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John Laughland: Non-interventionism: the Forgotten Doctrine

Dialogue of Civilizations Research Institute – November 20, 2014

“Non-interventionism: the Forgotten Doctrine”
John Laughland (France) – Institute of Democracy and Cooperation, Director of Studies
http://wpfdc.org http://rhodesforum.org

July 2, 2017 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular, Video | 1 Comment

Foisting Blame for Cyber-hacking on Russia

By Gareth Porter | Consortium News | July 2, 2017

Recent hearings by the Senate and House Intelligence Committees reflected the rising tide of Russian-election-hacking hysteria and contributed further to it. Both Democrats and Republicans on the two committees appeared to share the alarmist assumptions about Russian hacking, and the officials who testified did nothing to discourage the politicians.

On June 21, Samuel Liles, acting director of the Intelligence and Analysis Office’s Cyber Division at the Department of Homeland Security, and Jeanette Manfra, acting deputy under secretary for cyber-security and communications, provided the main story line for the day in testimony before the Senate committee — that efforts to hack into election databases had been found in 21 states.

Former DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson and FBI counter-intelligence chief Bill Priestap also endorsed the narrative of Russian government responsibility for the intrusions on voter registration databases.

But none of those who testified offered any evidence to support this suspicion nor were they pushed to do so. And beneath the seemingly unanimous embrace of that narrative lies a very different story.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has a record of spreading false stories about alleged Russian hacking into U.S. infrastructure, such as the tale of a Russian intrusion into the Burlington, Vermont electrical utility in December 2016 that DHS later admitted was untrue. There was another bogus DHS story about Russia hacking into a Springfield, Illinois water pump in November 2011.

So, there’s a pattern here. Plus, investigators, assessing the notion that Russia hacked into state electoral databases, rejected that suspicion as false months ago. Last September, Assistant Secretary of DHS for Cybersecurity Andy Ozment and state officials explained that the intrusions were not carried out by Russian intelligence but by criminal hackers seeking personal information to sell on the Internet.

Both Ozment and state officials responsible for the state databases revealed that those databases have been the object of attempted intrusions for years. The FBI provided information to at least one state official indicating that the culprits in the hacking of the state’s voter registration database were cyber-criminals.

Illinois is the one state where hackers succeeded in breaking into a voter registration database last summer. The crucial fact about the Illinois hacking, however, was that the hackers extracted personal information on roughly 90,000 registered voters, and that none of the information was expunged or altered.

The Actions of Cybercriminals

That was an obvious clue to the motive behind the hack. Assistant DHS Secretary Ozment testified before the House Subcommittee on Information Technology on Sept. 28 (at 01:02.30 of the video) that the apparent interest of the hackers in copying the data suggested that the hacking was “possibly for the purpose of selling personal information.”

Ozment ‘s testimony provides the only credible motive for the large number of states found to have experienced what the intelligence community has called “scanning and probing” of computers to gain access to their electoral databases: the personal information involved – even e-mail addresses – is commercially valuable to the cybercriminal underworld.

That same testimony also explains why so many more states reported evidence of attempts to hack their electoral databases last summer and fall. After hackers had gone after the Illinois and Arizona databases, Ozment said, DHS had provided assistance to many states in detecting attempts to hack their voter registration and other databases.

“Any time you more carefully monitor a system you’re going to see more bad guys poking and prodding at it,” he observed, “because they’re always poking and prodding.” [Emphasis added]

State election officials have confirmed Ozment’s observation. Ken Menzel, the general counsel for the Illinois Secretary of State, told this writer, “What’s new about what happened last year is not that someone tried to get into our system but that they finally succeeded in getting in.” Menzel said hackers “have been trying constantly to get into it since 2006.”

And it’s not just state voter registration databases that cybercriminals are after, according to Menzel. “Every governmental data base – driver’s licenses, health care, you name it – has people trying to get into it,” he said.

Arizona Secretary of State Michele Reagan told Mother Jones that her I.T. specialists had detected 193,000 distinct attempts to get into the state’s website in September 2016 alone and 11,000 appeared to be trying to “do harm.”

Reagan further revealed that she had learned from the FBI that hackers had gotten a user name and password for their electoral database, and that it was being sold on the “dark web” – an encrypted network used by cyber criminals to buy and sell their wares. In fact, she said, the FBI told her that the probe of Arizona’s database was the work of a “known hacker” who had been closely monitored “frequently.”

James Comey’s Role

The sequence of events indicates that the main person behind the narrative of Russian hacking state election databases from the beginning was former FBI Director James Comey. In testimony to the House Judiciary Committee on Sept. 28, Comey suggested that the Russian government was behind efforts to penetrate voter databases, but never said so directly.

