoined UNESCO in 2002, under George W. Bush’s administration.

In 2011, even after halting funding for UNESCO in retaliation for recognition of Palestinian statehood was legalized, Friedman notes, Congress was not “simply the helpless victim of a law passed 21 years ago during a much different era. If members of [the] 112th Congress wanted to, they could pass new legislation … to avoid a cut-off in funds.” The realistic chances of a congressional amendment were for the 112th congress, and remain for the 115th congress, extremely slim. The Obama administration, in favor of UN involvement, reportedly sought loopholes to continue US funding for UNESCO, but was unsuccessful.

The 2011 decision to stop funding UNESCO paved the way for the Trump administration to enact a full withdrawal. And the 2011 cessation of funding was facilitated and mandated by 1990s peace-process-era legislation seeking to stymie international recognition of Palestinian statehood. In spite of US opposition, the Palestinians have made strides toward international recognition: gaining non-member observer state status at the UN in 2012 and joining the International Criminal Court in 2015.

Though the Trump administration’s action is characteristically provocative, when the US’s historical relationships with both UNESCO and Israel are considered, withdrawal under Trump appears to be more an inevitability than a shock.

UNESCO as a Microcosm of International Politics?

The perspective that the US’s UNESCO withdrawal is the culmination of a long-term problem is supported when UNESCO’s internal politics are taken into account. Just a day after the US and Israeli withdrawals, Audrey Azoulay, the French candidate for UNESCO director-general, defeated the Qatari candidate Hamad bin Abdulaziz al-Kawari. Given the ongoing Saudi Arabia-Qatar conflict, which escalated into a full-scale Gulf diplomatic crisis in June 2017, is it possible that the timing of the US withdrawal from UNESCO had something to do with desire to ensure the failure of the Qatari candidate?

The history of US legislation on Palestine demonstrates a fundamental US discomfort with a strong, unified Palestinian front.

Qatar and the US have long cooperated militarily, even as Qatar is a primary benefactor for Hamas, the ruling faction of the Gaza Strip designated by the US as a terrorist organization. Qatar-US relations have suffered, however, since Trump lashed out at Qatar for allegedly funding terrorism, a hypocritical accusation amidst US ally Saudi Arabia’s history of funding terrorists.

Given this context, it is significant that the US and Israeli withdrawals from UNESCO come directly on the heels of the Palestinian Hamas-Fatah unity agreement, signed the same day as the UNESCO withdrawals, and giving rise to the Palestinian “prospect of negotiating with Israel with a single voice.” The history of US legislation on Palestine demonstrates a fundamental US discomfort with a strong, unified Palestinian front — unity that makes the possibility of an internationally recognized Palestinian state more within reach.

Irina Bokova, UNESCO’s current director-general, questioned the timing of the withdrawals, remarking, “Why now, I don’t know, in the midst of elections.”

The point of this article is not to suggest that Qatari leadership of UNESCO would have been superior or inferior to French leadership. (Qatar has its own problematic history of involvement in international institutions.) It is noteworthy, however, that as of October 10, Qatar’s al-Kawari was the leading contender, with France’s Azoulay in second place, a development that elicited a statement the following day from the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, deeming al-Kawari “unqualified” and anti-Semitic. Carmel Shama-Hacohen, Israel’s UNESCO envoy, called al-Kawari’s initial lead “bad news for the organization,” but on October 9 noted “anything can happen” as the election progresses.

We are in Trump’s era of unprecedented support for Israel, including UN ambassador Nikki Haley’s dogged championing of Israel without any apparent effort to appear balanced. It is significant, therefore, that the US withdrawal from UNESCO — on the grounds that UNESCO has demonstrated an intolerable anti-Israel bias — came about at precisely the same time as the director-general elections, and immediately following the Hamas-Fatah unity deal, which marks the first significant development toward a unified Palestinian negotiating entity in years.

In the Israeli-Palestinian context, the US has a history dating back to the Cold War of prioritizing its own involvement in a leadership capacity over sustainable resolution and peace, at times appearing to perpetuate conflict — and thereby extending its own need for involvement and opportunity for dominance — under the guise of “conflict resolution.”

Trump has proven himself willing and able to do Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s bidding — as long as this bidding also serves Trump’s agenda — and more than willing to trample on US interests to promote grandiose policy moves that he perceives as opportunities to flex his muscles, whatever the cost. US withdrawal from UNESCO also reflects a history of US bias against the Palestinians and an unwavering commitment to Israel, regardless of cost, that predates Trump, and that has its claws firmly entrenched in US politics.

Short-Term Antics, Long-Term Damage

As the president and CEO of The Met in New York, Daniel H. Weiss stated, although UNESCO “may be an imperfect organization, it has been an important leader and steadfast partner” in worldwide cultural preservation.

UNESCO has been the subject of other controversies, such as the decision to deem sites representative of Japan’s Meji industrial revolution World Heritage Sites, amidst criticism from China and South Korea over the sites’ historical associations with forced labor and oppression. But no UNESCO decision has provoked the same level of ire as its actions regarding Israel and Palestine.

In May 2017 a UNESCO resolution criticized Israeli activity in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and defined Israel as an “occupying power,” a fact that has already been established according to international law, but was nevertheless met with outrage from Israel.

