Haim Saban and Barack Obama pay tribute to Hillary Clinton: “People can work together on behalf of the country they love”
Aired: November 30, 2012 on C-SPAN
The Saban Forum 2012 (which focuses on Middle East issues as related to U.S. foreign policy) kicked off with a keynote speech by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Clinton’s remarks were immediately preceded by a tribute video to her career in service of the United States. President Barack Obama, Senator John McCain, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and others are featured offering praise for Secretary Clinton’s life, career, and good works.
- Not Even a Star-Studded Tribute Can Convince Hillary Clinton to Run for President (Yet) (jezebel.com)
- The case against Hillary (salon.com)
- Hillary is Running: A Dispatch from the Saban Forum (newyorker.com)
The American Consulate in Jerusalem has withdrawn scholarships awarded to students in Gaza to study in the United States after Israel announced it would deny them permission to travel outside the coastal enclave, the Associated Press reported Monday.
“Under Israeli pressure, US officials have quietly canceled a two-year-old scholarship program for students in the Gaza Strip, undercutting one of the few American outreach programs to people in the Hamas-ruled territory,” the AP reported.
It added: “The program now faces an uncertain future, just two years after being launched with great fanfare by US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton during a visit to the region.”
Israel, which has imposed a paralyzing land, air and sea blockade on Gaza since 2007, allowed the students to travel when the program originally launched, but now cites security concerns over its decision to deny them travel permits.
Israel bans Palestinians of Gaza from travelling to the West Bank except in rare cases. The ban also applies to students who want to travel to the West Bank to study.
Israel’s supreme court last month upheld the ban after rights groups petitioned to allow five students from Gaza to travel to the West Bank for a master’s program.
Across most of the American political spectrum, policy elites are urging that the United States double down on the Obama administration’s failing Syria policy. America’s reliably pro-intervention senatorial trio (Lindsay Graham, Joseph Lieberman, and John McCain) recently argued that the “risks of inaction in Syria,” see here, now outweigh the downsides of American military involvement. Last week, the Washington Post prominently featured a piece by Ken Pollack, see here, asserting that negotiated settlements “rarely succeed in ending a civil war” like that in Syria—even though that it precisely what ended the civil war in Lebanon, right next door to Syria. From this faulty premise, Pollack argues that the only way to end a civil war like that in Syria is through military intervention. (After his scandalously wrong case for the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, we wonder why the Washington Post or anyone else would give Pollack a platform for disseminating his views on virtually any Middle Eastern topic—but especially not for a piece dealing with the advisability of another U.S. military intervention in the region. In this regard, we note that the bio line at the end of Ken’s op ed makes no mention of his book that made the case for the U.S. invading Iraq, The Threatening Storm, describing him instead as “the author of A Path Out of the Desert: A Grand Strategy for America in the Middle East.)
A more chilling—and, in some ways, more candid—indicator of the direction in which the debate over American policy toward Syria is heading was provided last week in Foreign Policy by Robert Haddick (managing editor of the hawkish blog, Small War Journal), see here. Remarkably, Haddick argues that,
“rather than attempting to influence the course of Syria’s civil war, something largely beyond Washington’s control, U.S. policymakers should instead focus on strengthening America’s diplomatic position and on building irregular warfare capabilities that will be crucial in future conflicts in the region. Modest and carefully circumscribed intervention in Syria, in coordination with America’s Sunni allies who are already players in the war, will bolster critical relationships and irregular warfare capabilities the United States and its allies will need for the future.”
And why is bolstering these relationships and capabilities so critical? Because, as Haddick writes,
“The conflict in Syria is just one front in the ongoing competition between Iran and America’s Sunni allies on the west side of the Persian Gulf… The Sunni countries have a strong interest in stepping up their irregular warfare capabilities if they are to keep pace with Iran during the ongoing security competition. The civil war in Syria provides an opportunity for the United States and its Sunni allies to do just that… U.S. and GCC intelligence officers and special forces could use an unconventional warfare campaign in Syria as an opportunity to exchange skills and training, share resources, improve trust, and establish combined operational procedures. Such field experience would be highly useful in future contingencies. Equally important, it would reassure the Sunni countries that the United States will be a reliable ally against Iran.”
