WASHINGTON – US foreign assistance to nations other than Israel is not yet determined in the fiscal year 2018 Department of State budget, acting spokesperson Mark Toner said in a briefing on Thursday.
Israel secured $3.1 billion in foreign funding in President Donald Trump’s 2018 budget that was made public on Thursday.
“Our assistance to Israel is a cutout on the budget, and that’s guaranteed,” Toner told reporters. “With respect to other assistance levels — foreign military assistance levels, those are still being evaluated and decisions are going to be made going forward.”
Toner pointed out the State Department was still at the beginning of the budget process and would consider US treaty obligations when determining assistance.
Last September former President Barack Obama’s administration signed a 10-year, $38 billion memorandum of understanding that represents the single largest bilateral military pledge of defense aid in US history.
The agreement included $33 billion in foreign military financing and $5 billion for missile defense from fiscal year 2019-2028.
A German newspaper was forced to remove the name of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from a list of the world’s craziest leaders following diplomatic pressure.
Hamburger Morgenpost had included Netanyahu in a list of “The Seven Craziest Leaders in the World” because he promotes settlement policies and because he tried to convince former US
President Barack Obama to attack Iran.
As a result, the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs sent a complaint to the German government and the Israeli embassy in Berlin criticised the newspaper and said in a statement that this is an “anti-Semitic” act.
“The fact that they put an elected prime minister of a democratic Western country… alongside some of the worst dictators in the world, reveals more than anything the newspaper’s level of understanding of what is happening today in the world,” the embassy said in a statement, according to Israel’s Ynet News.
The newspaper was then forced to remove Netanyahu from the list and apologised for including him.
“It was wrong to make @netanyahu part of this list. We apologise,” the newspaper announced.
As US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson travels across Japan, China and South Korea, amid the impeachment of South Korean president Park Geun-hye and a recent missile launch by North Korea, Radio Sputnik’s Brian Becker invited columnist and author Patrick Lawrence to discuss what’s at the heart of the new diplomat’s trip.
The impeachment of South Korean president Park Geun-hye has plunged South Korea into a time of uncertainty. Between America’s undecided foreign policy and the massive unpopularity of its THAAD system deployment in South Korea, Park’s successor may take an unexpected stance. This seems likely, given that the most probable candidate to win the elections is Moon Jae-in, a supporter of the Sunshine Policy, the idea of close cooperation with North Korea without military intervention.
According to Lawrence, the visit to South Korea is the key leg of Tillerson’s trip, as Park’s impeachment has jeopardized US plans to deploy the THAAD anti-missile system in the country. The move, to counter the North Korean nuclear threat, is facing fierce opposition among South Koreans. President Park has been playing along with the United States on this issue.
Acting President Hwang Kyo-ahn, however, is obliged by law to call new elections in 60 days. Described by Lawrence as a “creature of Park Geun-hye,” Hwang’s tenure may create a short window of opportunity for the US to deploy the controversial system. But, as he is associated with the impeached president, Hwang’s chances of winning the election are extremely low. South Korea’s celebrated democracy, then, may very well backfire on the US.
Aside from the THAAD issue, Washington must decide on its approach to North Korea.
“There is no standing still on North Korean question,” Lawrence says. “Either we open the new negotiations with them, or we become more aggressive militarily.”
In fact, military confrontation is not the only way the United States might approach North Korea. While the DPRK is consistently portrayed as aggressive, irrational and totalitarian, it was not until Nobel Peace Prize winner Barack Obama’s presidency that that the US ceased negotiations with DPRK in 2009: both Presidents Clinton and Bush engaged in negotiations with Pyongyang, while South Korea implemented the Sunshine Policy which opened opportunities for cooperation between the two countries.
Lawrence reminded listeners that during the Korean War, the US Air Force destroyed every structure higher than one story in the country.
“The main complaint of the US pilots during the war was that there was nothing left to bomb,” Lawrence says.
Bombings also eliminated 20% of North Korean population, and this, according to Lawrence, is the real reason behind North Korea’s determination to ensure its safety through nuclear weapons and its reluctance to negotiate.
“This has been erased [from history textbooks],” Lawrence says. “That’s how we maintain the fiction of wild North Korean irrationality.”
Lawrence pointed out that, in theory, there could be a deal between Washington and Pyongyang: the US ceases the military drills in the region and North Korea in return halts its nuclear program. But North Korea has a lengthy record of having the United States violate their own agreements: Lawrence recalls that each time an agreement on nuclear weapons was signed with North Korea, the United States started picking on Pyongyang’s missile program, which was never covered in the agreement. Lawrence compares it to the nuclear deal with Iran, since Washington also criticized Tehran for a missile program which has to be perceived separately from the nuclear deal itself.
