Join James Corbett for today’s thought for the day as he takes you on a walk across the street
Russian President Vladimir Putin has just held a press conference with Italian President Sergio Mattarella.
Putin told reporters that Russian intelligence indicates that terrorist factions operating in Syria are planning further chemical weapons attacks, likely in regions south of Damascus.
Putin explained that these attacks will be used as provocations for further US military action in Syria as the terrorists will blame the attacks on President Assad. In other words, the intelligence points to a premeditated false flag attack.
“We have intelligence, showing that such provocations may happen in other parts of Syria, including territories south of Damascus. They plan to use some substances and then accuse the Syrian government of using those chemicals.”
Putin urged vigilance against such provocative attacks and reiterated Russia’s commitment to an impartial UN led investigation of the now infamous Idlib chemical weapons attack which America used as justification for their bombing of Syria last week.
“We believe every incident should be properly investigated so we plan to contact the UN institution at The Hague and we urge the international community to investigate the incident – then based on this investigation, a proper decision has to made.”
Putin also drew parallels between the US rush to war in Syria with George Bush’s attack on Iraq in 2003 when evidence about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction turned out to be false.
The Russian President stated quite frankly, ‘we’ve seen this all before’.
This comes as US Secretary of State Tillerson is to meet Russian Foreign Minsiter Sergey Lavrov later today in Moscow.
By firing off five dozen Tomahawk missiles at a military airfield, our “America First” president may have plunged us into another Middle East war that his countrymen do not want to fight.
Thus far Bashar Assad seems unintimidated. Brushing off the strikes, he has defiantly gone back to bombing the rebels from the same Shayrat air base that the U.S. missiles hit.
Trump “will not stop here,” warned U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley on Sunday. “If he needs to do more, he will.”
If Trump fails to back up Haley’s threat, the hawks now cheering him on will begin deriding him as “Donald Obama.”
But if he throbs to the war drums of John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Marco Rubio and orders Syria’s air force destroyed, we could be at war not only with ISIS and al-Qaida, but with Syria, Russia, Iran and Hezbollah.
A Syrian war would consume Trump’s presidency.
Are we ready for that? How would we win such a war without raising a large army and sending it back into the Middle East?
Another problem: Trump’s missile attack was unconstitutional. Assad had not attacked or threatened us, and Congress, which alone has the power to authorize war on Syria, has never done so.
Indeed, Congress denied President Obama that specific authority in 2013.
What was Trump thinking? Here was his strategic rational:
“When you kill innocent children, innocent babies — babies, little babies — with a chemical gas … that crosses many, many lines, beyond a red line. … And I will tell you, that attack on children yesterday had a big impact on me … my attitude toward Syria and Assad has changed very much.”
Two days later, Trump was still emoting: “Beautiful babies were cruelly murdered in this very barbaric attack. No child of God should ever suffer such horror.”
Now, that gas attack was an atrocity, a war crime, and pictures of its tiny victims are heart-rending. But 400,000 people have died in Syria’s civil war, among them thousands of children and infants.
Have they been killed by Assad’s forces? Surely, but also by U.S., Russian, Israeli and Turkish planes and drones — and by Kurds, Iranians, Hezbollah, al-Qaida, ISIS, U.S.-backed rebels and Shiite militia.
Assad is battling insurgents and jihadists who would slaughter his Alawite brethren and the Christians in Syria just as those Copts were massacred in Egypt on Palm Sunday. Why is Assad more responsible for all the deaths in Syria than those fighting to overthrow and kill him?
Are we certain Assad personally ordered a gas attack on civilians?
For it makes no sense. Why would Assad, who is winning the war and had been told America was no longer demanding his removal, order a nerve gas attack on children, certain to ignite America’s rage, for no military gain?
Like the gas attack in 2013, this has the marks of a false flag operation to stampede America into Syria’s civil war.
And as in most wars, the first shots fired receive the loudest cheers. But if the president has thrown in with the neocons and War Party, and we are plunging back into the Mideast maelstrom, Trump should know that many of those who helped to nominate and elect him — to keep us out of unnecessary wars — may not be standing by him.
We have no vital national interest in Syria’s civil war. It is those doing the fighting who have causes they deem worth dying for.
For ISIS, it is the dream of a caliphate. For al-Qaida, it is about driving the Crusaders out of the Dar al Islam. For the Turks, it is, as always, about the Kurds.
For Assad, this war is about his survival and that of his regime. For Putin, it is about Russia remaining a great power and not losing its last naval base in the Med. For Iran, this is about preserving a land bridge to its Shiite ally Hezbollah. For Hezbollah it is about not being cut off from the Shiite world and isolated in Lebanon.