Foreign Policy has become arguably the leading online venue for topical discussion of key issues on America’s international agenda. And it is giving its platform to an argument that Washington should leverage the “opportunity” provided by the civil war in Syria to help its regional allies get better at killing Shi’a. And Washington should do this for the goal of prevailing in “the ongoing security competition” between the Islamic Republic and the United States (along with America’s “Sunni allies).
Such trends in the American policy debate show an appalling incapacity to learn from either current experience or history. And these trends are, in fact, influencing actual policy. Late last week, during a visit by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Turkey, Ankara and Washington agreed that “a unified task force with intelligence, military and political leaders from both countries would be formed immediately to track Syria’s present and plan for its future,” see here. After meeting with her Turkish counterpart, Ahmet Davutoğlu, Secretary Clinton said that the United States and Turkey are discussing various options for supporting opposition forces working to overthrow the government of President Bashar al-Assad, including the possibility of imposing a no-fly zone over rebel-held territory in Syria, see here.
In the wake of Clinton’s remarks, Flynt appeared on CCTV’s World Insight weekly news magazine to discuss the internal and international dimensions of the Syrian conflict, see here. Flynt and both of the other guests on the segment—Jia Xiudong from the China Institute of International Studies and our colleague Seyed Mohammad Marandi from the University of Tehran—agreed, contra Pollack, that the only way to resolve what has become a civil war in Syria is through an inclusive political process.
Getting to the heart of the matter, Flynt pointed out that “the United States and its regional partners are trying to use Syria to shift the balance of power in the Middle East in ways that they think will be bad for Iran.” This strategy is “ultimately doomed to fail”—but, as long as Washington and others are pursuing it, “the international community is going to be challenged to find ways to keep the violence from getting worse and try to get a political process started.” Flynt also observed that China and other players in the international community have historical grounds for concern about the imposition of a no-fly zone in Syria to create so-called “humanitarian safe havens” could lead to: since the end of the Cold War, every time that the United States has imposed humanitarian safe havens—in Somalia, Bosnia, Iraq, and most recently in Libya—this has ultimately resulted in a heavily militarized intervention by the United States and its partners in pursuit of coercive regime change.
In part, American elites persist in their current course regarding Syria because they continue to persuade themselves that, in the “security competition” between America and Iran, the United States is winning and the Islamic Republic is losing. At roughly the same time that Pollack and Haddick were holding forth last week, the New York Times offered an Op Ed by Harvey Morris purporting to explain Iran’s “paranoia” over Syria’s civil war by describing “What Syria Looks Like from Tehran,” see here. Morris claims that
“the impact of regime change in the Arab World has in fact been largely negative from Tehran’s perspective. The Muslim Brotherhood leadership in Egypt is closer to Saudi Arabia than it is to Iran. If the Alawite-dominated regime in Damascus were to fall, it would mean the loss of a non-Sunni ally.”
Our analysis—of both Tehran’s perspective on, and the reality of, how the Arab Spring is affecting the regional balance of power—is diametrically opposite to Morris’s. For an actual (and genuinely informed) Iranian view, we note that Al Jazeera devoted last week’s episode of its Inside Syria series to the topic, “Can Iran Help End the Syrian Crisis?,” see here. Once again, our colleague from the University of Tehran, Seyed Mohammad Marandi, gave a clear and concise exposition of Iranian views on the imperatives of and requirements for serious mediation of the struggle in (and over) Syria.
- Syria and the Invisible Hand of Foreign Intervention (nationalinterest.org)
On 7 August 2012, following a meeting with the Foreign Minister of South Africa, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, Hillary Clinton who was asked about the situation in Syria had this to say:
“I do think we can begin talking about and planning for what happens next, the day after the regime does fall. I’m not going to put a timeline on it. I can’t possibly predict it, but I know it’s going to happen, as does most observers around the world. So we have to make sure that the state’s institutions stay intact. We have to make sure that we send very clear expectations about avoiding sectarian warfare. Those who are attempting to exploit the misery of the Syrian people, either by sending in proxies or sending in terrorist fighters, must recognize that that will not be tolerated, first and foremost by the Syrian people.”