Should it nevertheless resort to negotiations, the United States will have to face a very strong resistance from within, since the military industrial complex is the force that is critically interested in keeping tensions in the region high; keeping significant numbers of US armed forces in the region is necessary to project US power in Asia, but this can only be justified if there is a clear and present danger: “demonic” North Korea and its nuclear weapons.
“We are heavily dependent on the conflict in this country. We are absolutely dependent on maintaining the high degree of tension on the Korean Peninsula,” Lawrence says.
There is even a possibility that US generals will denounce President Trump’s direct order to withdraw from the region. This happened in 1977, right after then-President Jimmy Carter announced the withdrawal of US troops from South Korea. A very similar thing, according to Lawrence, happened after President Trump announced his intention to de-escalate, or “normalize” US relations with Russia.
“Nobody should be under any illusion as to the limited extent to which the civilian government in Washington is in actual control of the Pentagon,” Lawrence says.
This video is a spectacular glimpse into Jewish Identity Politics. In the music clip, Alliel, an arrogant yeshiva boy is subject to a historical continuum of harassment. Seemingly, Alliel didn’t bother to ask himself why is he chased and abused time after time by so many people in so many places. Humanity, for him, is a pictorial remote entity united by Jew hatred. For him the only thing that matters is that Am Israel Chai – The Jew always prevail. But then, if this is the case, if the Jews see themselves as omnipotent superheroes why do they expect the rest of humanity to regard them as hopeless victims?
While the US Justice Department is unleashing its righteous fury against two Russian intelligence operatives allegedly involved in the hacking of half a billion Yahoo accounts, none of today’s US media coverage mentioned that one of the culprits is being suspected of cooperating with foreign intelligence services including, apparently, the CIA.
The United States has accused four individuals, including two Russian intelligence officers, of hacking at least half a billion Yahoo accounts back in 2014. Yahoo shed light on the data breach last fall; later the company revealed that in 2013 it had also fallen victim to a cyberattack.
According to US officials, the intrusion targeted the email accounts of Russian and US officials, Russian journalists, employees of financial services and other businesses.
“We are announcing an indictment of four individuals responsible for hacking into Yahoo and the use of that information to obtain information of yahoo accounts and other email productions. Defendants include two officers of the Russian intelligence services and two criminal hackers with whom they conspired,” Acting Assistant Attorney General Mary McCord said.
The Washington Post highlighted that the latter charges are unrelated to the hacking of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the FBI’s ongoing investigation into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
The indicted intelligence officers are Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) operatives Dmitry Dokuchaev and Igor Sushchin. The other two are hackers Aleksey Belan and Karim Baratov.
However, what US mainstream media have failed to report is that Dokuchaev was charged with treason and arrested by Russian authorities back in December 2016 along with his FSB superior Sergey Mikhailov and Kaspersky Lab’s top manager Ruslan Stoyanov.
Their collaborator, Vladimir Anikeev, who is referred to by the media as the founder of hacker group Shaltay-Boltay, was arrested in October 2016. According to Sputnik’s law enforcement source, the four are suspected of transferring data to foreign agencies.
“Indeed, they are detained on suspicion of treason. It is assumed that they regularly provided information to foreign, likely US, intelligence service members,” the source revealed in early February, adding that the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) does not appear in the treason case.
“Why they committed the crime and what exactly they provided is being analyzed within the investigation framework,” the source noted.
However, Russian media outlet Gazeta.ru suggested that Dokuchaev and Mikhailov collaborated with the CIA, citing a source in a Russian law enforcement service.
“Head of the Information Security Center of the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation Sergey Mikhailov and his deputy Dmitry Dokuchaev are accused of having violated the oath and begun cooperating with the CIA,” the source said, as quoted by the media outlet.
According to Gazeta.ru, FSB started an internal investigation over Mikhailov and Dokuchaev’s alleged collaboration with Western companies closely connected with foreign secret services a year ago.
It was also reported that the investigation was launched over a cybercrime that was committed by the suspects a few years ago.
The investigation indicated that Kaspersky Lab’s employee Stoyanov acted as a facilitator, transferring information from the two FSB operatives to foreign companies, the media outlet wrote.It looks rather strange that none of the US mainstream media sources have mentioned the fact that Dokuchaev currently remains under arrest in Russia on charges of treason.
The question arises, why the US Justice Department, avoided mentioning that the aforementioned FSB operative is being accused of spying and collaborating with foreign intelligence services.
The recent WikiLeaks disclosure of the CIA hacking group’s activities has once again undermined Washington’s claims regarding Russia’s involvement in overseas cyberattacks.
Is it possible that the CIA was indirectly involved in the hacking of Yahoo in order to later implicate Russia?
