Secretary of State Kerry has earned an unenviable reputation for bombastic exaggeration at times when diplomatic caution is needed, a pattern that he has demonstrated again in rushing to judgment over the shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17.
The last time a major war loomed on the near horizon, Secretary of State John Kerry played fast and loose with the facts. In a speech on Aug. 30, 2013, he solemnly claimed, no fewer than 35 times, “we know” that the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad was responsible for chemical attacks outside Damascus on Aug. 21.
Just a few days later it became abundantly clear that Kerry did not know. There was instead a great deal of uncertainty within the U.S. intelligence community. And, to their credit, my former colleagues in CIA and in the Defense Intelligence Agency stood their ground by refusing to say “we know.”
Indeed, the dog-not-barking moment in the Syria-sarin case was the absence of U.S. intelligence officials sitting behind Kerry when he testified about his supposed knowledge to the U.S. Congress. Unlike the tableau in 2003 when CIA Director George Tenet positioned himself behind Secretary of State Colin Powell to give silent endorsement to Powell’s false allegations about Iraqi WMD to the United Nations Security Council, Kerry had no such support when he made his case against Syria’s government, although the clueless U.S. mainstream news media failed to notice this significant absence.
We Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) tried to alert President Barack Obama to this lack of consensus among our former colleagues in a Memorandum for the President on Sept. 6. Determined to avoid a redux of the fraudulent intelligence performance on Iraqi WMD, our former colleagues refused to “fix the intelligence around the policy” – again. The opposition was so strong that not even the malleable CIA Director John Brennan could give Kerry the usual “Intelligence Assessment” he wanted. So the best the Obama administration could cook up was something called a “Government Assessment” bereft of verifiable evidence and shorn of the normal dissents that intelligence analysts file with traditional estimates.
The reason for this internal intelligence community resistance was that, from the start, it made little sense that Assad would have launched a sarin attack right outside Damascus just as UN inspectors were unpacking at their Damascus hotel, having arrived in Syria to examine another chemical incident that Assad was blaming on the rebels. Further, the evidence quickly began to accumulate that the Syrian rebels had sarin and that they may well have been the ones who released it on Aug. 21 in a scheme to push Obama across his “red line” against the use of chemical weapons and induce the U.S. military to join the civil war on the rebel side.
At the time, the rebels were increasingly desperate. They had suffered a string of setbacks earlier last summer. The Turks, who had been aiding the rebels, also were growing convinced that only open U.S. military involvement could avert a looming defeat. So they set out, with apparent support of hawks in the U.S. State Department, to mousetrap President Obama into “retaliating” against Syria for crossing the “red line.”
Kerry’s performance on Aug. 30 – with all his “we knows” – was a clarion call for attacking Syria and might have prevailed, were it not for the fact that Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Martin Dempsey intervened and talked sense to the President. Less than 24 hours after Kerry spoke, Obama surprised virtually everyone in Official Washington by announcing that he had decided not to attack Syria immediately as expected, but rather would go to Congress for authorization.
How close the world came to another U.S. war was underscored by the fact that after Obama’s decision, France, which had been eager to attack, had to be told to decrease the alert status of the fighter-bombers it had on the tarmac. Israel had to be told it could relax the highest-alert posture of its defenses.
On Sept. 1, Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham angrily confirmed that Dempsey’s intervention had put the kibosh on their clearly expressed desire to attack Syria post-haste.
Kerry: Giving It the College Try
But an attack on Syria was still in play and Kerry gave a bravura performance in his Sept. 3 testimony to a Senate Foreign Affairs Committee whose leaders showed by their own remarks the degree to which they, too, were lusting for an attack on Syria. Kerry’s testimony on Syria included a transparent attempt to play down the effectiveness of al-Qaeda affiliates in gaining control of the armed opposition to Assad.
Kerry’s testimony drew a highly unusual personal criticism from Russian President Vladimir Putin. In a televised meeting of the Russian Presidential Human Rights Council on Sept. 4, Putin said, “He [Kerry] is lying, and he knows he is lying. It is sad.”
But Kerry continued to dissemble. Still arguing for war on Syria, Kerry was asked at the end of a Sept. 9 press conference in London whether there was anything Assad could do to prevent a U.S. attack. Kerry answered (quite dismissively, in view of subsequent events) that Assad could give up every one of his chemical weapons, but “he isn’t about to do that; it can’t be done.”
However, such a plan was already afoot, being pushed by Putin’s diplomats. Later that same day, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Syrian counterpart announced that Syria had agreed to allow all its chemical weapons to be removed and destroyed. Cutting out Kerry, Obama had cut a deal directly with Putin. All Syria’s chemical weapons have now been destroyed.
So this is the backdrop against which to give credence, or not, to Kerry’s stacking up the evidence against Russia for the shoot-down of the Malaysian airliner on Thursday over Ukraine.
If the best the US can do to pin the blame for the Malaysia Flight 17 downing on Russia is to have Secretary of State John Kerry say that “circumstantial evidence” points to Moscow being behind it, we can be pretty certain it was not Russia at all.
Kerry’s credibility on such matters has been in the toilet since last August when he claimed during last year’s furor and push for war against Syria’s Basher al Assad that he had seen “clear and compelling evidence” that the Syrian government had used poison gas against its own people. That “evidence” turned out (clearly with Kerry’s knowledge) to have been ginned up, falsified and staged, and in the end it was evident that Syria had not been the guilty party. Had Kerry and the White House succeeded in duping the world and the American people the way President George W. Bush and VP Dick Cheney succeeded in duping them about Iraq’s “WMDs,” an armada of US planes and ships already in position around Syria would have begun a massive aerial bombardment of Syria sparking a whole new war in the Middle East, even as Iraq was already in the throes of a civil war.
Fortunately, John Kerry’s and the accommodating US corporate media’s lies that time were exposed, and that bloody catastrophe was averted.