- The U.S. Secretary of State rebuffs any involvement by third parties, yet she is preparing to administer a country that does not belong to her.
- Clinton condemns terrorism, even though she hailed the July 18 attack in Damascus which decapitated the Syrian military command, and her President, Barack Obama, has signed a secret directive to practice terrorism in Syria.
Sudan and South Sudan have hammered out a deal on how to share their oil wealth, one of a series of disputes that brought the rivals to the brink of all-out war earlier this year, it was announced on Saturday.
“The parties have agreed on all of the financial arrangements regarding oil, so that’s done,” African Union (AU) mediator Thabo Mbeki said early on Saturday after talks in the Ethiopian capital.
The two countries had faced an August 2 deadline set by the United Nations to resolve their differences on oil and borders, and Mbeki said they would meet next month to try to find a compromise on the disputed region of Abyei, whose status was the most sensitive issue left unresolved before South Sudan’s independence.
The former South African leader said a timetable would now be drawn up for the resumption of oil production and exports, which are vital to the economies of both deeply impoverished countries.
“What will remain, given that there is an agreement, is to then discuss the next steps as to when the oil companies should be asked to prepare for resumption of production and export,” he said.
The AU has been mediating long-running talks to try to resolve a series of disputes that have flared since South Sudan became independent in July 2011 following a 2005 peace deal that ended one of Africa’s longest civil wars.
Landlocked South Sudan took with it three-quarters of the oil held by the previously united nation, but the pipelines and processing facilities remained in Sudan.
And the two sides were unable to agree on how much Juba should pay to export its crude through a northern pipeline and port, leading the South to shut down production in January after Khartoum began seizing the oil in lieu of payment.
Oil generates about 98 percent of South Sudan’s revenue and the move crippled the economies of both countries.
Ahead of the agreement announced by Mbeki, Sudan had lowered its demand for oil fees from South Sudan. Sudan had been seeking up to $36 a barrel in fees, but in a position paper released on Thursday said it was proposing $22.20 a barrel, compared with $7.61 offered by South Sudan.
Despite the oil agreement, South Sudan’s chief negotiator Pagan Amum accused Khartoum of violating a peace plan drawn up by the African Union in April urging both sides to reach a comprehensive deal on all outstanding issues.
“The government of Sudan continues to violate the road map and continues to bomb South Sudan,” Amum told reporters.
“The (AU) peace and security council in its road map and resolution decided that they would impose sanctions on Sudan if they fail to comply, Sudan has failed to comply,” he said.
Mbeki’s announcement came hours after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called on the two Sudans to strike an urgent compromise on outstanding issues such as oil revenue sharing, security, citizenship and border demarcation, saying the countries “remain inextricably linked”.
Clinton’s comments came after a meeting with South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir in Juba as part of her tour of Africa.
Sudan accuses South Sudan of supporting insurgents on its territory, a charge that analysts believe despite denials by Juba, which in turn accuses Khartoum of backing rebels south of the border.
The two countries fought along their undemarcated frontier in March and April, sparking fears of wider war and leading to a UN Security Council resolution that ordered a ceasefire.
Mbeki said an agreement had also been reached between Sudan, the United Nations, the AU and the Arab League to allow for humanitarian access in the conflict-wracked Blue Nile and South Kordofan states.
Prolonged clashes between Sudanese forces and rebel groups in the two disputed territories have left thousands in a “desperate state” and in need of emergency aid, according to the United Nations.
- Sudan, South Sudan reach oil deal (english.ruvr.ru)
On 11 July 2012, The Independent’s Andrew Buncombe reported on US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton’s visit ‘to the scene of one of the darkest episodes of US foreign policy’ – Laos, where she ‘saw first-hand the aftermath of America’s “secret war” in which about two million tons of bombs were dropped on the country’. ‘For its population’, Buncombe explained, ‘it is the most heavily bombed place on earth’ where ‘about 30 per cent of the ordnance remains unexploded’. Such a ratio is undoubtedly alarming, and should raise questions which as yet go unanswered.