Comey told the committee that FBI Counterintelligence was working to “understand just what mischief Russia is up to with regard to our elections.” Then he referred to “a variety of scanning activities” and “attempted intrusions” into election-related computers “beyond what we knew about in July and August,” encouraging the inference that it had been done by Russian agents.

The media then suddenly found unnamed sources ready to accuse Russia of hacking election data even while admitting that they lacked evidence. The day after Comey’s testimony ABC headlined, “Russia Hacking Targeted Nearly Half of States’ Voter Registration Systems, Successfully Infiltrating 4.” The story itself revealed, however, that it was merely a suspicion held by “knowledgeable” sources.

Similarly, NBC News headline announced, “Russians Hacked Two U.S. Voter Databases, Officials Say.” But those who actually read the story closely learned that in fact none of the unnamed sources it cited were actually attributing the hacking to the Russians.

It didn’t take long for Democrats to turn the Comey teaser — and these anonymously sourced stories with misleading headlines about Russian database hacking — into an established fact. A few days later, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Adam Schiff declared that there was “no doubt” Russia was behind the hacks on state electoral databases.

On Oct. 7, DHS and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence issued a joint statement that they were “not in a position to attribute this activity to the Russian government.” But only a few weeks later, DHS participated with FBI in issuing a “Joint Analysis Report” on “Russian malicious cyber activity” that did not refer directly to scanning and spearphishing aimed of state electoral databases but attributed all hacks related to the election to “actors likely associated with RIS [Russian Intelligence Services].”

Suspect Claims

But that claim of a “likely” link between the hackers and Russia was not only speculative but highly suspect. The authors of the DHS-ODNI report claimed the link was “supported by technical indicators from the U.S. intelligence community, DHS, FBI, the private sector and other entities.” They cited a list of hundreds of I.P. addresses and other such “indicators” used by hackers they called “Grizzly Steppe” who were supposedly linked to Russian intelligence.

But as I reported last January, the staff of Dragos Security, whose CEO Rob Lee, had been the architect of a U.S. government system for defense against cyber attack, pointed out that the vast majority of those indicators would certainly have produced “false positives.”

Then, on Jan. 6 came the “intelligence community assessment” – produced by selected analysts from CIA, FBI and National Security Agency and devoted almost entirely to the hacking of e-mail of the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta. But it included a statement that “Russian intelligence obtained and maintained access to elements of multiple state or local election boards.” Still, no evidence was evinced on this alleged link between the hackers and Russian intelligence.

Over the following months, the narrative of hacked voter registration databases receded into the background as the drumbeat of media accounts about contacts between figures associated with the Trump campaign and Russians built to a crescendo, albeit without any actual evidence of collusion regarding the e-mail disclosures.

But a June 5 story brought the voter-data story back into the headlines. The story, published by The Intercept, accepted at face value an NSA report dated May 5, 2017, that asserted Russia’s military intelligence agency, the GRU, had carried out a spear-phishing attack on a U.S. company providing election-related software and had sent e-mails with a malware-carrying word document to 122 addresses believed to be local government organizations.

But the highly classified NSA report made no reference to any evidence supporting such an attribution. The absence of any hint of signals intelligence supporting its conclusion makes it clear that the NSA report was based on nothing more than the same kind of inconclusive “indicators” that had been used to establish the original narrative of Russians hacking electoral databases.

A Checkered History

So, the history of the U.S. government’s claim that Russian intelligence hacked into election databases reveals it to be a clear case of politically motivated analysis by the DHS and the Intelligence Community. Not only was the claim based on nothing more than inherently inconclusive technical indicators but no credible motive for Russian intelligence wanting personal information on registered voters was ever suggested.

Russian intelligence certainly has an interest in acquiring intelligence related to the likely outcome of American elections, but it would make no sense for Russia’s spies to acquire personal voting information about 90,000 registered voters in Illinois.

When FBI Counter-intelligence chief Priestap was asked at the June 21 hearing how Moscow might use such personal data, his tortured effort at an explanation clearly indicated that he was totally unprepared to answer the question.

“They took the data to understand what it consisted of,” said Priestap, “so they can affect better understanding and plan accordingly in regards to possibly impacting future election by knowing what is there and studying it.”

In contrast to that befuddled non-explanation, there is highly credible evidence that the FBI was well aware that the actual hackers in the cases of both Illinois and Arizona were motivated by the hope of personal gain.