Now, undeterred by that first attempt at a full-blown campaign of lies, Kerry and the Obama White House are at it again, trying to falsify a casus belli against Russia by blaming Moscow for the downing of a civilian airliner that killed 298 people.
The problem for Kerry and Washington’s warmongers is that the story they’re selling is ludicrous.
Ukraine’s military has a hundred or so Buk anti-aircraft missiles and dozens of mobile launchers which have been seen in a Kiev parade
Why on earth would the Russians (who have been scrupulously avoiding getting involved in the Ukraine fighting), have provided the separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine with Buk missiles capable of downing high-altitude planes? Such aircraft pose no threat to the rebels. What they fear is the Ukraine military’s ground attack aircraft and bombers, and their helicopter gunships and troop transport planes. And they already have demonstrated that they’ve got the weapons to deal with those, in the form of shoulder-fired, wire-guided missiles — weapons that don’t have the capability to down aircraft flying at anywhere near 33,000 feet.
The answer to that question is that Russia would gain nothing, and would stand to lose a lot by contributing to the downing of a civilian aircraft. In fact, we can see, in the desperate effort by Kerry to pin the blame on Russia, exactly whey they would never have wanted to do such a thing.
That goes for the separatist rebels, too. The last thing they would want would be to give reluctant NATO allies of the US in Europe a reason to join the war-mongering campaign of the US in backing the Ukrainian government’s “anti-terrorist” campaign against them. After all, the separatists have actually been doing pretty well at stymieing the Ukrainian military as it is. In addition, increasing numbers of Ukrainians in western Ukraine are growing frustrated with the corruption, incompetence and war-making of their government. How do the rebels then gain by angering Western European nations and the Ukrainian people? Answer: They don’t.
Indeed the only parties who could conceivably gain by the downing of a civilian airliner would be the US and Ukraine, if they thought they could manage to pin the blame on the Russians and/or the separatist rebels. (For those who find it hard to swallow the idea that the US would deliberately shoot down a plane carrying 298 civilians in order to get a war going, there is another theory out there: that the Ukrainians — or some rogue element of the Ukraine military — thought the plane was Russian President Vladimir Putin’s own “Air Force One” carrying him back from the Brazil World Cup. In fact the flight paths of the two plans actually intersected within a fairly short time frame according to some reports.)
Meanwhile, it has already been demonstrated that the “evidence” that the US and Ukraine are citing — an electronic communication allegedly between a rebel and a Russian general referring to the downing of Malaysian Flight 17, was made a day before the downing happened (a point not mentioned in the breathless corporate media reports). That sounds like something the CIA would have had a hand in, as many believe it did in the also bogus “notice” earlier this year allegedly calling on Jews in eastern Ukraine to register with rebel authorities. As for the claim that the rebels had in their possession a Buk missile launcher, and that it came from Russia, this is highly dubious. First of all, as mentioned, there was no reason for Russia to provide such a weapon to the rebels. Second, if the rebels, often described as a rag-tag group, ever got such sophisticated weapons, they would not have had the training to use it. Kerry is also saying that the US “has the trajectory” of a missile fired by a Buk launcher in rebel-held territory “near the scene of the crash,” but of course, he also said the US “had the trajectories” of the poison gas rockets and that they came from a Syrian military installation–a claim that later proved false.
On the other hand, Ukraine’s military is known to possess several dozen mobile Buk missile launchers in its arsenal, and some of these were known to have been moved into eastern Ukraine. Why Ukraine’s military would have done this, when the rebels have no air force, is a good question — one which the Russians are asking (but which the US corporate media have not bothered to speculate about).
So we have Kerry’s lies and the lies of other US government officials, backed by the same complicit and propagandistic US media that ran with their lies so unquestioningly in the Syria poison gas incident, with little but the alternative media and some of the foreign media to rely on for more honest and forthright investigation into this case. And we have the Ukrainian government, which has been charging all along, against all logic, that the pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine are all “terrorists,” also claiming that it’s the Russians and the rebels who did the deed.
No doubt it will be a while before the truth comes out about this story. In the meantime, the best evidence that it was not the Russians and the rebels in Ukraine who shot down the plane is that Secretary of State Kerry is trying to convince us all that they did it.
Meanwhile everyone would do well to calm down and heed the warning of former CIA analyst Ray McGovern, a 27-year Agency veteran, now retired, who points to the campaign of lies orchestrated during the early Reagan administration concerning the Russian shoot-down of a Korean 747 back in 1983. While the Reagan White House and the Pentagon knew from captured radio transmissions between the Russian fighter pilot and his base that he made efforts to warn the Korean plane to land, including the firing of tracer bullets in the dark sky, and knew that he had become convinced he was dealing with a US military spy plane flying over a highly secret part of Russia’s western defenses, before he fired a missile to shoot it down, McGovern says they doctored those tapes to make it look like he had done the opposite, heartlessly shooting down a civilian plane on orders from Moscow. The goal of this official Washington lie, McGovern says, was to incite American hatred against the Soviet Union, which had been waning since the end of the Vietnam War.
McGovern also suggests that the US government covered up the true cause of the downing of TWA Flight 800 off Long Island in 1996, which he says may well have been caused by an errant US missile, and not, as claimed, by a spark in a fuel tank.
McGovern’s advice in this current campaign of deceit: “There is, sadly,…reason to kick the tires of any fancy truck carrying ‘intelligence’ offered by the U.S. with respect to the Malaysian Airline shoot-down.”
Thursday, May 15 marked Nakba Day, Yawm an-Nakba, “Day of Catastrophe”, the onset of the displacement of up to 800,000 Palestinians, at the time 67% of the population, followed by the destruction of over 500 villages since the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, under the commitment agreed to by the then British Foreign Secretary, Lord Arthur Balfour, in November 1917.
This week: “Figures released by the Ramallah-based Central Bureau of Statistics … put the number of registered Palestinian refugees at 5.3 million. Those refugees live in 58 United Nations-run camps in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, the West Bank and Gaza Strip.” Tragedy on a scale near unimaginable – ongoing.