Most recently, in July 2017, UNESCO voted to recognize the old city of Hebron in the West Bank and Hebron’s Tomb of the Patriarchs as Palestinian Heritage Sites. The resolution did not declare Hebron exclusively Muslim, Palestinian or Arab, but rather recognized its geographic location in Palestine, and significance for Judaism, Christianity and Islam. As Odeh Bisharat argued in Haaretz, the resolution declared Hebron “holy to three faiths and located in Palestine. Period.” Israel has several UNESCO World Heritage Sites of its own.

Clearly there is more than initially meets the eye when it comes to the US withdrawal from UNESCO. The meaning behind this decision extends further back than 2011’s cessation of US funding for UNESCO following Palestinian accession to the organization as a full member.

Now that the Qatari candidate for director-general has been defeated and the US and Israel have put on a dramatic show, will the US rejoin UNESCO before its withdrawal becomes official in December 2018? Or will Trump follow in Reagan’s footsteps and opt for an extended absence from the organization? This, of course, depends largely on UNESCO’s actions under new leadership in the months ahead, whether Trump and Netanyahu feel the organization sufficiently acquiesces to pressure to shift towards a pro-Israel stance, and whether the organization is willing to prioritize such a stance over its mission in the realms of education, science, culture and communication.

Is the US withdrawal from UNESCO another example of a Trump regime shock tactic, or a long time coming? The answer is twofold. Yes, the withdrawal is reflective of more destructive and shortsighted Trump antics. And — also yes — the policy is indicative of a long, problematic history of US-Palestinian relations, one that appears to have the ability to negatively impact US stability now, in “Trump’s America” more than ever.

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UN finally blacklists Saudi Zio-Wahhabi-led coalition for killing children

Image result for yemen war photos

Is the UN being too soft by only applying sanctions to Saudi Zio-Wahhabi-led coalition for the killing of Yemenis? The UN has sanctioned war and occupation against countries like Iraq for far less than what the Saudis are doing in Yemen.

The world body said that the coalition had been responsible for 683 child casualties and 38 verified attacks on schools and hospitals in 2016. More than 12,000 people have died since the onset of the attacks, according to the latest tallies by the local monitoring group.

The annual blacklist, released by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Thursday, said the actions of the Riyadh-led alliance in Yemen “objectively led to that party being listed for the killing and maiming of children.” Bahrain, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, and Sudan are part of the Saudi Zio-Wahhabi led coalition, which has been bombarding Yemen since early 2015 to restore its Riyadh-friendly government. In an apparent attempt to avoid Saudi Zio-Wahhabi anger, Guterres had already held talks with King Shalom before releasing the list, which does not subject those on the list to any UN action.

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The US Withdraws from UNESCO, Due to Continuing anti-Zio-Nazi Bias

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The US Withdraws from UNESCO, Due to “Continuing anti-Israel Bias at UNESCO”

US domestic law takes precedence over international law, just as it was recently decreed is the case for Russia as well, so no matter how controversial it may be that Washington is pulling out of the globalist body for naked political reasons, it nevertheless has the sovereign right to do so in pursuing its interests as it sees fit.

The Mainstream and even Alternative Medias are in uproar over the US’ decision to withdraw from UNESCO, with the former slamming it for being a violation of globalist principles while the latter is opposed to its stated pro-“Israel” reason in boycotting an organization that supports Palestine. According to State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert:

 On October 12, 2017, the Department of State notified UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova of the US decision to withdraw from the organization … This decision was not taken lightly, and reflects US concerns with mounting arrears at UNESCO, the need for fundamental reform in the organization, and continuing anti-Israel bias at UNESCO.”

From this terse statement, it’s clear that the US is also doing this in order to pressure the UN to submit to Trump’s “’Lead From Behind’ reforms” in having other members do more of the “heavy lifting” (in this case, simply pay more), as well as of course hoping that this move will compel the body to reconsider its support of Palestine. As the clichéd saying goes, “money talks”, and by suspending approximately 22% of the organization’s funding, Washington wants to force its Security Council and G20 counterparts to either pay much more for the indefinite future in compensating for this sudden budgetary deficit, or to submit to its political will in order to “turn the tap back on”.

Trump, being the consummate businessman and author of “The Art of the Deal”, has emphasized on numerous occasions that he will no longer tolerate the US’ partners, and especially the UN for that matter, refusing to “pay their fair share” in whatever multilateral organization it may be and depending on the US to “foot the bill” for them instead. With this in mind, it makes sense why he wants to hit UNESCO where it hurts by withdrawing 22% of its funding, just like what happened in 2011 in protest against the group admitting Palestine as a full member. At that time, Reuters reminded their audience that:

“U.S. legislation prohibits funding to any UN agency that grants full membership to any group that does not have “internationally recognized attributes” of statehood.”

This is significant to keep in mind because it forms the “legal” basis for the US’ actions. The US considers that its domestic law takes precedence over international law, and while this principle was neglected and sometimes outright violated by previous administrations, Trump is trying to make sure that it’s abided by as a means of promoting the US’ interests. To this end, although it may be unethical and immoral for the largest funder of an international organization to withdraw nearly a quarter of the said group’s annual budget as a power play for advancing its own agenda, the fact remains that this is the reality in which the decision is playing out, and the US does indeed desire to shape UNECO according to its own designs by virtue of the country being the body’s largest funder.