Because all have vital interests in Syria, all have invested more blood in this conflict than have we. And they are not going to give up their gains or goals in Syria and yield to the Americans without a fight.
And if we go to war in Syria, what would we be fighting for?
A New World Order? Democracy? Separation of mosque and state? Diversity? Free speech for Muslim heretics? LGBT rights?
In 2013, a great national coalition came together to compel Congress to deny Barack Obama authority to take us to war in Syria.
We are back at that barricade. An after-Easter battle is shaping up in Congress on the same issue: Is the president authorized to take us into war against Assad and his allies inside Syria?
If, after Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Yemen, we do not want America in yet another Mideast war, the time to stop it is before the War Party has us already in it. That time is now.
Copyright 2017 Creators.com.
The use of chemical weapons in Sheikhun, in the Idlib province of Syria on 4th April 2017 was a heinous act. The world has rightly condemned it.
Because it was so cruel and callous, it is vital that the truth about the attack is established as soon as possible. The United States of America and a number of its allies are certain that the attack was planned and executed by the Syrian government. 86 people, including 27 children, were killed in the carnage. The US Ambassador to the UN has shown some heart-rending images of some of the children who died from the chemical gas attack.
The Syrian authorities have denied categorically that they were responsible for the tragedy. They claim that a warehouse containing toxic materials may have been hit in the course of the Syrian army’s operations in the area thus releasing lethal gas and causing so many deaths.
Given these conflicting accounts, an independent international inquiry should be conducted to determine what really happened on the 4th of April. The members of the panel should comprise credible experts who are not citizens of any of the five permanent member states of the UN Security Council. The UN Secretary-General should appoint the panel.
It is only after the panel’s findings are made public that action should be taken under the provisions of the UN Charter. By firing a barrage of cruise missiles at a Syrian airbase on the 7th of April, the US has not only violated international law but has also committed aggression against a sovereign state. The US’s unilateral action has worsened the conflict in Syria.
Establishing the truth about the chemical gas episode is far more important than flexing one’s military muscle. To start with, how could the Syrian army have deployed chemical weapons when a UN affiliated body, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons confirmed in June 2014 that Syria had complied with a Security Council resolution to destroy its entire stockpile of chemical weapons ?
Besides, it defies logic that the Syrian government that has regained control over almost all the major cities in the country and is clearly winning the war against the militants who are being backed by regional and Western actors should deliberately choose to gas innocent children — an action which it knows would provoke the wrath of the whole world.
A brief survey of gas attacks in Syria in the last five years would convince us that it just does not make sense for the government to consciously plan the 4th April episode. Take the infamous Ghouta sarin gas attack of August 2013. The centres of power in the West and in West Asia North Africa (WANA) opposed to Bashar al-Assad through their media channels immediately labelled the Syrian authorities as the culprit and crucified them. But the highly respected American investigative journalist, Seymour Hersh, through meticulous analysis revealed that the attack was actually the work of a militant group carried out with the connivance of elements in the Turkish power structure.
The Houla massacre of 25 May 2012 was another example of a gas attack that finger-pointed the Bashar government. A picture of a large number of dead children “wrapped in white shrouds with a child jumping over one of them” was offered as proof of Bashar’s brutality. The picture was actually from the war in Iraq in 2003. The photographer himself, Marco Di Lauro, came out in the open to expose the fabrication. In fact according to the German newspaper, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ), the massacre was “committed by anti-Assad Sunni militants, and the bulk of the victims were members of the Alawi and Shia minorities, which have been largely supportive of Assad.” There was also the case of militants gathering Christian and Alawi hostages in a building in the Khalidya neighbourhood in Homs, blowing it up with dynamite and then putting the blame upon the Syrian army. Numerous other instances of militants committing terrible atrocities but giving the impression that the Syrian army or its allies — Iranian revolutionary guards or Hezbollah fighters or Russian soldiers — were responsible have been documented by journalists and commentators.
Of all the lies and deceptions of this sort in recent memory the most outrageous would the Anglo-American allegation about Saddam Hussein’s “Weapons of Mass Destruction” which was the fig-leaf used to camouflage their invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003. The Bolivian Ambassador to the UN, Sacha Llorenti, reminded the Security Council of this monstrous lie at its meeting on the 7th of April and warned the world that “After this (Iraqi) invasion there were 1 million deaths and it launched a series of atrocities in that region. Could we talk about ISIS if that invasion had not taken place? Could we be talking about the series of horrendous attacks in various parts of the world had that invasion, this illegal invasion not taken place?”