To begin, we should ask if such bombing constitutes a war crime. That the ‘580,000 bombing raids over Laos’ carried out by the US military between 1964 and 1975 – each bomb of which ‘contain[s] up to 600 smaller bomblets’, and from which ‘an estimated 50,000 people’ have been killed ‘since the end of the war’ (‘many of them children’) – were ‘part of a secret mission to cut off supply routes for North Vietnamese forces’ during the Vietnam war, surely fails to justify the destruction. In his report, Buncombe does not mention, for example, that most of those killed during the raids were innocent and defenceless peasants. T D Allman reported the Plain of Jars in 1971 as ‘empty and ravaged’ by saturation bombing which was ‘used in an attempt to extinguish all human life’1. At the very least, the methods employed in the ‘secret mission’ should raise questions about the motives behind the war as a whole. Of course, no such thoughts are expressed. Needless to say, the notion that the merciless destruction wrought by the United States against Laos and/or Vietnam, may be tantamount to a war crime, does not arise.
Regardless, all of this is forgivable, it seems, because Secretary of State Clinton ‘vowed that Washington would do more to help those still suffering from the legacy of America’s Cold War actions’. Indeed, ‘Reports say the US has already spent around £43m to help Laos clear unexploded bombs and will spend another £9m this year’. The intention in citing these figures appears to be to imply that the US has already made a substantial, perhaps charitable, effort. Certainly, £52m from a superpower which happens to be one of the richest nations in the world is undoubtedly more than enough compensation for nine years of bombing, and anyone who thinks otherwise is obviously ungrateful or insane; most likely both. After all, how much did the two million tons of bombs cost? Reports such as Allman’s (cited above) beg the question as to why vows of ‘help’ by US administration officials are taken at face value. Clearly, the most basic review of US foreign policy indicates that such actions are not necessarily of primary concern.
It is conceded that Clinton ‘is seeking to counter growing Chinese influence in the region . . . [and that she] also discussed . . . investment opportunities’. The ‘four-hour visit to Laos, en route to Cambodia’ was, then, not entirely selfless. Still, it was ‘the first US Secretary of State visit to the South-east Asian nation since 1955’ – a fact which must bring significant comfort to the 50,000 killed and ‘maimed by decades-old ordnance’. Indeed, the visit was not the easiest for Clinton, who described it as a ‘painful reminder of the legacy of the Vietnam war era’. A 20 year old Laotian who lost his sight and both his hands on his 16th birthday, after picking up a cluster bomb which subsequently ‘blew up in his face’, spoke ‘in faltering English’, of ‘So many survivors without help’, adding that ‘Their life is very, very hard’. Is it this difficulty of life for innocent victims of ‘America’s Cold War actions’ which determines the past in Laos to ‘always [be] with us’, as Clinton herself exclaimed? Perhaps it is this same past that discouraged high-ranking US officials from visiting the country over the past 57 years. Maybe they simply could not afford the trip, given the £43m they were to spend up until today? Perhaps it was the 30 per cent of unexploded ordnance which was such a turn off?
We may ask what other ‘secret mission[s]’ were conducted during the Vietnam war by the United States; who else is still ‘suffering from the legacy of America’s Cold War actions’? Let us take Cambodia, another stop on Clinton’s tour. It too was bombed covertly – illegally, from the mid-1960s to the early 1970s, slaughtering hundreds of thousands. It has subsequently been argued that the bombing campaign was in a large part responsible for the mass recruitment to the Khmer Rouge. In a study of US Air Force files released some years ago, Ben Kiernan and Taylor Owen write:
Civilian casualties in Cambodia drove an enraged populace into the arms of an insurgency that had enjoyed relatively little support until the bombing began, setting in motion the expansion of the Vietnam War deeper into Cambodia, a coup d’état in 1970, the rapid rise of the Khmer Rouge, and ultimately the Cambodian genocide.