No value judgement is being made about this observation, but it deserves to be mentioned that the US isn’t the only country which places its domestic law above international one. President Putin signed legislation at the end of December 2015 decreeing that the Russian Constitution is more important than whatever international agreements Moscow had previously entered into in response to the “European Court of Human Rights’” politicized decision to “award” former jailed billionaire and energy tycoonMikhail Khodorkovsky’s Yukos over $2 billion. As RT reported at the time:

“President Vladimir Putin has signed into law the bill allowing the Constitutional Court to overrule the decisions of international courts if such decisions contradict the principle of supremacy of the Russian Constitution.

The new act published on the government website on Tuesday reads that the Constitutional Court will look into every decision of any intergovernmental body based on an international treaty and find if it matches the Russian Constitution and the rights and freedoms guaranteed by it. Upon such consideration the Constitutional Court can allow the decision to be executed in Russia, in full or in part, or ban its execution – also in full or in part. The ban would automatically cancel any national acts allowing the execution of the unconstitutional ruling.

 The law has been developed and drafted in order to fulfill the mid-July ruling of the Russian Constitutional Court reading that the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) must be individually approved and only carried out if they do not contradict basic Russian law.

In late 2013, the Russian Constitutional Court ruled that it had the right, but not an obligation to decide on the execution of contradictory ECHR decisions in Russia. The July decision expanded the supremacy of the Constitutional Court over foreign judiciaries and international treaties, and established the priority of the Constitution in general.”

This pro-sovereignty move proves that Russia also pursues its own national self-interests at the perceived expense of its supposed international “commitments”, which is similar in a sense to the US’ move to withdraw from UNESCO for related reasons. Moscow, however, wasn’t in a position to essentially blackmail the ECHR when it refused to abide by its decision, unlike Washington’s power in being able to do just that to UNESCO in crippling the organization. In this sense, Russia’s actions didn’t have any tangible “collateral damage” in the state-to-state international sense, while the US’ deliberately seeks to inflict such consequences in order to pressure its counterparts to do its bidding.

This is a crucial distinction to make, as it means that Russia’s execution of pro-sovereignty decisions in the framework of international bodies isn’t aimed against any of its state peers and carries with it no pecuniary punishment against them, whereas the US’ employment of the same appears in this case to be an exercise in international blackmail. Nevertheless, both Russia and the US have the sovereign right to formulate policy based on the presumption that national law takes precedence of its international counterpart, with neither action being objectively “good” or “bad”, but being simply an expression of the Neorealist paradigm of International Relations in proceeding from the basis that the only true motivator of state behavior is self-interest, however it’s subjectively perceived and ultimately plays out.

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UN Takes First Concrete Step to Hold I$raHell Accountable for Violating Palestinian Human Rights

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UN Takes First Concrete Step to Hold Israel Accountable for Violating Palestinian Human Rights

Today’s media reports revealed that the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights began sending letters two weeks ago to 150 companies in Israel and around the globe, warning them that they could be added to a database of complicit companies doing business in illegal Israeli settlements based in the occupied Palestinian West Bank, including East Jerusalem.

The letters reminded these companies that their operations in and with illegal Israeli settlements are in violation of “international law and in opposition of UN resolutions.” They also requested that these companies respond with clarifications about such operations.

According to senior Israeli officials, some of the companies have already responded to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights by saying they won’t renew their contracts or sign new ones in Israel. “This could turn into a snowball,” worried an Israeli official.

Of the 150 companies, some 30 are American firms, and a number are from nations including Germany, South Korea and Norway. The remaining half are Israeli companies, including pharmaceutical giant Teva, the national phone company Bezeq, bus company Egged, the national water company Mekorot, the county’s two biggest banks Hapoalim and Leumi, the large military and technology company Elbit Systems, Coca-Cola, Africa-Israel, IDB and Netafim.

American companies that received letters include Caterpillar, Priceline.com, TripAdvisor and Airbnb.

The Trump administration is reportedly trying to prevent the list’s publication.

Omar Barghouti, co-founder of the BDS movement, commented,

After decades of Palestinian dispossession and Israeli military occupation and apartheid, the United Nations has taken its first concrete, practical step to secure accountability for ongoing Israeli violations of Palestinian human rights. Palestinians warmly welcome this step.

We hope the UN Human Rights Council will stand firm and publish its full list of companies illegally operating in or with Israeli settlements on stolen Palestinian land, and will develop this list as called for by the UN Human Rights Council in March 2016.

It may be too ambitious to expect this courageous UN accountability measure to effectively take Israel “off the pedestal,” as South African anti-apartheid leader Archbishop Desmond Tutu once called for. But if implemented properly, this UN database of companies that are complicit in some of Israel’s human rights violations may augur the beginning of the end of Israel’s criminal impunity.

Featured image is from Mondoweiss.

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UN ‘Still Stinks of Sulfur’ Says Venezuela Foreign Minister Arreaza

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  • Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza.

    Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza. | Photo: Reuters

teleSUR
The Venezuelan official condemned repeated threats made against his country by the U.S. government.