Hardly the day to plan another one. However, undaunted, Britain’s current Foreign Secretary, William Hague (“I have been a Conservative Friend of Israel since I was sixteen”) hosted a meeting of the “Friends of Syria” group (Egypt, France, Germany, Italy, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, the UK and the US) to continue plotting to further decimate another Middle East country and overthrow yet another sovereign head of State.
As increasingly chilling, verified images appear of “opposition” – read insurgent – atrocities in Syria: beheadings, behandings, crucifixions, summary executions and, of course, cannibalism, Hague announced that: “the Syrian opposition would have its diplomatic status in the UK upgraded”, according to the BBC.
The Foreign Secretary was clearly following in his master’s footsteps since last week the Obama regime granted diplomatic foreign mission status to the “Syrian National Coalition” offices in New York and Washington, with a welcome present of a further promised $27 million increase in “non-lethal assistance to rebels fighting to oust President Bashar al-Assad.” This brings the total US support for the above crimes to $287 million.
Strangely, two days before the London meeting, it was announced that Israel’s Justice Minister Tzipi Livni was awarded “special mission” temporary diplomatic status to visit London, “to protect her against arrest and potential prosecution for alleged breaches of international law, including war crimes” relating to Israel’s attack on Gaza in December 2008-January 2009.
In December 2009 Livni cancelled a visit to Britain after an arrest warrant was issued by a London Court. “The British government subsequently changed the law on universal jurisdiction … in connection with international war crimes … Previously, citizens could apply directly to a Judge for an arrest warrant.”
Currently, London lawyers Hickman Rose working with Gaza’s Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) had again been seeking a warrant for Livni’s arrest, Hickman Rose requesting that the Crown Prosecution Service advise the police to apprehend her: “for suspected war crimes and to liaise with the Attorney General to approve criminal charges.”
PCHR Director Raja Sourani commented of the Foreign Office’s stunt: “As lawyers for the victims of widespread suspected Israeli war crimes, PCHR is very concerned that these kind of political acts endorse the ‘rule of the jungle’ rather than the ‘rule of law.’” Indeed.
The Foreign Office is remarkably selective when it comes to alleged war criminals. Livni’s visit met “all the essential elements for a special mission, and for avoidance of any doubt on the matter, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has confirmed consent to the visit as a special mission”, they commented.
The reason for Livni’s visit was shrouded in secrecy. What is known that the evening of the “Friends of Syria” meeting, she was to address a fund- raising dinner for the Jewish National Fund at London’s luxury Jumeirah Carlton Tower Hotel ($725 a night current lowest available rate, no wonder funds are needed.) But all those Foreign Office diplomatic sleights of hand to enable something she could have done by video-link?
Well, here’s a thought. Two days before Ms Livni’s arrival in London aided by the Foreign Office’s diplomatic goal post displacements, Major General Amos Yadlin, former Deputy Commander of the Israeli Air Force, who headed military intelligence between 2006-2010 said that “ Israel should weigh launching a military strike at Syria if the Assad regime uses chemical weapons against his civilian population …”
Preferable, though, mooted the General, would be a NATO led action led by the US, with Turkey the key country, establishing a no fly zone over Syria “at the very minimum.” Libya revisited. There should also be “standoff strikes” by NATO aircraft at strategic government targets.
“If Israel discovers that Assad is using chemical weapons against his people in mass attacks, it should intervene militarily”, said the representative of a regime who has used chemical weapons – not alone white phosphorous but also depleted uranium, both a chemical and radioactive weapon – against the Palestinians. Ironically, the article is headed: “Israel should punish Assad for killing civilians”, an expertise Israel has honed with impunity over sixty-six years.
Right on cue, on May 13th, in the lead to the London Conference, Human Rights Watch produced a report of “strong evidence” that Syrian government forces were using chlorine bombs.
Coincidentally, the previous day a letter had been sent to Kenneth Roth, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch, querying the organization’s seemingly extraordinarily partisan relationship with the US government.1
A flavour of the content is at paragraph 2:
For example, HRW’s Washington advocacy director, Tom Malinowski, previously served as a special assistant to President Bill Clinton and as a speechwriter to Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. In 2013, he left HRW after being nominated as Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights & Labor under John Kerry.
The letter was also signed by former UN Assistant Secretary General, Hans von Sponeck, current UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories, Richard Falk and over one hundred scholars
John Kerry was, of course, also in London for the meeting, two days after he and President Obama had met with alleged former brothel owner Ahmed al-Jabra, who heads the “Syrian National Coalition”, in Washington. Jabra too had hopped on a ‘plane to London to attend the up-market plotting venue. A world away from the prison cell in Syria where he allegedly spent time for drug dealing.
Al-Akhbar has written regarding Ahmed al-Jabra of security records showing him:
“as a fugitive wanted for criminal offenses, including fraud, corruption, and even assassination plots that were not carried out. According to the source, records show that Riyadh handed over ‘the suspect Ahmad al-Jarba’ to Damascus in 2008, on charges of drug trafficking, in accordance with an extradition agreement between Saudi and Syrian security services … Jarba was tried and sentenced to a prison term at the time.”
“ … another entry involving Jarba, which the Qatari security services undoubtedly also have in their records. After the coup staged by the outgoing Emir of Qatar Hamad against his father Khalifa al-Thani, the latter’s Foreign Minister fled to Syria, where he became a vocal supporter for restoring the previous Emir. At the time, according to the records, Emir Hamad’s people asked Ahmad al-Jarba to assassinate the exiled Qatari Foreign Minister … Al-Jarba even received payment after accepting to carry out the mission, the source claimed.”2
Perhaps these most serious allegations regarding the man who now has upgraded diplomatic status in the US and UK have passed the State Department and Whitehall by. Whatever, they certainly seem to play fast and loose with awarding diplomatic credentials. In context, if the real reason for the action over Justice Minister Livni’s status change was not so she could attend the plotting against Syria – just over three weeks before the Syrian Presidential election on 3rd June, which President Assad is widely expected to win – it would be beyond astonishing.