Lies, manipulation of facts and false-flag operations all serve an overriding goal which is to protect and perpetuate US hegemonic power and the interests of its allies. In Iraq and Syria it is only too obvious that the aim is to secure hegemony through regime-change. Indeed, the US elite, at the behest of Israel, have been seeking to oust Bashar al-Assad for the good part of the last 15 years. For different reasons, the rulers of London and Paris, and those at the helm in Riyadh, Doha and Ankara also want to get rid of Bashar. A convergence of motives explains why these elites have been funding, training, arming and channeling intelligence to militants in Syria from various parts of the world who have sometimes resorted to the most barbaric methods in pursuit of their zealous drive to seize power.
There is perhaps yet another reason — apart from regime change — why some vested interests in Washington have decided to exploit the 4th April gas attack. These interests in the military, the intelligence community, the media, think-tanks, within lobbies and among legislators, are opposed to any rapprochement between Washington and Moscow. Perpetuating an adversarial relationship between the two is integral to their agenda of ensuring that the US remains the world’s sole dominant power. They sense that the new US President, Donald Trump, may try to build a bridge to Russia’s Vladimir Putin which is why they are manipulating the issue of the latter’s alleged attempt to influence the recent US Presidential Election. The suspicion and distrust engendered by this issue has now been aggravated by the US missile attack.
US-Russia ties are not the only issue adversely impacted by the US’s 7th April bombardment. If the US escalates its military involvement, it will have far-reaching consequences for the on-going conflict in Syria, politics in WANA and global peace in general.
Through a flurry of contacts with world authorities, the Iranian Foreign Ministry has been promoting a proposal by President Hassan Rouhani for an international, impartial investigation into accusations of a chemical attack in northwestern Syria.
At least 86 people died in the town of Khan Shaykhun in Syria’s Idlib Province last week in what the opponents of the Syrian government say was a chemical attack by Damascus. Syria has, however, denied the accusation, saying instead that a chemical weapons depot held and run by anti-Damascus militants had been hit in a conventional Syrian airstrike, causing the leak of the chemicals and the deaths. Russia has confirmed that account.
Meanwhile, and amid increased belligerence toward Damascus, Iran, another Syrian ally, has called for an international investigation by impartial parties. President Rouhani put forth the idea on Saturday. He has also condemned the use of chemical weapons by any party.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has now been holding telephone conversations with world leaders to stress the need for a fact-finding probe.
He has most recently called United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Italian Foreign Minister Angelino Alfan, Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Al Khalid Al Hamad Al Sabah, and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.
The Iranian foreign minister has also talked to European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, as well as his Russian, Omani, Syrian, and Algerian counterparts over the matter.
Amid Iranian diplomatic efforts, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Tuesday that foreign ministers of Iran, Russia and Syria would hold a meeting in Moscow this week to discuss the US strikes against Syria.
“A trilateral meeting between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Syrian minister Walid al-Muallem and Iranian minister Mohammad Javad Zarif is planned for the end of this week,” Zakharova said.
Using the Idlib tragedy as a pretext, US President Donald Trump on Friday ordered a missile strike on a Syrian airbase. A barrage of 59 Tomahawk missiles was launched against the Shayrat Airfield in the western Syrian Homs Province early on that same day, causing some 15 fatalities, including civilians.
The US strike was conducted without a mandate by the United Nations Security Council, and did not even have a US Congress approval. American officials have, meanwhile, threatened more attacks against the Syrian government.
The Friday strike and the threats of more attacks have been met with strong reactions from Syria’s main allies Iran and Russia, both of whom have condemned the attack.
Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei said on Sunday that the US strike was a “strategic mistake.”
On Monday, President Rouhani warned that any further US strikes on Syria could push the region into a “very dangerous” situation.
“America did this once, but will it go unanswered next time? The Russians have said that a confrontation was only a few inches away [during the Friday strike]. They are right, if the missiles had hit a few hundred meters away from where they did hit, it could have led to a major confrontation,” Rouhani said, apparently referring to the fact that Russian forces were based at the site that the US hit.
Following the attack, the Iranian president held phone talks with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, during which they said aggressive US actions against Syria were not permissible and violated international law.
They also called for an objective investigation into the Idlib incident, and both stressed that finding out about all aspects of the matter through that channel would be quite “easy.”
The G7 appears to have joined calls for an independent investigation of the alleged Khan Sheikhoun chemical attack.
Such an investigation was supposed to be the subject of a meeting of the UN Security Council which was taking place last week. Instead that meeting was indefinitely postponed, the US declared President Assad guilty of the attack, and launched its missiles in reprisal. The result is that a further week has passed, giving ample opportunity for those involved to cover up or doctor the evidence, and with no less a person than the President of the United States publicly declaring President Assad guilty and launching his missiles in reprisal, the whole issue has been politicised far beyond the point where a truly impartial or independent investigation is any longer possible. Probably the best that can now be hoped for is an investigation that takes weeks or even months to report, allowing passions in the meantime to die down.