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza recalled the words of former President Hugo Chavez, saying that the podium still “stinks of sulfur” as he opened his speech before member nations at the 72nd U.N. General Assembly in New York City, condemning repeated threats made by U.S. President Donald Trump against his sovereign, free nation.

RELATED: Trump Adds Venezuela and North Korea to Travel Ban

Arreaza slammed Trump’s imposing statements made at the same podium days earlier, saying that his demeanor was reminiscent of a world emperor wielding “dictatorial powers” and making “unilateral threats” against the guiding principles of the U.N. Charter.

Whereas Trump lashed out at Venezuela, calling the administration of President Nicolas Maduro a “socialist dictatorship” that destroyed a once wealthy country, Arreaza reminded the U.S. president — a man who only received enough popular votes to claim second place in last year’s U.S. presidential campaign — that Venezuela has held 22 elections in the past 18 years. The feat, he noted, demonstrates the good faith of Venezuelan democracy.

Arreaza said that four months of political violence had been effectively stopped by the July 30 vote to the National Constituent Assembly and praised the opposition for their decision to participate in upcoming regional elections.

In regards to U.S. imposed sanctions on his nation, Arreaza noted that the measures aim to provoke undemocratic change in the Bolivarian government, emphasizing that the United States had absolutely no moral ground to stand on in respect to police and human rights abuses detailing abuses against Indigenous, African-American and immigrant populations in the United States.

RELATEDBolivia’s Morales Rejects Trump’s Travel Ban on Venezuela

He sent “condolences to the people suffering from the hurricanes and natural disasters in the region” and reiterated that the people of Venezuela will continue to do everything they can to help the region, noting that President Maduro has sent aid to several Caribbean nations, including Cuba, Dominica and Antigua and Barbuda and earthquake-stricken Mexico.

The foreign minister, speaking against climate change said, “Let’s not change the climate, let’s change the system.”

The Deputy Foreign Minister of Nicaragua Maria Rubiales de Chamorro, in a firm statement before the U.N. body said, “Nobody wants military intervention by the United States … Nobody is asking for U.S. to intervene in Latin America or the Caribbean.”

Opening the last day of the General Assembly debate, Uruguay’s Foreign Minister Rodolfo Nin Novoa reiterated Latin American opposition to intervention in the region without naming any country by name. “Intervention has only left a trail of violence in our region,” adding a condemnation of the U.S. blockade against Cuba.

Yesterday, President Donald Trump announced that Venezuela will be added to the list of countries banned from traveling to the United States. The new decree is aimed at “certain Venezuelan government officials and their immediate family members,” according to the White House press office.

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UN Security Council Resolution 2375 on North Korea: Preparation for War?

NOVANEWS

“Decapitation Units” expose the US-ROK Axis of State Terrorism

There is now a discernible pattern to US manipulation of the UN Security Council when it wants UN endorsement for US-NATO acts of aggression. It is a formula which led to the destruction of Iraq and Libya, and in 1950-1953 led to the destruction of North Korea and most of South Korea. This deadly trajectory is once again becoming visible, and the code is revealed in the three words: “all necessary measures,” which are deciphered to mean US-NATO aggressive war.

This formula begins with sanctions under Chapter VII of the UN Charter: approximately eleven sanctions have been inflicted upon North Korea, and four presidential statements. The sanctions are, in themselves aggressive action, intended to weaken and demoralize the intended nation-targeted victim, and ultimately destroy the will, the spirit and unity of the nation. The now twelve sanctions on the DPRK are reminiscent of the words Richard Nixon used for the CIA engineered destruction of the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende in Chile:

“Make the economy scream!!”

The goal of these resolutions is the total destruction of the targeted victim-nation, in the present case, the independent socialist government of North Korea. Because the bar is continually raised, and it is impossible to comply with these imperialistic sanctions without betraying and destroying the core values of the nation being targeted, eventually the US compels the Security Council to announce that more “robust” (violent) measures are required, the end resulting in military attack upon the targeted nation.

Each sanction is a humiliation, an act of psychological violence and an assault on the dignity of the people of the targeted country. The sanctions are intended to cause such misery among the people of the nation targeted that havoc will result, culminating in regime change. If the victim has the strength to resist, more overt aggression will be used.

On September 8, 2017 the U.S. draft resolution revealed their ultimate intent: demanding the power to board North Korean ships, and use “all necessary measures” (military force) to coerce compliance to inspect their cargo. Although this demand was deleted from the sanctions resolution 2375 adopted on September 11, such coercion, if it had remained in the resolution finally agreed upon, would have the violation of the sovereignty of the DPRK, and would have constituted a form of rape of North Korea. Resistance by Russia and China resulted in the abandonment of that particular form of violation of the DPRK, but the cumulative force of the resolutions, now numbering 12, are strangling the economy and people of North Korea, and the US-NATO trajectory seems intent upon some form of military aggression, with or without UN Security Council approval.

In the September 18 issue of “The New Yorker,” author Evan Osnos quotes his North Korean guide, Pak, saying:

“If the US puts sanctions and sanctions and sanctions and sanctions, they drive us to the edge of the cliff, we will attack. That’s how the world wars have started. Don’t push us too hard because you’re going to start a war. And we should say, we’re not going to die alone.”

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg

On September 9, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said:

“North Korea is a global threat and requires a global response; and that, of course, also includes NATO.”