Incidentally, at the Jewish National Fund cash-making bash, Livni told an illuminating tale:
“Recalling her family history, the minister also jokingly confided to the audience that as Justice Minister it was ‘embarrassing that my parents met while they were robbing a British money train to buy weapons to fight against the British army.’
“Ms Livni told her audience: ‘The first thing I want to emphasise is my parents were freedom fighters and not terrorists. I am not willing to accept any comparison with terrorists like Hamas who are looking for civilians to kill.’”
Clearly this was a week of triumph for selective perception.
Meanwhile, double standards at all levels are the order of the days. Obama, Kerry and Hague repeat the same words: “(President) Assad has no place in Syria’s future” (will any one ever ask what business it is of theirs?) Syria’s election has been declared a “farce”, but that of the US imposed fascist Junta in Ukraine on 25th May is regarded by as a “vote crucial to finding a way out of the crisis and preventing the country from tearing apart further …”
“The US and its allies are working ‘to send a unified message to pro-Russian separatists …’” that interference will not be tolerated. Whilst in sovereign Syria they are giving ever escalating $millions and arms to up to 80 groups of foreign terrorists led by an alleged serial criminal to bloodily interfere at mass murderous level.
In all there is only one consistency: illegal interference in nation states and barely believable levels of double standards. Incidentally Mr al-Jarba refers to the coming “new Syria.” For anyone looking at the ruins of the US’ “new Iraq” and “new Libya”, that should be enough to send all banging on government doors, emailing, telephoning, demonstrating: “Never, ever again.”
US Secretary of State John Kerry seems to be on a personal mission to draw the US into an invasion of Syria. At the least, he remains determined to continue backing the rebellion against the Syrian government until the country is completely destroyed.
Meeting yesterday in London, the self-styled “Friends of Syria,” including, in addition to the US and UK, such model democracies as Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey, determined to increase assistance to those who for three years have fought to overthrow the Syrian government.
Kerry took the opportunity at the meeting to again accuse the Syrian government of using chemical weapons, apparently not at all chastened by his fraudulent claims to the same effect last year. “Raw data” suggests the Syrian government used chlorine gas recently, Kerry claimed this time. Very raw, no doubt.
Meanwhile, US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said on the same day that, “We’ve not seen any evidence” of additional chemical attacks. It seems that the US administration is at war with itself, with Kerry seeming to go rogue at every opportunity.
Recall last summer that Kerry said unambiguously that “we know” that Assad used chemical weapons in Ghouta. Also remember that he was completely wrong, having placed the US on the brink of invading another country on a trumped-up pretext.
But even though an agreement was reached last summer whereby the Syrian government agreed to give up its strategic chemical arsenal — an agreement that was kept — the US only intensified its support for regime change.
In fact, the US recently launched a pilot program to provide deadly TOW missiles to the “moderate” opposition. However, it has already been reported that these missiles almost immediately landed in the hands of radicals in Syria, including fighters from the notorious al-Nusra Front. In short, the US is providing some of the deadliest weapons in its arsenal to affiliates of al-Qaeda.
Were the indefinite detention provisions of the National Defense Authorization Act actually enforced, Secretary Kerry and much of the US Administration would currently be in custody, held incommunicado without charge or access to legal counsel. But such laws do not apply to those in charge of making or executing them.
Tragically, this ramping up of aid to the extremist-dominated rebels in Syria comes amid the first signs of a way out from the three year long nightmare. In Homs, considered the birthplace of the rebellion, government forces and rebels reached an agreement for a peaceful rebel withdrawal from the city. The years-long fight ended and almost immediately the population began returning to their city to begin rebuilding.
Had the US propaganda about the Assad regime been true, we would of course have seen government forces slaughtering the people upon their return. But in fact the opposite was true, as the Syrian flag was raised again in the city and the people set out to return to what is left of their homes.
As even the Los Angeles Times discovered:
“… a group of Christian women headed into the Old City to view the remains of their family home. The Christian minority is generally effusive about the “liberation” of an area central to their ancient identity. “The Army has swept away all of the bad people from our city,” said Hannan Ragap, 45, a mother of two who sported spike heels and jeans as she walked toward the Old City. In the adjacent Zahra district, people were savoring a victory against what many view as an existential threat from a radical Islamist force.
In Aleppo, still rebel-controlled, anti-government fighters are looking wearily but with hope at the peaceful surrender of Homs.
The publication al-Monitor quotes Syrian rebel “Abdel” fighting in Aleppo:
‘Let’s admit it: Time has come for an agreement,’ Abdel says. … The model, he says, is Homs, where cease-fires are now beginning to appeal to weary rebel fighters in Aleppo. ‘We are not surrendering, because we will prevent Assad from staying in power, but through other means. Nobody can prevail with weapons. Do you know what is there, on the western side, in the direction of this mortar? Do you know what I am shooting at? There is my house. I am shooting at my house.’
The absurdity of the struggle laid bare, a “rebel” reduced to shooting at his own house!
It is against this backdrop that the US seeks to actually intensify and prolong the war. It is against this backdrop that John Kerry continues to push for US involvement in Syria, to the point of again making wild claims with zero evidence. Listen to the disoriented but murderous rage in his voice.
The US Secretary of State yesterday condemned the upcoming presidential vote in Syria, saying, “Together, we are unified in saying that Assad’s staged elections are a farce. They’re an insult. They are a fraud on democracy, on the Syrian people and on the world.”
However, as even the United Arab Emirates’ English language The National (recall that UAE, being one of the “Friends of Syria” is far from pro-Assad), concludes:
But the dirty secret in Syria today is that, if the presidential election were free and fair, Bashar Al Assad would still win.
Kerry is again making up his own reality.