The study demonstrated, not only that the bombing of Cambodia began in 1965 under the Johnson administration, as opposed to 1969, under Nixon, as originally believed, but that the country was subjected to more bombs than the total tonnage of ordnance dropped by the Allies in the Second World War, including the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Indeed, it was relentless and indiscriminate. Reporting on the release of transcripts of Henry Kissinger’s telephone conversations during his time in office, the New York Times described how, in one conversation in 1970, whilst Kissinger was National Security Advisor, then-President Richard Nixon ‘became especially angry . . . with what he considered the lackluster bombing campaign . . . in Cambodia’, labeling it, the Washington Post noted ‘a disgraceful performance’ in which the US Air Force was ‘farting around doing nothing’, and ordered an escalation in the campaign. ‘Mr. Kissinger’, explained the NYT, ‘immediately relayed the order: “A massive bombing campaign in Cambodia. Anything that flies on anything that moves.”‘2 In their study, Kiernan and Owen in fact quote a US official who stated at the time that ‘We [US officials] had been told, as had everybody…that those carpet-bombing attacks by B-52s were totally devastating, that nothing could survive’.
It should be noted that despite the horrifying consequences which continue to devastate Laotian life, ‘the US has not signed an international convention against using such munitions as were used. Recall that these are bombs which ‘contain up to 600 smaller bomblets’, and whose use has killed some 50,000 people, ‘many’ of whom have been children. When, in the 1970s, the US Air Force radio station in Laos was closed, it signed off with the following message: ‘Good-by [sic] and see you next war’.3 It should be noted, also, that the CIA dropped into Laos millions of dollars of forged Pathet Lao currency, whilst the US Information Agency launched a propaganda campaign including radio programs, films, wall newspapers, leaflet drops and a magazine whose circulation was 43,000 – the circulation of the largest newspaper was 3,300.4 The Guardian reported in 1971 that:
ample evidence exists to confirm charges that the Meo villages that do try to find their own way out of the war-even if it is simply by staying neutral and refusing to send their 13-year olds to fight in the CIA army-are immediately denied American rice and transport, and ultimately are bombed by the US Air Force.5
Buncombe’s Independent report ignores not only details of the United States’ ‘secret war’ against Laos, but also the wider historical context – that is, the fate of other countries against which it waged similar destruction. No mention is made, for example, of the extensive drug trafficking networks established during these years – for which Air America served as a front – that provided the CIA with mercenary armies, as well as covert finance, with which to conduct these ‘secret war[s]’; more often than not at the expense of the native societies, who were subsequently left in the hands of enriched, heavily-armed gangsters, drug kingpins, tribal warlords and the like.6 By ignoring facts such as those outlined above, the report effectively rewrites the history of the countries at hand, erasing both the complicity, and responsibility, of the United States in the turbulent and catastrophic events that have left the countries in the state they are now found by officials – decades later, it should be stressed. It is telling that the dramatic and violent crimes mentioned can be so easily sidelined. That such horror can be written off as ‘America’s Cold War actions’, while its actual implications are seemingly unworthy of even cursory comment, should give us pause.
1. Cited in Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky, Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media, c.1988 (London: Vintage, 1994), p. 258.
2. Citations in:
i) Elizabeth Becker, ‘Kissinger Tapes Describe Crises, War and Stark Photos of Abuse’, New York Times, 2004,
ii) Michael Dobbs, ‘Haig Said Nixon Joked of Nuking Hill: Transcripts of Phone Talks Are Released by Archives, Washington Post, 2004,
3. Cited in William Blum, Killing Hope: US Military & CIA Interventions since World War II (London: Zed Books, 2003), p. 145.
4. Blum, Killing Hope, 2003, pp. 144, 142.
5. Cited in Blum, Killing Hope, 2003, p. 144.
6. See Alfred W. McCoy, The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade, Afghanistan, Southeast Asia, Central America, Colombia (Chicago: Lawrence Hill Books, 2003, revision of 1972 edition).
America’s policy on Iran-related secondary sanctions is on a collision course with itself as well as China. Secondary sanctions violate the United States’ obligations under the World Trade Organization and are, thus, illegal. (While a WTO signatory may decide, on national security grounds, to restrict its trade with another country, there is no legal basis for one state to impose sanctions against another over business that the second state conducts with a third country.) If Washington actually imposed secondary sanctions on another state for, say, buying Iranian oil and the sanctioned country took the United States to the WTO’s Dispute Resolution Mechanism, the United States would almost certainly lose the case.