UK’s Defense Minister Michael Fallon supported NATO’s position.

US Ambassador Nikki Haley’s crude insinuation that “North Korea is begging for war” so grossly distorts the truth that the DPRK referred to her as a “political prostitute,” and the US Ambassador’s reference to the Chinese-Russian proposal of “suspension for suspension” as “insulting,” is a shocking repudiation of the only viable step toward beginning negotiated reduction of tension, leading to a peaceful resolution of this crisis. The US Ambassador’s absurd comment reveals her deliberate falsification of the realities involved and her reversal of cause and effect is a form of paranoia. North Korea needs nuclear defenses to protect itself from violent aggression by the South-Korean-US axis.

Article 2 of the China/DPRK Mutual Assistance Treaty obligates China to defend North Korea if the US attacks. If the DPRK attacks first, China will not assist. While the DPRK will not initiate attack, ever, it is being subjected to intolerable provocations, set-ups and false-flag operations which may make it impossible to avoid counter-actions in defense.

The US Ambassador, many of the Security Council members, willingly or unwillingly and many others elsewhere are, it seems, deliberately refusing to respect, nor take responsibility for the horrifying massacre of 3-4 million North Koreans between 1950-1953, and ignore fact that the ongoing menace of South Korean and US military threats are inflicting an unendurable state of terror upon North Koreans, to which they must respond in the only way that will either ensure their survival or raise the cost of an attack against them to a point that the US-NATO-Japan- ROK axis are reluctant or unwilling to pay.

It is therefore alarming evidence of a stealthy plan to attack and overwhelm the DPRK in every conceivable way, that yesterday’s New York Times announced South Korea’s plan to “Decapitate” the North Korean leadership. …”The measures have raised questions about whether South Korea and the United States, its most important ally, are laying the groundwork to kill or incapacitate Mr. Kim and his top aides before they can even order an attack.” This again recalls the Nixon-Kissinger-CIA Chilean coup scenario, when “make the economy scream” was not sufficient to incite a popular uprising to overthrow the government of Socialist President Allende, and the honorable Chilean top military leadership refused to enact a coup d’etat, which would have violated the constitution. Thereupon, the Nixon-Kissinger-CIA axis arranged the assassination of Chile’s loyal top military leaders, beginning with General Rene Schneider, who was kidnapped and murdered for refusing to stage a coup, and his loyal second in command, General Carlos Prats was cruelly degraded and forced out of Chile. Eventually the CIA found a compliant officer, and a pawn, Pinochet.

The leadership of the DPRK has sought meetings with the US leadership for decades. The North Koreans never refused negotiations. The US refused all such meetings, perhaps assuming they could impose US will by force, in any case. South Korean “Decapitation Units” directly contradict US Secretary of State Tillerson’s assurance that the US “does not seek regime change, nor regime collapse.” The new South Korean “Decapitation Unit,” the “Spartan 3000, will be mandated to conduct ‘cross-border raids with retooled helicopters and transport planes that penetrate North Korea at night.” This is a situation absolutely identical to the South Korean provocations that led to the 1950-1953 Korean war.

During the September 11 Security Council meeting at which the new sanctions resolution was adopted, Chinese Ambassador Liu stated:

“We hope the US will incorporate the following four ‘don’ts into its relevant policies regarding the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea: don’t seek regime change, don’t incite a collapse of the regime, don’t seek an accelerated reunification effort of the peninsula, and don’t send its military north of the thirty-eighth parallel.”

Russian Ambassador Nebenzia stated: “The measures involving financial and economic pressure on the leadership of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had basically been exhausted and any further restrictions would be tantamount to attempts to suffocate its economy, including the placing of a total embargo on the country and provoking a deep humanitarian crisis. In other words, what we are talking about here is not just cutting off the channels that allow for banned nuclear and missile activities, but, rather, inflicting unacceptable damage on innocent civilians……Furthermore, the authors’ unwillingness to include in the resolution the idea of using the good offices and mediation potential of the Secretary-General, as well as the refusal to reaffirm the statement made by the United States Secretary of State, Mr. Tillerson, on the ‘Four Nos’—that there are no plans to start a war, effect regime change, force the reunification of the two Koreas or violate the 38th parallel—all give rise to very serious questions in our minds to which we have not yet received answers.

The UN Secretary General is adamantly opposed to a military solution, and equally adamant that only a negotiated solution is permissible. However, the US opposes his utilizing his “good offices” to peacefully resolve the crisis.

While it is impossible to predict the outcome, when taken together, the US actions seem to indicate their intent to attack the DPRK, overtly or covertly, or through proxies, though the risks are catastrophic. Only the dangerous possibility of China’s involvement could deter this intent. North Korea is now being crushed economically and subjected to intolerable provocations. Although the “status quo” may appear to be in the interest of all parties, recalcitrant and irrational aggressive forces are being unleashed within US-NATO, with or without UN authorization. If US-NATO military power is permitted to obliterate North Korea, their resultant intoxication with military force, combined with their economic weakness makes it inevitable that China and Russia are their next quarry. It is imperative that Russia and China take this seriously, as they surely do. The time is long overdue for Russia and China to use their veto power. Their appeasement of US/NATO interests is short-sighted and enabling a war of possibly incalculable proportions. It is preferable to live with a nuclear armed North Korea than to die in a nuclear holocaust. Indeed, even the venerable Susan Rice factored in this option.