That probably is the thinking of the three European members of the G7 – Germany, France and Italy – that are pressing hardest for the investigation. Sigmar Gabriel, Germany’s foreign minister, had a telephone conversation with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov on Sunday, when Lavrov appears to have pressed the idea of an investigation on him. On the question of the need for such an investigation the Europeans, somewhat unusually, have sided with the Russians against the Americans, almost certainly because German public opinion is known to oppose the US missile strikes.
Though no one should have any high expectations of what the results of an investigation into the alleged Khan Sheikhoun attack will lead to, Russian statements since the attack do suggest that the Russians are very confident of their facts and the fact that the Europeans are calling for an investigation after the US missile strike is hardly a ringing endorsement of the US claims President Assad is guilty.
Also it is fair to point out that the UN inquiry into the attack on the humanitarian convoy in September 2016, though placed under intense pressure and working under the severest constraints, proved unexpectedly impartial, clearing the Russians entirely and suggesting the Syrians bombed the convoy by mistake. That almost certainly happened because the head of that inquiry – an Indian military officer – was a tough and principled man, who insisted on the inquiry doing its job properly. Whilst the US and its Western allies will doubtless be working overtime to ensure that any inquiry into the Khan Sheikhoun attack is not headed by such a person, since the inquiry will be set up by the UN the Russians will also have a say, and it is not completely inconceivable that it might in the end do its job properly.
If it does, and if it does report that the Russian version of what happened in Khan Sheikhoun – that the chemical was released because it was stored by the Jihadis in a warehouse that the Syrian air force bombed – is true, then this could cause President Trump more than just embarrassment. As I discussed previously, there is no doubt he acted illegally by ordering the missile strike without Congressional approval or UN Security Council authorisation. Whether his enemies would be willing to make use of the fact that he acted not just illegally but also wrongly because an international investigation reported that there was no Syrian chemical weapons strike on Khan Sheikhoun is another matter.
British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson’s mission to introduce fresh sanctions against Russia over Syria looks dead in the water after the G7 group of nations blocked the idea.
Johnson wanted the G7 to agree to “very punitive sanctions” and issue a joint declaration asking Russia to end its support for Syrian President Bashar Assad in response to last week’s alleged chemical attack in Syria’s Idlib province.
Instead, while the G7 nations meeting in Italy did agree there was no solution to the Syria crisis with Assad in power, proposals to target sanctions at senior military leaders were sidelined.
A delay on implementing sanctions will be in place until there is “hard and irrefutable evidence” over the alleged chemical attack. Russia has consistently denied Syrian forces used chemical weapons, insisting the incident at Khan Sheikhoun was caused by a hit on a rebel chemical weapons plant.
Italian Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano said the G7 had broadened consultations on Tuesday morning, with key regional allies participating including Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Qatar and Turkey. He declared the talks a “political success.”
Ahead of Tuesday’s meeting, sources told the Independent that the EU and Germany were “cool” on Britain and America’s plan for new punitive measures on Moscow.
Germany privately indicated on Monday that it opposed the call for sanctions on Russia, the Times reports. Senior officials said their approach to resolving the Syrian conflict had not changed despite the “barbaric” suspected chemical attack last week.
In France, President François Hollande’s government indicated it was more open to considering sanctions against Russia in response to the alleged gas attack. The country is in the middle of an election campaign, however, meaning Paris is unlikely to take a lead given a new president and government will come to power next month.
There were mixed signals from Italy, which is hosting the G7 summit in Lucca. Johnson has insisted he is working closely with the Italians attending the gathering, however Italian President Sergio Mattarella arrived in Moscow on Monday night for an official visit with Russian leader Vladimir Putin. The men are due to discuss strengthening relations.
Their meeting comes after Johnson canceled a trip to Moscow planned for this week, reportedly so that his US counterpart Rex Tillerson could go on behalf of the G7 to send a “clear and coordinated” message to the Kremlin about removing its support for Assad.
Tillerson hoped to take a definite G7 statement with him to Moscow.
British Prime Minister Theresa May has delivered her backing for Johnson’s sanctions plan from her walking holiday with her husband in Wales. Until late on Monday night, Downing Street had gone out of its way to stay away from Johnson’s plan to put pressure on Putin, avoiding all talk of new sanctions.
The US and EU have already imposed an array of sanctions on Russian individuals and businesses. The UK began imposing sanctions on Russia in 2014, after a coup in Kiev resulted in Crimea voting to become part of Russia, and conflict emerged between Kiev and eastern Ukraine’s Donbass region.
The European Commission has refused to comment on a proposal by the Danish government to modify the country’s laws allowing it to block the construction of a Russian natural gas pipeline to Europe.