Meanwhile not a word from Kerry about a rebel car bombing yesterday that killed dozens of civilians. Not a word about rebels blocking water to civilians in Aleppo, creating a humanitarian disaster of horrific proportions. Some humanitarian disasters are more equal than others.
Has John Kerry gone mad? Can Obama for some reason not fire him? Are there any adults left?
The United States has announced its opposition to a planned independence referendum in eastern Ukraine, saying such a move could trigger new sanctions against Russia.
US Secretary of State John Kerry said on Tuesday that the US and its allies “reject” efforts for organizing the referendum set for Sunday, calling the referendum “bogus” and saying “its pursuit will create even more problems in the effort to try to de-escalate the situation.”
Referring to a referendum in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea on March 16 in which nearly 97 percent of the participants voted for independence from Ukraine, Kerry said, “This is really the Crimea playbook all over again.”
Meanwhile, US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland, who disclosed earlier this year that Washington has “invested” about $5 billion in “promoting democracy” in Ukraine over the past two decades, has said that the independence referendum in eastern Ukraine “will be a trigger” for more sanctions against Moscow.
Pro-Russians are planning their own vote on self-determination in Ukraine’s eastern cities of Donetsk and Luhansk.
Meanwhile, Washington and its Western allies support a May 25 presidential poll that they say can prevent Ukraine from plunging into a civil war.
The US Agency for International Development (USAID), which was recently in the headlines for the covert creation of a text-based social network to stir political unrest in Cuba, has said it will support Ukraine’s media financially so that the pro-Western media outlets can cover the planned presidential election in the country.
USAID officials have said they want to add $1.25 million to the more than $10 million already promised by US government agencies to help bring about the expected election.
Russia has opposed the vote saying holding the election during the current violence would be “unusual” and “absurd.”
Following a military offensive against pro-Russian activists in eastern Ukraine ordered by Ukrainian authorities, nearly 90 people have been killed in less than a week.
According to a report published on Sunday in the German newspaper Bild am Sonntag, dozens of CIA and FBI agents are involved in the offensive against the pro-Russian activists.
“NATO, the planet’s strongest alliance… can absolutely take advantage of the opportunities that are presented by crisis”
NATO must return to its original goal of fending off Russia, seizing the chance presented by the Ukrainian crisis to sever Europe from Moscow and move it closer to America, the US secretary of state said. Or else the bloc’s global leadership may be lost.
John Kerry delivered the confrontational call in a speech to the Atlantic Council think tank in Washington, DC. He said the stand-off in Ukraine had resulted from a “uniquely personally-driven set of choices” and is “a wake-up call” for NATO. He added that now the military bloc must turn the page on two decades of focusing on expeditionary operations and take a stand against “Putin’s Russia.”
“After two decades of focusing primarily on our expeditionary missions, the crisis in Ukraine now call us back to the work that this alliance was originally created to perform,” Kerry told the audience.
NATO’s original purpose was to oppose the Communist Soviet Union, giving the West the military backbone to the ideologically-driven stand-off with the East. Kerry described it as “to defend alliance territory and advance trans-Atlantic security.”
“Today, Putin’s Russia is playing by a different set of rules,” the secretary stated. “Through its occupation of Crimea and its subsequent destabilization of eastern Ukraine, Russia seeks to change the security landscape of Eastern and Central Europe.”
“Together we have to push back against those who try to change sovereign border by force. Together we have to support those who simply want to live as we do,” he added.
Kerry didn’t mention NATO’s own operations against Yugoslavia, which helped change sovereign borders in Europe. But he said NATO must not allow that the situation continue to develop as it is, because Russia is challenging the position NATO members have held since the end of the Cold War.
“Our entire model of global leadership is at stake. If we stand together, if we draw strength from the example of the past and refuse to be complacent in the present, then I am confident that NATO, the planet’s strongest alliance, can meet the challenges, can absolutely take advantage of the opportunities that are presented by crisis,” he stressed.
Kerry suggested three points on how trans-Atlantic partners can preserve their leadership and contain Russia. He said all NATO members must comply with the alliance’s benchmark of 2 percent GDP defense spending, which is not observed by many European members of the alliance, including European economic powerhouse Germany.
“Clearly, not all allies are going to meet the NATO benchmark of 2 percent of GDP overnight or even next year,” Kerry said. “But it’s time for allies, who are below that level to make credible commitments to increase their spending on defense over the next five years.”
NATO members must also help Europe reduce its dependence on Russian energy and develop economic ties with America by speeding down the pipeline the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership Agreement, Kerry said.
The agreement would certainly give more access to European markets to some US corporations, as it would require freeing up European regulations on things like fracking, GMOs, copyright and finance.
Kerry’s policy remarks are in line with those made recently by some other members of the US political establishment. For example Senator John McCain, one of the most vocal critics of Russia, went on the same lines of presenting Russia’s stance on Ukraine a personal choice by President Vladimir Putin and calling for more defense spending in Europe in his speech at Vilnius University, Lithuania, on Wednesday last week.
“Considering what President Putin is doing right now in Ukraine, it is more important than ever for every NATO ally to spend at least 2 percent of its GDP on defense,” McCain said. “I’m pleased that Lithuania has pledged and is planning to do this, and the sooner you follow through on that commitment the better.”
The US and Russia have been trading accusations of meddling with Ukrainian crisis lately. Washington says Moscow is sowing dissent in eastern Ukraine, fanning up anti-government protests there. Russia says the US sponsored the February coup in Kiev, which brought into power the current Ukrainian central authorities and has been playing a dominant role in defining the policies of the new government.
Only the other day, Benjamin Netanyahu earned a small note of immortality when he said the peace talks were ended by the new arrangements between the Palestine Authority and Hamas: Netanyahu’s announcement bundled a record number of lies into one mouthful of words. There, of course, never was anything properly called peace talks with Israel. There has been only a long series of closed-door personal, and security-scrambled telephonic, exchanges with America’s superbly ineffectual John Kerry, exchanges in which the Palestinians played virtually no role and in which Mr. Netanyahu had absolutely no interest. Netanyahu was always setting an impossible set of conditions as prerequisites to anything happening precisely because he does not want anything to happen, while undoubtedly periodically raging with one of his mind-numbing harangues which are impossible to answer rationally for the simple reason they are not rational.