Former President Jimmy Carter (Source: The Carter Center / Facebook)

And it is time for US-NATO to heed the words of former President Jimmy Carter:

“The North Koreans emphasized that they wanted peaceful relations with the United States and their neighbors, but were convinced that we planned a preemptive military strike against their country. They want a peace treaty, especially with America to replace the ceasefire agreement that had existed since the end of the Korean war in 1953, and to end the economic sanctions that had been very damaging to them during that long interim period. A commitment to peace by the United States and North Korea is crucial.”

Yesterday the North Korean Foreign Ministry stated that the UN Security Council resolutions are an “infringement on its legitimate right to self-defense, and aim at completely suffocating its state and people through full-scale economic blockade.” These United Nations Resolutions are deliberate provocations, actually inflaming and exacerbating this crisis. And it is possible that the authors of the September 11 Resolution anticipated and actually intended this outcome. War is profitable. It should be no surprise that today North Korea launched another missile, demonstrating its capacity. And today the UN Security Council is holding another “emergency” meeting. One can only hope that Russia and China will take a stand against any continuation of this vicious spiral.

Posted in USA, North Korea, UNComments Off on UN Security Council Resolution 2375 on North Korea: Preparation for War?

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani delivers clear and calm rebuttal of Trump’s hostile remarks at UN

NOVANEWS
Image result for ISRAELI NUCLEAR CARTOON
By Adam Garrie | The Duran 

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has addressed the General Assembly in a short speech that primarily covered Iran’s foreign policy outlook, its specific goals for peace and an unambiguous warning against anyone who seeks to undermine the 2013 JCPOA (aka the Iran nuclear deal).

President Rouhani used the word ‘moderation’ throughout the speech. He characterised Iran’s history, contemporary outlook and policy positions as quintessentially moderate.

After paying tribute to Iranian voters who recently re-elected him as President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, he then set out to define Iran’s definition of moderation in the following way.

“Moderation is the inclination as well as the chosen path of the great Iranian people. Moderation seeks neither isolation nor hegemony. It implies neither indifference nor intransigence. The path of moderation is the path of peace, but a just a inclusive peace; not peace for one nation and war and turmoil for others. Moderation is freedom and democracy, but in an inclusive and comprehensive manner, not purporting to promote freedom in one place while supporting dictators elsewhere. Moderation is the synergy of ideas and not the dance of swords. Finally, the path of moderation nurtures beauty. Deadly weapons exports are not  beautiful, rather peace is beautiful.

We in Iran strive to promote peace…. we never condone tyranny and always defend the voiceless. We never threaten anyone  but we do not tolerate threats from anyone. Our discourse is one of dignity and respect. We are unmoved by threats and intimidation. We believe in dialogue and negotiation based on equal footing and mutual respect”.

Rouhani then briefly turned to the issue of Palestine. He stated that a “rogue and racist state” (Israel) cannot trample on the rights of Palestinians in the 21st century. He continued, citing Iran’s historic record of helping minorities and the oppressed.

Rouhani stated,

“Iran is a bastion of tolerance… we are the same people who rescued Jews from Babylonian servitude… open our arms to receive Armenian Christians in our midst”.

He explained further, that just as Iran fought for Jews in the past, today Iran fights for the rights of oppressed Palestinians. He stated, “We support justice and seek tranquillity”.

Rouhani then described Iran’s fight against Takriri/Salafist terrorism as a fight based on ethics and humanity rather than one of conquest. The Iranian President said that Iran does not seek to restore its empire nor export revolution through the force of arms. He contrasted this with the ‘boots on the ground’ approach of “neo-colonialists”.

Turning once again to the theme of moderation, Rouhani said that Iran does not merely preach moderation but practices it. He said that the JCPOA is a primary example of moderate geo-political behaviour.

Rouhani then said that the JCPOA which has been applauded by the wider international community, both in the east and west, can become a new model of interaction between nations. The clear inference here was to North Korea. Even German leader Angela Merkel who supports the JCPOA along with her EU colleagues are suggesting using it as a model for bringing about de-escalation on the Korean peninsula.

Hassan Rouhani then stated that Iran never sought nuclear weapons and does not now. He remarked that it is “ridiculous” for a country, Israel,  which has nuclear weapons and has signed not a single international protocol for nuclear safety has the “audacity” to preach to peaceful nations.

He then stated,

“Iran will not be the first country to violate the JCPOA but will respond resolutely to its violation by any party”.

While he did not name Donald Trump or the United States, Rouhani said that yesterday, words were spoken in the General Assembly that were “hateful” and “unfit to be heard in the UN which was established to promote peace…”.

He went on to say that Iran’s missiles are for defensive purposes and to prevent against the “adventurous tendencies” of others, before stating

“The US should explain why after spending the assets of its own people, why instead of contribution to peace, it has only brought war, misery poverty and the rise of terrorism and extremism to the region”.

Rouhani concluded by praising Iran’s economic reforms and subtly alluded to Iran’s increased participation in joint economic ventures, the clear reference being to China’s One Belt–One Road initiative.