Earlier this week, a bill was put to the Danish parliament to make sure foreign, and security policy is considered when assessing the approval of projects such as Nord Stream-2.
According to the Danish energy ministry, the present regulations do not allow Denmark to decide on permits for transit pipelines to pass through Danish waters due to foreign policy considerations.
“We want to have the possibility to say yes or no from a perspective of security and foreign policy,” said Energy and Climate Minister Lars Christian Lilleholt, adding that it was the only possible way to veto such projects due to environmental concerns.
Denmark’s right-wing minority government will reportedly negotiate with other parties to win support for the proposal.
The Nord Stream- 2 pipeline aims to double the existing capacity delivering natural gas from Russia to Germany and Northern Europe under the Baltic Sea.
The pipeline bypasses Ukraine, which the Kremlin says proved to be unreliable for both the exporter and the importer. The gas transit contract between Moscow and Kiev expires in December 2019 and has not yet been extended.
Last month, EU officials announced plans to enter security negotiations with Moscow over the project, saying the bloc no longer had legal grounds to stop it.
The move followed years of delays over EU concerns the project would strengthen Russia’s dominance of the European gas market and minimize Ukraine’s participation.
North Korea denounced the US deployment of a naval strike group to the region Tuesday, warning it is ready for “war” as Washington tightens the screws on the nuclear-armed state.
The strike group — which includes the Nimitz-class aircraft supercarrier USS Carl Vinson — cancelled a planned trip to Australia this weekend to head to the Korean peninsula in a show of force.
“This goes to prove that the US reckless moves for invading the DPRK have reached a serious phase,” a spokesman for the North’s foreign ministry said according to state news agency KCNA.
“The DPRK is ready to react to any mode of war desired by the US,” he said, using the country’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
President Donald Trump, fresh from ordering a missile strike on Syria that was widely interpreted as a warning to North Korea, has asked his advisors for a range of options to rein in Pyongyang, a top US official said Sunday.
Trump has previously threatened unilateral action against Pyongyang if China — the North’s sole major ally — fails to help curb its neighbor’s nuclear weapons ambitions.
“We will take the toughest counteraction against the provocateurs in order to defend ourselves by powerful force of arms,” the North Korean foreign ministry spokesman said.
“We will hold the US wholly accountable for the catastrophic consequences to be entailed by its outrageous actions.”
Speculation over an imminent nuclear test is brewing as the North marks anniversaries including the 105th birthday of its late founding leader on Saturday — sometimes celebrated with a demonstration of military might.
A fleet of North Korean cargo ships laden with coal is returning to their home port of Nampo after China ordered its trading companies to refuse the shipments, Reuters reports quoting shipping data.
This appears to show China is committed to the ban on imports of North Korean coal after Pyongyang carried out globally criticized missile tests. Coal is the crucial export product of the isolated state, especially the deliveries of the type used for steel making – coking coal.
To curb coal traffic between the two countries, Chinese customs ordered companies to return their North Korean coal cargoes starting from April 7, according to Reuters sources.
Two million tons are stranded at Chinese ports; the agency reported quoting a source at Dandong Chengtai, one of China’s biggest buyers of North Korean coal.
To reduce the shortfall in coal imports, China resumed buying American coal this year. According to trade data, China bought over 400,000 tons by late February. The US did not export coking coal to China between late 2014 and 2016. However, President Donald Trump pledged to revive the country’s coal sector.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warned that following the missile strike again Syria, North Korea could be the next. Beijing and Washington have reportedly agreed to impose tougher sanctions against Pyongyang if it carries out nuclear or long-range missile tests.
President Trump tweeted on Tuesday that a trade deal between China and the US depends on how Beijing tackles North Korea.
“I explained to the President of China that a trade deal with the US will be far better for them if they solve the North Korean problem! North Korea is looking for trouble. If China decides to help, that would be great. If not, we will solve the problem without them!” he posted.
A world in turmoil, thank you Mr. Trump!
The real Donald Trump has been exposed. The man who promised a sensible and non-interventionist Middle Eastern policy and a reset with Moscow has now reneged on both pledges. His nitwit United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley has directly linked Russia and Syria for punishment by the omnipotent Leader of the Free World lest anyone be confused.
The unconscionable attack on Syria based on the usual unsubstantiated allegations has shifted the playing field dramatically, with the “new sheriff in town” apparently intent on proving he is a real man who can play hardball with the rest of them. Last week Syria was blamed by all and sundry in the Establishment for an alleged chemical weapons attack just two days after the White House backed away from the Obama Administration demand that President Bashar al-Assad be removed. Was Syria dumb enough to use chemical weapons in a war that it is winning at a point when the overt hostility from Washington had been ratcheted down? Or was it staged by the so-called rebels?