Netanyahu’s announcement is larded with layers of lies much like layers of rock in stratigraphic formations. Perhaps the chief of these being that Hamas – that democratically elected party led by middle-class professionals whose only concerns have been to obtain a fair deal for Palestinians and to provide clean government after the long-term corruption of Fatah – is a dreadful terrorist organization. Of course, you do have to say something along those lines to excuse your warring on civilians, blockading their needs (starting with a viciously-calculated minimal calorie allowance per person), cutting off services, piracy on the high seas, denying fishing rights, kidnapping and murdering politicians, and constant menaces. You wouldn’t do all that to people just trying to run a democratic, clean government, now would you? You might if you viewed the Palestinians in Gaza as a nightmare (a past Israeli prime minister’s actual word), as a source of constant fear, resembling fears in the Old South of revolt in the slave quarters some dark night, something which caused uneasy sleep for plantation families with pistols and knives tucked under their pillows.
Israel, despite the meaningless outpourings and rages of Netanyahu, is not looking for clean government and it certainly isn’t looking for democracy in any of its neighbors’ arrangements. Israel loved thirty years of corrupt and completely undemocratic government in Egypt, and it is Israel’s silent influence with the United States that has returned Egypt’s eighty million people, after one year of democratic government, to tyranny and openly corrupt arrangements. Israel also likes the absolute government of Saudi Arabia because it makes many secret deals with the Saudi princes, eager themselves to suppress democratic tendencies in the region. Saudi Arabia, with its Islamic fundamentalism, once was viewed as an implacable enemy of Israel, but the less-than-idealistic gritty interests of both states have nicely, quietly meshed in recent years with the fabulously wealthy aristocracy of Saudi Arabia viewing democracy and clean government through the same lens as the Middle East’s Crusader garrison state.
Israel is not even looking for peace, peace as any thoughtful, disinterested person in the world would define it. Netanyahu has given new ferocity to an old strategy towards what every past leader of Israel regarded as the problem of the Palestinians, and that involves the goal either of making them so miserable that they will leave en masse or become so compliant they will agree to arrangements which assure their perpetual isolation, inferiority, and servitude. Either or any combination of those two outcomes is what Netanyahu understands as peace. There is no other way of interpreting years of appallingly abusive behavior and law-breaking and injustice on a scale affecting millions. And there is no other way to interpret the American government’s tolerance for the abuse and law-breaking and injustice beyond its secretly sharing the same hopes as Israel’s malevolent leaders, being sick and tired of having to hear about and deal with a grotesque situation involving a few million people in a world where it tries to direct the destinies of billions.
Israel’s limited dealings with the Palestinian Authority – a kind of quasi-government formed out of the Oslo Accords of 1993 for the purpose of managing basic local services and negotiating with Israel – are themselves built on lies. The existing head of that quasi-government, Mahmoud Abbas, was last elected to serve as president until 2009, but with the connivance of the United States and Israel he regularly extends his term, never receiving the least recrimination for doing so, another demonstration of Israel’s love for democracy and clean government. His democratic credentials are further enhanced by the fact that he “governs” only in the West Bank – at least in those portions not yet seized by Israel – having been driven out of Gaza. Yet he is the only one of the Palestinians even admitted to symbolic membership in the “peace talks.” The reason for this is simple: up until very recently, Abbas has been a passive figure who offers Israel no open challenge to the huge injustices of the status quo, very much in contrast to the late Yasser Arafat, who is believed by many to have been assassinated by Israel after an extended period of abuse and threats including the shelling of his house and denying his even attending religious services. Netanyahu, by the way, is on record as having vigorously denounced as unworkable the now pretty much failed Oslo Accords, a case of self-fulfilling prophecy.
Analyzing “the peace talks,” discovering their rotten construction and the dishonest motives of those involved, yields unpleasant surprises much like those from stumbling accidentally upon a rotten timber and seeing a myriad of critters scrambling and flying off in all directions. John Kerry carries on his charade in the Middle East while at the same time lying about Russian news sources and threatening a red line for Russia to make it pay dearly for its “transgressions” in Ukraine. And there is still the hypocritical pretence about the induced horrors of Syria for which Mr. Kerry along with his boss bear direct responsibility.
Russia Today, the media Kerry recently publicly criticized, can have nothing to its shame to compare with The New York Times which one day published images supposedly proving Russian soldiers were active in Eastern Ukraine and shortly after retracted when the lie was hurled in its face. The same New York Times, it was revealed, passes its reportage on Israel through Israeli censors before publication, providing a standard of journalistic integrity it would be hard to match. What Kerry and Company are actually upset about is Russia’s new, sophisticated use of the press and broadcasting. Gone are the not-believable voices of the Soviet era, words by apparatchiks featuring such colorful expressions as “running dogs.” Instead we find thoughtful reportage and analysis reaching out to people in the West, correcting misrepresentations imposed by their own leaders through outlets like the New York Times and America’s major networks. America’s Cold War era monopoly on “credible press” is gone (in fact, it never was that credible, only seeming so by contrast to the old Soviet efforts). With the monopoly’s disappearance, America’s unrestricted ability to “get a story out there,” as someone from the CIA might say, also has suffered, and Mr. Kerry clearly isn’t happy about the fact.
As for Kerry’s comments about red lines and making Russia pay, it would be difficult to come up with a poorer example of diplomacy from America’s supposed chief of diplomacy. Of course, the last time we heard the expression “red line” concerned the use of chemical weapons by Syria’s government, something that never happened, but the American official words about a red line served as a kind of segue to the actual, totally-immoral use of such chemicals by some of the fanatics America secretly supports. And just a short while before that use of “red line,” we had the world’s most predictable liar talking about red lines for Iran, a country he threatened and continues to threaten but which has never threatened him.