As CIA documents released by WikiLeaks indicate, the US intelligence agency is capable of using false flag digital “fingerprints” to shift blame on other nations, including Russia.
“Journalists” who want to write fake news about Venezuela, or about any other country or group that dares to stand up to US imperialism, only need to follow this simple recipe:
- Choose one or more countries/groups opposed to US imperialism
- If available, have a former official, now being paid by the US government, make the accusations
- Season well with doses of “war on terror” and/or “war on drugs”
- Sprinkle with opinions of “experts” who work in DC think tanks or US-funded NGOs
While this looks like a very unsavoury mix, the results last very long and can be reheated with no problems.
This recipe has been used and re-used plenty of times, either by US officials to justify policies or by media outlets. But given how the media critically accepts everything when it comes to foreign policy, there is hardly a distinction to be made here.
A classical example were the fabricated connections made between Chávez/Venezuela and al-Qaeda. Other variants involve dealings with the FARC1, Mexican cartels, and the favourite dance partner is Hezbollah. On one hand, the US’ relation with al-Qaeda is now a bit more complicated, as extremists may get bombed if they are in Iraq but supported if they cross into Syria. On the other, Hezbollah is the biggest obstacle to Israeli hegemony and the colonisation of Palestine. This kind of propaganda is reminiscent of the effort to fabricate connections between al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein in order to justify the invasion of Iraq. Some outlets would even have us believe North Korea was supplying arms to Hamas!
The most recent story involves the newly-appointed vice-president, Tareck El Aissami, who is a perfect ingredient because of his Middle Eastern ancestry. Even though he was born and lived all his life in Venezuela, his parents are Druze immigrants from Lebanon. The storm started with a CNN “story” about the Venezuelan embassy in Iraq selling passports to dangerous people, including members of Hezbollah, who would then use them to attack the US or its allies. This operation was claimed to be directed by El Aissami. This story was directly quoted by Marco Rubio during a renewed push by US lawmakers for more sanctions against Venezuela. These came later from the Department of the Treasury, this time linking El Aissami to Mexican cartels. With a little more effort even the North Koreans might have been added to the party.
All in all, there are many things that do not add up. First of all, there is the issue of Hezbollah plotting terror attacks in the US, but we will not go into detail here. It suffices to say that the evidence of Hezbollah involvement in terror attacks abroad is, at best, very thin. Then there is the sectarian issue. Western media, at the behest of western allies in the Middle East, keep stirring up this supposedly grave Shia threat, with Iran and Hezbollah even conspiring to reshape demographics and create an all-Shia corridor in the Middle East. And yet their man in Venezuela is a Druze. Equally ludicrous are claims that there are Venezuelan training camps in Lebanon and vice-versa. Hezbollah’s main foe is right next door, but somehow it would need training camps halfway around the world! The links to the drug trade presented by the Treasury are equally flimsy, and were picked apart masterfully by Larissa Costas.
The “star witness” of CNN’s expose, Misael López, has since been revealed to be a close associate of Ana Argotti, who is in turn very close to Lilian Tintori and Leopoldo López, the hard-right politician jailed for his role in the violent activities during the 2014 guarimbas that resulted in over 40 deaths. Argotti has defended several members of the opposition charged with violent crimes during this period. As for Misael López, he is also under investigation for alleged sexual harassment and attempting to withdraw funds from the Venezuelan embassy in Baghdad.
Elusive cartels and double standards
Another high-profile fake story, followed by sanctions, involved Diosdado Cabello, an important figure in the ruling PSUV and head of the National Assembly at the time. Based on the account of a former bodyguard turned star-witness, now living comfortably in the US, Cabello was accused of being the boss of the elusive Cartel de los Soles. This is supposedly a very important Latin American drug cartel run by the Venezuelan military. The problem is that, unlike the stories we hear of cartels violently making themselves known and marking territory, here we have a drug cartel run from the highest levels of the Venezuelan state operating without anyone really noticing it. It is like the Illuminati version of drug cartels.
Venezuela is often presented as an obstacle in the war on drugs, but the truth is that the main actor in the cocaine trade is neighbouring Colombia, the empire’s best friend and largest recipient of aid in the hemisphere. Any list of officials connected to the drug trade has to start with (former Colombian president) Álvaro Uribe if it is to be taken seriously. We are talking about the country where the para-politics scandal broke, revealing that dozens of elected officials had links to paramilitary groups, the heart and soul of the drug trade. And yet we never hear stories of Colombian politicians or military officials, who cooperate closely with the US military, being involved in illegal activities, nor have sanctions ever been imposed on them.