And who benefits from weakening al-Assad of Syria? ISIS and al-Qaeda. Now that Trump has the bit between his teeth on how abysmal approval ratings can skyrocket if one starts a war, look forward to more of the same with my sources telling me that establishment a no-fly zone is currently being discussed in the Pentagon. A no-fly zone would be toe-to-toe with the Russkies to see who would blink first.
Meanwhile an aircraft carrier battle group is making its way to confront North Korea, which is being warned with the good old “all options are on the table” rhetoric which will almost certainly produce a schizophrenic result of some kind. If I were a resident of Seoul I would be moving out of the city tout suite as it is within range of Pyongyang’s massed heavy artillery batteries along the DMZ.
Trump, regarded by many including myself as the sensible “peace candidate,” appears to be preparing to engage militarily on multiple fronts worldwide. And things are particularly heating up in the Middle East and South Asia. More U.S. troops are being deployed to Iraq and also to Syria, in that latter case without any invitation from Damascus or legal justification or even a phony United Nations mandate, and thousands more soldiers will be returning to Afghanistan to “stabilize” the situation. Meanwhile Yemen continues to suffer as the U.S. supports Saudi aggression.
And it doesn’t help to look for enlightenment from the cheerleading Fourth Estate, which has been completely coopted by the Establishment point of view. In the eyes of the mainstream media the Syria narrative is all about the evils of its government which Washington is now pledging to remove. Russia meanwhile is indicted without evidence for trying to overthrow our democratic system and the recent terrorist attack in St. Petersburg would have been reported more extensively but for the fact that those Soviet holdovers probably deserved it. No one is asking why the United States should believe itself to be empowered to intervene anywhere unless it is actually being directly and seriously threatened by some other nation.
So it is all a mess, largely of our own creation due to our tendency to get involved in places regarding which we know nothing and could really care less about. And by supplementing all of that with our inclination to believe in the myth of our national Exceptionalism as a genuine force for good, you wind up with a witch’s brew that has fueled anti-Americanism worldwide, led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands and emptied our treasury. Ambassador Chas Freeman has aptly perceived the U.S. government as the “foreign relations equivalent of a sociopath – a country indifferent to the rules, the consequences for others of its ignoring them, and the reliability of its word.”
As bad as that all seems, if I had to pick one place where our inability to discern right from wrong is likely to lead to the next major armed conflict, i.e. a real war, in fairly short order it would have to be Iran. The recent increase in tension between Washington and Tehran combined with the lack of any diplomatic dialogue mean that an actual shooting war might now be a “false flag,” fake intelligence report, or accidental naval encounter away. And once things start to sour, no one would stand up and say “Stop!” as the Trump Administration, Democrats, Republicans and the media all hate Iran.
I have long viewed this visceral hatred of Iran on the part of many Americans as a byproduct of the Iranian revolution and the occupation of the U.S. Embassy. Revolutionary Iran became overnight the dangerous “other,” a source of nightmares for the Washington Establishment. During my time in government, when the hostage taking at the embassy was still fresh, hating Iranians was almost a requirement in the national security community. More recently, Israel and its supporters have used Iran as a punching bag to maintain the myth that the Jewish State is existentially menaced by Tehran and its minions in the region. Being threatened in a serious way insures that the money tap from the U.S. Treasury will continue to be open and it also justifies many of Israel’s other transgressions as it chooses to portray itself as a nation under siege, ever the victim. More recently Saudi Arabia has jumped onto pretty much the same Iran band wagon, blaming Iran for all regional problems and providing justification for the ongoing slaughter in Yemen.
All of that is understandable enough, so far as it goes, but the generation of government officials who were around during the Iran hostage crisis is now retired, while the pleas of Israel and Saudi Arabia are generally best received while holding one’s nose if one has even a basic understanding of what is going on in the Middle East. But that would require some ability to establish a reasonable perspective on what is taking place and what is particularly disturbing is that some people in the government hierarchy who should know better apparently are just as delusional as some junior straight out of college scribbler for The Washington Post.
During his campaign Donald Trump repeatedly denounced the Iran Nuclear Agreement, to my mind one of only two foreign policy accomplishments of the outgoing Obama Administration. Trump said he would tear the agreement up and require Tehran to come up with something better “or else.” He has since backed off the tear-up theme, but has unfortunately appointed to high office a group of former military officers who appear to have swallowed the Iran-as-threat proposition hook-line-and-sinker.