Given this reality, the whole edifice of Iran-related secondary sanctions is in reality a house of cards. It rests on an assumption that no state will ever really challenge the legitimacy of America’s Iran-related extraterritorial sanctions—and this means that the United States cannot ever really impose them. Instead, successive U.S. administrations have used the threat of such sanctions to elicit modifications of other countries’ commercial relations with the Islamic Republic; when these administrations finally reach the limit of their capacity to leverage other countries’ decision-making regarding Iran, the United States backs off.
The Obama Administration is bringing this glaring contradiction increasingly to the fore, by supinely collaborating with the Congress to enact secondary sanctions into laws that give the executive branch less and less discretion over their actual application. This dynamic is now coming to a head in the Administration’s dealings with China.
We are currently in China, as Visiting Scholars at Peking University’s School of International Studies. And that means we are here during the run-up to formal implementation of the United States’ newest round of Iran-related secondary sanctions, due to go into effect on June 28.
These new sanctions, at least as legislated, threaten to punish financial and corporate entities in countries that continue to purchase Iranian oil at their historic levels of consumption. So far, the Obama Administration has issued sanctions waivers to all of the major buyers of Iranian oil, see here and here—all the major buyers, that is, except the People’s Republic of China.
Trade data indicate that China’s imports of Iranian oil declined significantly in the first quarter of this year. It is unclear to what extent this reduction was intended as an accommodation to the United States and to what extent it was the product of a payment dispute with Tehran. But, whatever the reason, the reduction prompted Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to note last week that “we’ve seen China slowly but surely take actions,” see here. Clinton even seemed to hint that the Administration might be looking for an opening to waive the imposition of sanctions against China: “I have to certify under American laws whether or not countries are reducing their purchases of crude oil from Iran and I was able to certify that India was, Japan was, South Korea was… And we think, based on the latest data, that China is also moving in that direction.”
Since the resolution of the payments dispute between China and Iran, however, China’s imports of Iranian oil have picked up once again, see here and here. And the Chinese government continues to insist that the country’s purchases of oil from the Islamic Republic are “fully reasonable and legitimate,” see here.
Once June 28 comes the White House and State Department will be under enormous pressure from the Congress (Hill Democrats will provide the President no cover on the issue), the Romney campaign, and various domestic interest groups to sanction China over its continued oil buys from Iran. The Administration’s alliance with Congress and the pro-Israel lobby on Iran sanctions, combined with its misguided assessment that the United States can somehow compel Iran’s “surrender” on the nuclear issue, have put the President and his team in a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” position. This is very much a problem of the Administration’s own making.
- Russia: US anti-Iran sanctions against international law (alethonews.wordpress.com)
The MV Alead. The ship supposedly filled with “attack helicopters”.
This ship originated in Kaliningrad, Russia was purported to have been reportedly stopped dead in it’s tracks, unable to provide Syria with helicopters because the ships insurance was cancelled and the ship is heading home to Russia.
Do you notice the words “purported” “reportedly” and “allegedly”?
Nothing concrete. Why?
Here is my take on this story.
The whole sorry tale has been promoted to bolster Hilary’s claim of “Russia sending attack helicopters.” She made the claim last week , I covered that here. The State department admitted she had ‘put a spin’ on the story.
“She put a little spin on it to put the Russians in a difficult position”
And the boat from Kaliningrad bolstered the narrative for the main stream media audience.
The Guardian makes clear that this narrative bolstered the bogus claims that spewed forth from Hilary Clinton’s vile mouth.
“British officials were aghast last week when Clinton first revealed news of the delivery.. But failed to mention they were refurbished.”
Refurbished? Or non-existent?
Look at the language in the stories! Even from William Hague and I quote.
“I am pleased that the ship that was reported to be carrying arms to Syria has turned back apparently towards Russia,” British Foreign Secretary William Hague told the House of Commons
Reported and apparently? Come on. With all the surveillance ongoing? Not credible.
William Hague should know this with certainty. He doesn’t. Because the story is bogus.