This double standard is only outrageous if we believe that the war on drugs is actually designed to eradicate the drug trade. Rather, it is supposed to manage it. In fact, drugs have been very useful for US agencies, for instance, to pacify black communities and derail the black liberation movement in the 1970s. Coupled with draconian legislation and harsh sentences, today they serve to feed the very lucrative prison industry. In any case, large amounts of cocaine are consumed in the very place where the drug money is laundered – Wall Street. Even when a massive drug money laundering scheme is uncovered at a major US bank, a mild slap on the wrist and a fine worth a few days’ profit is all that can be expected.
Fake news as background
None of this is intended as an endorsement or an exoneration of El Aissami, Cabello, or anyone else. But these news stories and unproven accusations, as well as others targeting lower-profile officials such as Néstor Reverol, are not meant to prove anything or to lead to any judicial prosecution. They are simply thrown out there and blindly echoed by an uncritical media. They are meant to create background. From now on, whenever Tareck El Aissami appears in the news we will read that he has links to terrorism and the drug trade, and thus whatever he says or does will build on this background.
For the past two decades, Venezuela has been the biggest thorn in the US’ side, a real nuisance in Washington’s “backyard”, striving for an independent course (a “second independence”) and leading the efforts for a regional integration which is not subjected to the interests of the Northern empire. The US responded with its traditional regime-change operation, destabilizing at every turn, funding opposition groups, imposing a de-facto financial blockade on Venezuela, even working to lower oil prices. Their natural allies, the Venezuelan elites, have also been outraged that the country they used to own has been taken away from them, and coup-plotting has become their way of life.
And therefore these fake news stories are pre-emptive justification for a future coup or foreign intervention. Should one of these take place, the media will be ready with plenty of hyperlinks to these fake stories that present Venezuela as a failed, rogue state, connected to terrorism and the drug trade. The coup/foreign intervention would then look like the benign empire saving the world from this threat.
What the empire, the local elites and the media keep underestimating is the power of the masses that were awakened by this project, chavismo, that for the first time sees them placed front and centre. There is now a political conscience, a firm belief that the people should write their own history, and it will take a lot more than fake stories from propaganda outlets to restore Venezuela’s former neo-colonial status. In the words of Chávez:
“Aquí nadie se rinde, carajo!”
(1) While the FARC have been involved in the drug trade, it has mostly been at the lowest levels of the chain, levying a tax on sales of coca crops. Associating them, and only them, to the Colombian drug trade, is incredibly dishonest and exonerates those who profit the most out of it.
The latest CNN documentary about President Vladimir Putin is the US elite’s last-ditch effort to demonize the Russian leader, Gregory Dobromelov, Director of the Institute of Applied Political Studies, told Radio Sputnik.
The documentary entitled “The Most Powerful Man in the World” was made by CNN’s Fareed Zakaria and presented on March 13.
Commenting on the matter, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that it appears that the documentary was made “with a critical bias in line with the further demonization of our country [Russia] and, possibly, our president [Vladimir Putin].”
“We read some of the press, in fact everything was as predicted: this is another material in line with hysterical, emotional background based on opinions that have nothing substantial, opinions that are most often absolute fiction,” Peskov told reporters.
“Vladimir Vladimirovich [Putin] did not have the time to get acquainted because it came out at night,” he added.
The documentary claims that “Putin is afraid of a popular uprising,” and that “the President controls everything in Russia.” It also focuses on the issue of Russia’s alleged “intervention” in the elections of the United States. However, the authors do not present any evidence to back up their accusations.
Former US Defense Secretary Robert Gates, editor of The New Yorker David Remnick, journalists Masha Gessen and Julia Ioffe acted as experts in the film.
“The West is now trying to use the last window of opportunity, which still exists before Putin meets with [US President Donald] Trump, to demonize the figure of the Russian President,” Dobromelov assumed in an interview with Radio Sputnik.
“First and foremost, this film is intended for the [US] domestic audience; it claims once again that Trump’s attempts to establish a constructive dialogue with Russia are ‘actually’ efforts to cooperate with a man who allegedly has ‘totalitarian habits’,” he suggested.
According to Dobromelov, the documentary won’t impact Russia’s image around the globe, given the fact that many nations have an essentially positive view of Russia and its president.
“In fact, many in the world don’t endorse the US [policies] and are ready to support the foreign policy of Vladimir Putin,” Dobromelov said.
The academic pointed out that citizens of many countries want their governments to protect their own national interests, like the Russians do.
“Citizens of many countries want their governments to begin to defend the interests of their own states,” he said.
“Most likely, the opinion will be divided in two,” Dobromelov assumed, “One half will believe [what the authors of the documentary claim], while the other half will think that all this [narrative] will [in the end] benefit the Russian leader.”