There are some similarities between what is happening with Iran and what has been going on with Russia. Russia, it is being claimed, has been responsible for hundreds military intrusions that required a response from NATO in the Baltic. But Russia borders on the Baltic and it is part of its territorial waters, so what is really being said is that Moscow is operating in and around its own maritime coastal zone and it is NATO that is responded to as if it were a threat. Similarly, Iran, which sits on top of the Straits of Hormuz is accused of being aggressive when its small boats patrol in and around its coastal waters. It is the American Sixth Fleet that is the out of region intruder. Both Iran and Russia are being subjected to Washington’s belief that its writ runs worldwide and that it has a right to be the hegemon wherever it seeks to plant the flag.
I first encountered the Iran-as-threat crowd back in December 2015 when I listened in disbelief to a rambling speech by retired General Michael Flynn in Moscow. Ignoring the fact that Iran cannot actually threaten the United States or any genuine vital national interests, Flynn explained his concept of 21st century geo-political-economic strategy. At the time, I knew little about Flynn and his views, but I was particularly taken aback by a random shot he took at the Iranians, stating very clearly that they were responsible for “fueling four proxy wars in the Middle East.” He was presumably referring to Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, and Yemen. The audience, which included a number of international journalists and genuine foreign-policy experts, became somewhat restless and began to mutter. Two minutes later, Flynn returned to the theme, mentioning the “terrible nuclear deal with Iran.”
Later, in December, Donald Trump’s then national-security adviser Michael Flynn, “officially” put Iran “on notice” while declaring that “The Trump Administration will no longer tolerate Iran’s provocations that threaten our interests. The days of turning a blind eye to Iran’s hostile and belligerent actions toward the United States and the world community are over.” He did not elaborate on what those “actions” were.
Trumps’ Pentagon Chief General James Mattis and his new National Security Adviser Lt. General H.R. McMaster have also taken shots at Iran, making clear their own assessments that Tehran constitutes a major threat both regionally and against the United States. But the most recent diatribe by an American General against Iran is perhaps one of the oddest indictments of that country. It came in a briefing provided by Army General Joseph Votel, Commander of the U.S. Central Command. Votel was testifying before the House Armed Services Committee regarding security issues relating to the greater Middle East. Votel told the congressmen, who were of course delighted to hear bad things about the Mullahs, that Iran is “one of the greatest threats to the U.S. today” and that it has increased its “destabilizing role” in the entire region.
How Iran, with its miniscule defense budget and complete inability to project power greatly threatens the United States has to remain a mystery, though Votel provided some elaboration. He said that Iran operates in “a gray area… just short of open conflict.” Per the general, Iran engages in “lethal aid facilitation,” uses “surrogate forces” and carries out cyber attacks. He also cited Iranian small boats harassing incidents involving U.S. warships, some of which “could be considered ‘unprofessional’ or ‘unsafe.’” Put it all together and Iran is “the greatest long-term threat to stability” for the entire Middle East. Votel then advocated disrupting Iran “through military means or other means.”
One has to ask if Votel or the congressmen cheering him on are mentally defective. I was a bit thrown by the Pentagonese expression “lethal aid facilitation,” but it must mean supplying weapons to Syria and other Iranian allies. Some congressman who had not had his brain phasered should have asked Votel if his indictment of Iran wasn’t for doing precisely what the United States has been doing only orders of magnitude greater. The United States arms the entire region and also provides lethal weapons to so-called rebels in Syria. And those rebels are U.S. surrogates, are they not? And as for cyber attacks, no one is better at it than the United States and its good buddy Israel. Does Stuxnet ring a bell? And what is the Sixth Fleet doing in the Persian Gulf in any event? Send the ships home and there won’t be any “incidents” involving Iranian speedboats.
Iran’s government admittedly is not to everyone’s liking for good reasons, but the country itself is only the enemy because we have been making it happen after empowering it’s government in the first place by bringing down Saddam Hussein. Iran’s own perspective appears to have evaded American critics. It is a country surrounded by enemies, constantly threatened, which views its relations with its few friends in Syria and Lebanon as defensive measures. I am accustomed to seeing and hearing nasty things about the Mullahs, but they usually come from Israeli and Saudi partisans who persist in falsely describing the Iranians as a global threat. It is in their interest to do so, and many pliable American politicians and media talking heads have picked up the refrain, so much so that a U.S. attack on Iran would likely be endorsed overwhelmingly by Congress and applauded in the media. The danger here is that there is a groupthink about Iran and war could happen in a heartbeat if someone does or says something really dumb to trigger it. Votel sounds stupid enough to do just that.
Fake News AP article claims “anonymous” source says Russia “knew in advance about Syria chemical attack”
More fake news from the AP. Easy to spot, meant to push the war in Syria agenda further.
The recipe for this AP fake news propaganda is simple to call out…
- First paragraph says US made a “preliminary conclusion”…but has no proof.