The warship was taking part in the Kiel Week festival in Germany and was not heading to the Mediterranean sea, the Russian Defense Ministry said, adding that the vessel would return to its base after the German voyage, with no plan to visit Tartous.
Reports on the alleged visit were full of loopholes, and the only correct element in the reports is that “the Kaliningrad really belongs to the Baltic Fleet,” a ministry spokesman said.
“As regards helicopters, planned repairs of (helicopters) delivered to Syria many years ago were conducted earlier”
I would take this to mean, repairs were done previously and helicopters returned as was likely contracted at the time. The sole benefactor of the drama on the high seas was the NATO war machine in their demonization campaign of Syria and Russia.
Russia’s Universal Cargo Logistics Holding (UCL Holding), owned by billionaire Vladimir Lisin, dismissed on Saturday media reports claiming that the company’s vessel had shipped weapons to violence-hit Syria, UCL Holding said.
“It was a general cargo of non-military purpose featuring electrical equipment and repair parts (rotor blades) in containers and wooden crates,” the company said in a statement, calling the reports “absurd speculations.”
The UCL Holding’s statement comes after several Russian and Western media as well as a U.S.-based advocacy group, Human Rights First, reported in late May that the Russian-flagged bulk cargo vessel Professor Katsman, operated by Lisin’s shipping company, docked at the Syrian port of Tartus on May 26, allegedly carrying weapons for the President Bashar Al-Assad’s forces.
Soon after the reports the U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice have lashed out at Russia over its alleged arms supplies to Syria. Moscow strongly rejected the claims, saying that Russia was not “delivering to Syria, or anywhere else, items that could be used against peaceful demonstrators.”
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday that Moscow was “completing right now the implementation of military contracts that were signed and paid for a long time ago.”
All the contracts feature anti-aircraft defense, Lavrov said.
“We feel really upset when some politicians use inaccurate and unverified information. As a result, a well-respected people support statements which are based not on pure facts, but on gossips and their own stereotypical notions from the times of “Cold War,” UCL Holding said.
Syria is one of Russia’s major weapons clients, and Moscow has opposed a proposal for a UN arms embargo on Damascus.
Russia has supplied Syria with Bastion coastal missile systems with Yakhont cruise missiles and Buk surface-to-air missile systems under a contract signed in 2007.
- Russia Rejects U.S. Allegations on Arms Deliveries to Syria (alethonews.wordpress.com)
In an article entitled “Hillary’s Little Startup: How the U.S. Is Using Technology to Aid Syria’s Rebels,” TIME Magazine reports that the Obama Administration has been providing media-technology training and support to Syrian dissidents by way of proxies such as the Institute for War & Peace Reporting and Freedom House. The title is a little misleading though. As the article reveals, it wasn’t Hillary Clinton that started it:
The program actually began four years ago with a different target: China. In 2008, Michael Horowitz, a longtime religious-liberty advocate, went to his friend Representative Frank Wolf, a Virginia Republican, and suggested setting aside funds to help Falun Gong, a religious group that Beijing has labeled a dangerous cult. The money was supposed to help the dissidents distribute software to jump China’s massive firewall and organize online as well as communicate freely with the outside world. Wolf succeeded in appropriating $15 million. But U.S. diplomats feared the move would derail relations with Beijing, and little money was spent. Then the 2009–10 Iranian protests and last year’s Arab Spring made Internet freedom a much more fashionable term in Washington. Congress soon forked over an additional $57 million to State to spend in the next three years. The money is split among three areas: education and training; anonymization, which masks users’ identities, usually through encryption; and circumvention technology, which allows users to overcome government censors so that their work—and that of repressive regimes—can be seen worldwide.
The destabilization program’s originators are hardly disappointed to see it now targeting one of Israel’s enemies. Michael Horowitz is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, a neoconservative think tank with close ties to the Israeli right, from whence he mobilizes evangelical Christians on behalf of interventionist causes. His friend in Congress, Frank Wolf, can be also be relied upon to advance the Jewish state’s interests, such as he did when he helped block the appointment of Chas Freeman to head the National Intelligence Council, while denying that the lobby had anything to do with it.
As the U.S.-backed Free Syrian Army continues to plunge Syria into chaos, the Israelis are no doubt pleased with the results of Horowitz and Wolf’s little startup.