Kerry’s public face on the situation in Ukraine is just as rankly dishonest as his “peace talks” in the Middle East and his words about Syria. The fact is the Ukrainian groups America has supported secretly for years with massive amounts of CIA-infiltrated money, overthrew an elected government, and they did so before previously-agreed arrangements for new elections which were intended to appease the divided factions in Ukraine. Part of the way these groups seized power was through the dirty work of right-wing thugs, who, among other acts, served as snipers shooting many hundreds of people dead in the streets of Kiev. Now, we see this self-proclaimed government receiving visits by America’s CIA Director and Vice President for unexplained reasons. Was there ever a less honest effort at pretending democratic forces are at work in a crisis? Please, Mr. Kerry, who is it that you think you are convincing of anything, beyond your own dishonesty and remarkably limited diplomatic skills?
An Israeli minister threatened on Wednesday to annex further territory in the occupied West Bank in retaliation for renewed Palestinian action to join United Nations agencies and international treaties.
“If they are now threatening (to go to UN institutions), they must know something simple: they will pay a heavy price,” Tourism Minister Uzi Landau told public radio.
Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday said he had begun steps to join several UN agencies, abandoning a pledge to freeze such action for the duration of peace talks – which end in just four weeks.
Abbas announced a request to join “15 UN agencies and international treaties.”
“The demands (for membership) will be sent immediately” to the relevant agencies, he said.
The documents Abbas signed, officials said, included the Geneva Conventions – the key text of international law on the conduct of war and occupation.
Palestinians hope it will give them a stronger basis to appeal to the International Criminal Court and eventually lodge formal complaints against Israel for its continued occupation of lands seized in the 1967 war that they want for their state.
“This is not a move against America, or any other party – it is our right, and we agreed to suspend it for nine months,” Abbas said of the decision.
Hamas, the Gaza Strip’s ruling party, welcomed the move by Abbas,
The Palestinians had repeatedly warned that they could resume their action through international courts and the UN over Israel’s settlement expansion on occupied territory in the West Bank and in annexed east Jerusalem.
“One of the possible measures will be Israel applying sovereignty over areas which will clearly be part of the State of Israel in any future solution,” said Landau, a member of the hardline Yisrael Beitenu faction.
Landau’s remarks were referring to areas of the West Bank populated by Jewish settlers which Israel hopes to retain in any future peace deal.
Israeli settlements are illegal under international law.
An Israeli government official, who would not be named, said Abbas’s announcement had thrown everything up in the air.
“Is this Israel’s partner? Is this a partner for peace?” he asked.
“Everything has changed now, is there even a deal now? We don’t know,” he said, referring to the proposal which was being discussed with Kerry.
Israel could also hurt the Palestinians economically by acting “to block financial aid to them,” the minister added.
Abbas made his announcement just hours after Israel reissued tenders for hundreds of settler homes in east Jerusalem, as Washington was working around the clock to resolve a major dispute over Palestinian prisoners.
Israeli NGO Ir Amim described the tenders as “a poke in the eye of both the Palestinians and the Americans,” army radio said.
And Hagit Ofran, from Israeli’s Peace Now NGO, accused the housing ministry of “trying to forcefully undermine the peace process… and John Kerry’s efforts to promote it.”
Israel refused to free a fourth and final group of 26 veteran Palestinian prisoners on Saturday, which would have completed an agreement that had brought the sides back to the table.
On Monday, the Palestinian Authority gave Kerry a 24-hour deadline to come up with a solution to the prisoner row, warning that failure to do so would see them turning to UN bodies to press their claims for statehood.
“America must compel Israel now to follow through on its agreement to release the fourth group of prisoners. We will be watching these efforts and hope they don’t fail,” Palestinian Prisoners Affairs Minister Issa Qaraqe said.
“But our position is clear: we want the release of the fourth group according to the agreement, and without that we won’t accept any other obligations or conditions,” he said.
The standoff came soon after US Secretary of State John Kerry left Israel on Tuesday after a lightning visit.
He had been due to fly back to the region on Wednesday for talks in Ramallah with Abbas but he cancelled his visit following the Palestinian leader’s announcement, while attempting to remain optimistic.
“It is completely premature tonight to draw… any final judgement about today’s events and where things are,” he said in Brussels.
“My team is on the ground meeting with the parties even tonight,” he said. “We urge both parties to show restraint.”
US efforts have been focused recently on getting the parties to agree an extension to the end of the year.
A US proposal to continue talks was to include a limited “freeze” on settlement construction, with Israel adopting “a policy of restraint with (West Bank) government tenders” but would not include annexed east Jerusalem.
Sources close to the negotiations had said Washington was also mulling a proposal to free Jonathan Pollard, who was arrested in Washington in 1985 and sentenced to life in prison for spying on America on Israel’s behalf.
But White House Jay Carney said before the Tuesday afternoon developments that President Barack Obama had not made any decision on Pollard.
Separately, a spokesman for the US Justice Department said Pollard had waived his right to attend a meeting of a parole board that could have re-examined his ongoing detention.
(AFP, Reuters, Al-Akhbar)
The Palestinian leadership is demanding that Israel freezes its settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territories as a condition for extending the negotiations.
Maan News Agency quoted on Tuesday the Secretary-General of the Palestinian National Initiative, Mustafa Barghouti, as saying that the Palestinian leadership has demanded for Israel to freeze its settlement activities, including government tenders to construct settlements, in order to extend the negotiations. The leadership has also decided to seek recognition for the State of Palestine from United Nations organisations if Israel does not release the fourth group of Palestinian prisoners as previously agreed.
Barghouti, who attended the Palestinian leadership meeting on Monday to discuss the recent development in the peace process, added that the Palestinians plan to send a delegation of five people to discuss with Hamas ways to end the split with Al-Fatah and reach national reconciliation.