- Fourth paragraph says “the official wasn’t authorized to speak publicly on intelligence matters.”
- The official “demanded anonymity.”
- The official could not provide details for the military and intelligence information.
- The article makes the claim, as fact, that Syria or Russia is behind the chemical attack, with no investigation ever taking place. Judge and jury….and sentence is already handed down.
- Last paragraphs bring in the military official to add weight to the story (Col. John J. Thomas).
Classic AP propaganda, and complete fake news.
The AP story has already been dismissed by the White House. Via The Hill…
The Associated Press reported Monday that the United States determined that Russia knew about last week’s chemical attack on a town in Syria beforehand.
But in a Monday evening statement, a senior administration official disputed that report.
“At this time, there is no U.S. Intelligence Community consensus that Russia had foreknowledge of the Syrian chemical attack,” the official said.
This has not stopped all major western mainstream media outlets from disseminating this AP fake news post.
Via Google News Search…
John McCain, itching for war with Syria and Russia was also quick to jump on the AP fake news (perhaps he was tipped off in advance, given the speed of his response). Via ABC news…
U.S. Senator John McCain accused Russia on Monday of having cooperated with Syrian government forces in a chemical weapons attack that has killed more than 80 people, including more than a dozen children.
The Republican senator said at a press conference in Belgrade that he believes “the Russians knew about chemical weapons because they were operating exactly from the same base.”
He said the U.S. launched cruise missile strikes last week against the Syrian base “in a response of a chemical attack.”
“I hope that this behavior by Syria, in what clearly is cooperation with Russia and Syria together, will never happen again,” he said.
McCain said the U.S. should take out Syria’s air force as part of stopping Syrian President Bashar Assad from repeating such attacks in the future.
“I would prevent Bashar Assad from flying from his airfields if he doesn’t renounce the use of these weapons,” the former American airman said. “The United States should first tell Russia that this kind of a war crime is unacceptable in the world today.”
Here is the dangerous propaganda piece published by the AP…
The United States has made a preliminary conclusion that Russia knew in advance of Syria’s chemical weapons attack last week, but has no proof of Moscow’s involvement, a senior U.S. official said Monday.
The official said that a drone operated by Russians was flying over a hospital as victims of the attack were rushing to get treatment. Hours after the drone left, a Russian-made fighter jet bombed the hospital in what American officials believe was an attempt to cover up the usage of chemical weapons.
The U.S. official said the presence of the surveillance drone over the hospital couldn’t have been a coincidence, and that Russia must have known the chemical weapons attack was coming and that victims were seeking treatment.
The official, who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly on intelligence matters and demanded anonymity, didn’t give precise timing for when the drone was in the area, where more than 80 people were killed. The official also didn’t provide details for the military and intelligence information that form the basis of what the Pentagon now believes.
Another U.S. official cautioned that no final American determination has been made that Russia knew ahead of time that chemical weapons would be used. That official wasn’t authorized to speak about internal administration deliberations and spoke on condition of anonymity.
The allegation of Russian foreknowledge is grave, even by the standards of the currently dismal U.S.-Russian relations.
Although Russia has steadfastly supported Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government, and they’ve coordinated military attacks together, Washington has never previously asserted that Moscow was complicit in any attack that involved the gassing of innocent civilians, including children. The former Cold War foes even worked together in 2013 to remove and destroy more than 1,300 tons of Syrian chemical weapons and agents.
Until Monday, U.S. officials had said they weren’t sure whether Russia or Syria operated the drone. The official said the U.S. is now convinced Russia controlled the drone. The official said it still isn’t clear who was flying the jet that bombed the hospital, because the Syrians also fly Russian-made aircraft.
U.S. officials previously have said Russians routinely work with Syrians at the Shayrat air base where the attack is supposed to have originated. U.S. officials say the chemical weapons were stored there and that those elements add to the conclusion that Russia was involved.
Last Thursday 59 Tomahawk missiles were fired on the government-controlled base in the United States’ first direct military action against Assad’s forces.
The U.S. has been focusing its military action in Syria on defeating the Islamic State group.
On Monday, Col. John J. Thomas, a U.S. military spokesman, said the U.S. has taken extra defensive precautions in Syria in case of possible retaliation against American forces for the cruise missile attack.
Thomas told reporters at the Pentagon that the increased emphasis on defensive measures to protect U.S. troops on the ground in Syria led to a slight and temporary decline in offensive U.S. airstrikes against IS in Syria.
There has been no Syrian retaliation so far for the cruise missile attack, which destroyed or rendered inoperable more than 20 Syria air force planes, he said.
Thomas said the U.S. intends to return to full offensive air operations against IS as soon as possible.