Russia dismissed on Wednesday claims by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that it was selling attack helicopters to Syria and accused the United States of arming rebels fighting against the rule of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
“We are completing right now the implementation of contracts that were signed and paid for a long time ago,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said after talks in the Iranian capital of Tehran. “All these contracts concern exclusively anti-aircraft defense.”
“We are not delivering to Syria, or anywhere else, items that could be used against peaceful demonstrators,” Lavrov went on. “In this we differ from the United States, which regularly delivers riot control equipment to the region, including a recent delivery to a Persian Gulf country. But for some reason the Americans consider this to be fine.”
And Lavrov, speaking on Iranian state television, also said the United States was “providing arms and weapons to the Syrian opposition that can be used in fighting against the Damascus government.”
Russia’s top diplomat’s comments came a day after Clinton told a forum in Washington that Moscow’s repeated assurances that the arms it supplies to Syria could not be used to attack protesters in the Middle East country were “patently untrue.”
“We are concerned about the latest information we have that there are attack helicopters on the way from Russia to Syria,” she added, without giving further details.
Clinton also warned that such supplies would “escalate the conflict quite dramatically.”
“We know that the Assad regime is using helicopter gunships against their own people,” Pentagon spokesman Captain John Kirby said later. He also said, however, that he had no information on a new shipment of attack helicopters from Russia to Syria.
Syria is one of Russia’s major weapons clients, and Moscow has opposed proposals for an arms embargo on Damascus, saying this would give rebel forces an unfair advantage in the conflict.
Russia – along with China – has also twice vetoed UN resolutions against Damascus over what it says is a pro-rebel bias. Moscow has, however, fully backed UN envoy Kofi Annan’s faltering peace plan for Syria.
And Lavrov repeated again on Wednesday Moscow’s assertion that its stance was not based on support for Assad, who rules Russia’s sole remaining ally in the Arab world.
“Our position is not based on support for Bashar al-Assad or anyone else,” he said. “We do not want to see Syria disintegrate.”
Russian military experts suggested on Tuesday that Moscow may be repairing earlier-supplied helicopters for Syria, rather than providing Damascus with new models.
“There were large-scale deliveries of attack helicopters to Syria in the Soviet era,” said Andrei Frolov, editor of the Arms Exports research journal. “The last deliveries of Russian helicopters took place at the start of the 1990s.”
“There is no information about new contracts for the delivery of attack helicopters,” he went on. “This might be a case of the repair or possible modernization of earlier delivered machines.”
The editor of the Moscow Defense journal, Mikhail Barabanov, said the helicopters possibly being repaired in Russia might be Soviet-era “Mi-24 or Mi-17” models. … Full article
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton attends a “Friends of Syria” meeting in Istanbul, Turkey, on June 6, 2012.
US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton says Washington will continue to mount pressure on the Syrian government until President Bashar al-Assad leaves office.
“Assad must transfer power and depart Syria,” she said after a late night strategy session on Wednesday with Arab and Western powers on how to mount pressure on Damascus.
During the “Friends of Syria” meeting in the Turkish city of Istanbul, Clinton emphasized that measures against the Syrian government will continue until Assad is sent into exile, warning that such measures will be both political and economic.
Clinton admitted to Washington’s failure in rallying international support to topple Assad’s government, calling for unity among US allies to align other nations on the issue of Syria.
“We have to reiterate our unity, we have to send a clear message to other nations that are not yet working with us, or even actively supporting the Assad regime, that there is no future in that,” she said.
Syria has been getting a lot of heat from Washington after an escalation of violence in the country.
Syrian opposition groups and their Western sympathizers blame the government for the violence, but Damascus says the United States and its allies are funding armed groups to carry out terrorist attacks inside Syria.
Meanwhile, Clinton sent her special representative on Syria to Moscow on Thursday to persuade Russia, which along with China have voiced opposition to any military action against the Syrian government.
“Russia and China are decisively against attempts to regulate the Syrian crisis with outside military intervention, as well as imposing … a policy of regime change,” they said in a joint statement issued on Wednesday.