The Iranian President concluded by inviting all those who seek peace to visit Iran which has been historically hospitable to such individuals.

Rouhani’s speech did exactly what it should have done given the circumstances. It was a calm and clear articulation of Iran’s position in the region and the wider world. By citing the wide international support for the JCPOA, including among NATO members and other US allies, Rouhani has made it clear that the US and Israel are isolated in their anger towards the deal.

Rouhani also highlighted US hypocrisy in supporting Israel’s technically non-disclosed nuclear arsenal while accusing Iran of wanting nuclear weapons without evidence and contrary to the clear statements from Iran.

Rather than reacting aggressively to Donald Trump’s provocative speech, Rouhani’s calm and at times poetic approach to the issues, put the ball squarely in the US court. As it stands, the US is currently sending mixed signals in respect of whether Trump seeks to formally pull out of the JCPOA.

Posted in Iran, UNComments Off on Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani delivers clear and calm rebuttal of Trump’s hostile remarks at UN

The AbuZayd-Pinheiro Committee: Systematic Misinformation on Syria

NOVANEWS

AbuZayd Pinheiro b6c44

(Karen Koning Abuzayd on the left and Sergio Paulo Pinheiro on the right. Image credit: UN Geneva/ flickr)
By Tim Anderson | American Herald Tribune 

In mid 2012, as foreign jihadists poured into Syria, UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon authorised replacement of the Special Mission on Syria (UNSMIS) with a Geneva-based ‘Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria’ (IICOIOS), co-chaired by US diplomat Karen Koning AbuZayd and Brazilian Paolo Pinheiro.

Unlike UNSMIS, led by Norwegian General Robert Mood and based in Syria, the IICOIOS was based in Geneva, never visited Syria and was deeply compromised by its link to US diplomacy and its reliance on jihadist sources. The US Government, by then, was arming anti-government jihadist groups in Syria. Ban had thus embedded a deep conflict of interest in a nominally ‘independent’ UN agency.

The Abuzayd-Pinheiro group, joined by Italian lawyer Carla del Ponte, issued a series of distant reports which echoed western war propaganda against Syria. Notable amongst these were reports on the 2012 Houla massacre, a report on the 2016 liberation of Aleppo, and a recent report which seeks to blame a series of chemical weapons attacks in 2017 on the Syrian Government. Carla del Ponte, in a better moment, revealed in mid 2013 that the first use of sarin gas in Syria was by Jabhat al Nusra. But none of this appeared in the group’s reports.

In a pretence at even handedness, the group has made criticism of the terrorist groups and the US-led bombardment of Syrian cities. However when it comes to accusations against the Syrian Government it pays literally no attention to genuinely independent evidence, such as that from Syrian civilians who have blamed jihadists for ‘false flag’ massacres, and reports from the US military forensic expert Professor Ted Postol.

The result is what we might expect of a US-embedded organ: a partisan adjunct to official war propaganda, vilifying the Syrian Government and the soldiers of the Syrian Arab Army, as they struggle to defend their country. The UN group’s systematically distorted misinformation, during a war, most likely constitutes a war crime, as propaganda for war is prohibited. Let’s look at three key reports.

The Abuzayd-Pinheiro’s first report, on the May 2012 Houla massacre, set a standard for low grade but well timed war propaganda. As I document in chapter eight of my book The Dirty War on Syria (Anderson 2016), 15 independent witnesses gave great detail about the massacre of over 100 villagers in rural Homs by members of the Farouq Brigade (FSA) and several named local collaborators. The jihadists, expelled from Homs city by the Syrian Army, took revenge on families in Houla who had participated in recent elections, violating the jihadists’ call for a boycott.

UNSMIS head General Robert Mood had recognised conflicting reports coming from Houla, which was then under Farouq-FSA control. However UNSMIS was rapidly disbanded and the Abuzayd-Pinheiro group issued a report which unambiguously blamed pro-army civilian militia (‘shabiha’). Based on a few long-distance interviews, arranged by the Farouq brigade, they IICOIOS tried to blame the atrocity on the Syrian Government. However, unlike the local eyewitnesses (reported by Syrian, European and Russian media), they could provide no names, little detail and no motive (HRC 2012: 20).

Their report came before a UN Security Council meeting in which the US sought authorisation for Libyan-style attacks on Syria in the name of ‘civilian protection’ (a ‘no fly zone’). The manoeuvre failed and the report was strongly criticised at the UNSC, with Russia, China and India refusing to accept it as a basis for action. However it was used as a pretext for many other countries to downgrade their relations with Syria.

Almost five years later the AbuZayd-Pinheiro group tried to portray as a ‘crime’ the liberation of the city of Aleppo from al Qaeda aligned groups. They paid no attention to the thousands of relieved and celebrating civilians who had been rescued from al Qaeda held East Aleppo. Once again the assertions were reckless and partisan. The group falsely claimed that the liberation of the city had involved ‘daily air strikes’ on the eastern part of Aleppo city (HRC 2017: 19). Yet it was reported widely in foreign media that air strikes on the east part of the city were suspended on 18 October (BBC 2016; Xinhua 2016). NPR’s Merrit Kennedy (2016) reported ‘several weeks of relative calm’ during the ‘humanitarian pause, aimed at evacuating civilians. The ‘resumption’ of airstrikes almost one month later was aimed at the armed groups in rural Aleppo, not on the shrinking parts of the city held by the jihadists (Pestano 2016; Graham-Harrison 2016). Of course, al Qaeda aligned ‘media activists’ did claim the city was being continuously bombed (CNN 2016). However the UN commission, as Gareth Porter pointed out, ‘did not identify sources for its narrative … [but rather] accepted the version of the events provided by the ‘White Helmets’’, a jihadist auxiliary funded by the US and UK governments (Porter 2017). This report seemed to belatedly support calls by the UN Secretary General’s representative, Stefan di Mistura, for the Syrian Government to allow jihadist groups to maintain control of a lage part of the country’s second city. Syria would never allow that to happen.