The meeting brought together Al-Fatah movement’s Central Committee, the PLO Executive Committee and the secretaries-general of the Palestinian factions in Ramallah.
Barghouti said the Palestinian leadership will resume its meeting on Tuesday to further discuss the latest developments in the peace process and the results of US Secretary of State John Kerry’s meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Israel has refused to release the fourth group of Palestinian prisoners unless the Palestinian Authority agrees to extend the negotiations for another year unconditionally.
Kerry had cancelled his scheduled meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Monday in Ramallah to meet instead with the Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat and the head of the Palestinian intelligence service General Majed Faraj in Jerusalem; however, the meeting results were not disclosed to the public.
Diplomatic sources claimed that Kerry cancelled his meeting with Abbas in Ramallah because his first meeting with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu exceeded its scheduled time, running nearly five hours.
Former American President Jimmy Carter has warned the US Secretary of State John Kerry of violating international law in his potential peace framework agreement between the Palestinians and the Israeli occupation.
He also expressed his concerns about the remarks of Kerry’s senior aides Martin Indyk, which were delivered before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and other Jewish groups.
Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority (PA)’s official news agency Wafa said Carter had shown the letter he sent to Kerry to the PA President Mahmoud Abbas. The letter included efforts to save the peace process and stressed on reaching an agreement to be accepted by the two sides.
According to Wafa, Carter warned of formulating an agreement which “in any form, breaches international law and the reinforced international precedents regarding the Palestinian-Israeli conflict which have been accepted since 1967.”
Carter reiterated the necessity to abide by UN resolution 242, which was accepted by the former Israeli PM Menachem Begin as part of the Camp David peace accords and supported by the Quartet, Arab League and the Organisation of the Islamic Conference.
The sponsor of the first peace treaty between Israel and the Arabs said: “Official US proposal to cancel or breach international law will make it impossible for the Palestinians in the Holy Lands, or outside, to accept the framework agreement as a new basis for peace talks.”
RAMALLAH (AFP) — Israel has told the PLO it will not free the final group of prisoners they had been expecting alongside US-brokered peace talks, a senior Palestinian official said on Friday.
Under the deal which relaunched the talks in July, Israel said it would release 104 Palestinians held since before the 1993 Oslo peace accords in exchange for the Palestinians not pressing their statehood claims at the United Nations.
Israel has so far freed 78 prisoners in three batches but cabinet members had warned they would block the final release, anticipated for the end of March, if the Palestinians refused to extend the talks beyond their April 29 deadline.
“The Israeli government has informed us through the American mediator that it will not abide with its commitment to release the fourth batch of Palestinian prisoners scheduled for tomorrow, Saturday 29,” Jibril Rajub told AFP.
“Israel has refused to commit to the names that were agreed upon of prisoners held by Israel since before the 1993 Oslo agreements,” Rajub said.
Israeli officials had no immediate comment.
But Israeli ministers have said previously that the prisoner releases were always conditional on progress in the talks, which had failed to materialize.
Many also baulked at the inclusion of Palestinian citizens of Israel among the prisoners slated for release.
Rajub called the Israeli move a “slap in the face of the US administration and its efforts,” and said the Palestinians would resume their international diplomatic offensive.
“Not releasing the prisoners will mark the beginning of the efforts in the international community to challenge the legality of the occupation,” he said.
The talks have been teetering on the brink of collapse, with Washington fighting an uphill battle to get the two sides to agree to a framework for continued negotiations until the end of the year.
US Secretary of State John Kerry met Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas in Amman on Wednesday in a bid to salvage the talks, with US special envoy Martin Indyk meeting the Palestinian leader in Ramallah on Thursday.
Israel’s government has announced the construction of thousands of settler housing units and its army has killed 60 Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza since the talks began.
The Israeli government has also insisted that it maintain a military and civilian presence in the occupied Jordan Valley, which forms around a third of the West Bank, and has insisted that the PLO recognize it as a “Jewish state,” despite having already officially recognized Israel decades earlier.
Ma’an staff contributed to this report
Senior British politicians say the United States is “bullying” UK banks and is hampering legal exports from Britain to Iran.
The politicians, including former British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and former Chancellor Lord Lamont, made the remarks at a Westminster Hall debate on Wednesday.
British parliamentarians say the US threatens British banks with heavy sanctions and hampers the legal exports of food, pharmaceuticals and medical devices from the UK to the Islamic republic. They add that Washington is hindering UK’s legal trade with Iran.
Lamont said Britain “should not be bullied by the American authorities.”
Straw noted that as British banks fear US sanctions, they do not provide UK companies with banking services for legal exports to Iran.
“The pressure on our banks is intense,” Straw said, adding, “The impact of this unilateral, extraterritorial jurisdiction of the US is discriminatory, especially against UK-based financial institutions, given their multinational nature.”
Straw also said the US authorities would not accept the way that British banks and companies are treated if they were in the same situation.
“The US Congress and government would not tolerate this for a moment were the situation reversed,” Straw stated, saying the move by the US is a direct challenge to the sovereignty of the UK.
Straw, who is also the British head of Iran-Britain Parliamentary Friendship Group, visited Iran at the head of a high-ranking delegation, including Lamont, Conservative lawmaker Ben Wallace and Labor lawmaker Jeremy Corbyn as guests of Iran’s Majlis in January.
The British delegates held meetings with high-ranking Iranian officials. The three-day official visit was the first by a delegation of British politicians since 2008.
Earlier this month, in remarks meant to dissuade foreign countries from planning trade cooperation with the Islamic Republic, US Secretary of State John Kerry said Iran is not an open market for business.
“We have made it crystal clear that Iran is not open for business,” Kerry said, addressing US Senators on Capitol Hill on March 13. He warned that the core sanctions against Iran remain firmly in place.
Several delegations from across the world have visited Iran over the past few months in order to boost trade and ties with the Islamic Republic.