In its most recent report of September 2017 the AbuZayd-Pinheiro group criticised terrorist groups and the US air strikes, in a pretence at impartiality. But it added a remarkable claim that had no basis in independent evidence: that ‘government forces continued the pattern of using chemical weapons against civilians in opposition held areas’. Abuzayd-Pinheiro claimed that 20 of 25 chemical weapons attacks in 2017 ‘were perpetrated by government forces’, referring to incidents at Khan Sheikhoun, al Latamneh and East Ghouta (HRC 2017b: 1, 14). Yet critical, independent evidence from US Professor Ted Postol had disproved the notion that the Khan Sheikhoun incident came from an air strike (Postol 2017). Indeed, the Syrian Government says the Army never once used chemical weapons during the 2011-2017 conflict, and no independent evidence contradicts this position. For example, in chapter nine of my book (Anderson 2016) I document the catalogue of independent evidence that discredited the ‘chemical weapons ‘false flag’ in the East Ghouta, of August 2013.

So, on what evidence were AbuZayd-Pinheiro’s claims based? They refer to interviews with victims and aid providers in jihadist controlled areas, some satellite images, a report of the UN’s OPCW (which did not attribute blame) and a non-response from the Syrian Government (HRC 2017b: 14-16). Clearly Damascus refuses to cooperate with AbuZayd-Pinheiro because of their previous propaganda activity. In the case of Khan Sheikhoun incident, the OPCW refused Russian invitation to visit and investigate, preferring to rely on information and samples provided by jihadist groups and their auxiliaries, such as the US-UK funded ‘White Helmets’. Once again, virtually all evidence cited by the Abuzayd-Pinheiro group came from US-backed and jihadist sources – al Nusra aka Hayat Tahrir al Sham, Ahrar al Sham, Jaish al Islam and Faylaq al Rahman (HRC 2017b: 14-16).

This latest AbuZayd-Pinheiro report came as the Syrian Army broke a three-year ISIS siege on the eastern City of Deir Ezzor. Fake chemical weapons claims at this time might briefly distract from this latest Syrian victory over the NATO-Saudi proxy armies, but they carry less import than before. Nevertheless, this US-led ‘independent’ group showed itself partisan and propagandist to the end.

 

References

Anderson, Tim (2016a) The Dirty War on Syria, Global Research, Montreal

Anderson, Tim (2016b) ‘Daraa 2011: Syria’s Islamist Insurrection in Disguise’, Global Research, 16 March, online:http://www.globalresearch.ca/daraa-2011-syrias-islamist-insurrection-in-disguise/5460547

BBC (2016) ‘Syria war: Russia halts Aleppo bombing for humanitarian pause’, 18 October, online: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-37689063

CNN (2016) ‘Syria: Aleppo pounded by ‘heaviest bombardment’ since war began’, 21 November, online: http://edition.cnn.com/2016/11/20/middleeast/syria-aleppo-airstrikes/index.html

HRC (2012) ‘Oral Update of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic’, Human Rights Commission, 26 June, online: http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/HRBodies/HRCouncil/CoISyria/OralUpdateJune2012.pdf

HRC (2017) ‘Report of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic’ [Aleppo report], A/HRC/34/64, 2 February, online: https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G17/026/63/PDF/G1702663.pdf?OpenElement

HRC (2017b) ‘Report of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic‘, 8 August, A/hrc/36/55, online

Porter, Gareth (2017) ‘A Flawed UN investigation on Syria’, Consortium News, 11 march, online: https://consortiumnews.com/2017/03/11/a-flawed-un-investigation-on-syria/

Graham-Harrison, Emma (2016) ‘Aleppo airstrikes restart as Russia announces major Syria offensive’, The Guardian, 16 November, online:https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/nov/15/aleppo-airstrikes-resume-as-russia-announces-major-syria-offensive

Kennedy, Merrit (2016) ‘After Rocky Pause, Airstrikes Resume On Syria’s Aleppo’, NPR, 15 November, online: http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/11/15/502129917/after-rocky-pause-airstrikes-resume-on-syrias-aleppo

Pestano, Andrew V. (2016) ‘Aleppo airstrikes resume after 3-week pause’, UPI, 15 November, online: http://www.upi.com/Top_News/World-News/2016/11/15/Aleppo-airstrikes-resume-after-3-week-pause/8561479211543/

Xinhua (2016) ‘News Analysis: Suspended Russian airstrikes encourage rebels to unleash major offensive in Aleppo’, 29 October, online:http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2016-10/29/c_135788805.htm

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