July 2, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | | Leave a comment

Want To Resist Trump Without Being A Corporate Tool? Focus On War Crimes

By Caitlin Johnstone | CounterPropa | July 2, 2017

The bold warriors of the McResistance are bound and determined to get Trump impeached at any cost, come what may. I mean, so long as it doesn’t inconvenience America’s oligarchs or interfere with the profit margins of the military-industrial complex.

According to Francis Boyle, professor of international law at the University of Illinois College of Law, Trump has already committed impeachable war crimes in Syria. Boyle calls the case for impeachment due to war crimes a “slam dunk”. If Democrats were serious about their determination to give the world President Pence at all costs, they wouldn’t be banging on about the crumbling Russiagate conspiracy theory or Trump’s obnoxious tweets, they’d be focusing on the actual, tangible, provable things that this administration has done in Syria.

They will not do this, though. Trump has dropped his right hand and is currently circling into an opening for a crushing left hook knockout, but Democrats will not throw that punch. Ever. You will never see congressional Russiagate queen Maxine “I’m out to impeach this president” Waters attempt to get Trump impeached with the impeachment case that he has gift wrapped and handed to her by committing war crimes in Syria. You will never see Rep. Jamie “remove Trump from office because of obnoxious tweets” Raskin put together a case for impeachment based on the Trump administration’s unilateral decision to attack the Syrian military, its use of white phosphorus or its relentless slaughter of civilians across the Middle East. You will never see Rachel Maddow or Keith Olbermann rallying the Resistance troops into protest marches over Trump’s bloodbaths in Yemen or Syria. These things will never, ever happen. You will see them focusing on nonsense like Russiagate and mean tweets about Zbigniew Brzezinski’s daughter.

These things will never happen because the Democratic party, as we have discussed before, has become an overwhelmingly neoconservative party, and because the corporate media never misses an opportunity to advocate in favor of US military aggression. We saw this in their shamelessly orgiastic celebration of Trump’s deadly missile strike on a Syrian airfield in April, and we continue to see it in their refusal to unequivocally condemn the senseless military aggression in nations that America never had any business involving itself with in the first place.

This is precisely why I’ve been writing with such venom about the so-called “Resistance”, a title not organically arising from the people but one manufactured in a DC think tank to harness and exploit the healthy inclination toward progressive activism which arose on an organic grassroots level in the Occupy and Bernie Sanders movements. People with more or less healthy impulses, people who claim to want peace, economic justice and social justice, have had those good intentions harnessed by America’s unelected power establishment and geared toward manufacturing support for escalations with Russia and unforgivable corporatist bloodbaths in the Middle East. These deep state parasites have taken something good and healthy in their fellow humans and used the deceit and manipulations of their corporate media propaganda arm to twist those healthy impulses in on themselves and turn them into something sick and evil.

If you are reading this under the mistaken impression that resisting Trump has something to do with the 25th Amendment or investigations into Russian connections, I strongly advise you to begin insistently urging the pundits and politicians you trust and respect to oppose the Trump administration on the basis of war crimes. Push them to put together a case for Trump’s impeachment based on his violations of the Nuremberg charter, the UN charter, and the War Powers Resolution of 1973. Then watch what they do. Not what they say, but what they do. Ignore their words about this and watch their actions. Pay attention when they ignore you or brush you off with a few supportive-sounding words without taking any action. I promise you this is exactly what will happen. You will never, ever see anything remotely like the full-scale mobilization you’ve seen in the Russiagate movement and #TheResistance protests over Trump’s war crimes.

If you try these things and find what I am saying to be true (and you will), please consider the possibility that these people are not your friends. Please consider the possibility that the media you consume which tells you how to perceive world affairs is full of lies and propaganda. Please consider the possibility that a coalition of powerful elites controls your government and uses your country’s immense military might to manipulate world affairs for the purpose of amassing more power. Please consider the possibility of a real resistance replacing the fake one they’ve given you.

July 2, 2017 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Militarism, Progressive Hypocrite, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , | 2 Comments

Israel’s attorney general okays controversial 1967 settlement order

Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit
Press TV – July 2, 2017

A newly released report says Israeli attorney general Avichai Mendelblit approved last year the use of a controversial 1967 order to legalize settler units built on private Palestinian land.

During a meeting attended by several Israeli judicial officials, Mendelblit said the “Order Concerning Government Property,” which was issued in July 1967, could be invoked to expropriate Palestinian land, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported on Sunday.

Clause 5 of the order states that “any transaction concluded in good faith between the authorities and another person … will not be struck down and is valid, even if it is proven that the asset was not government property at the time of its purchase.”

Mendelblit’s office said in a document that the clause had rarely been used in almost five decades, but “the need to make use of it has arisen now.”

It further set out a number of conditions for invoking the clause, such as purchase in good faith, the existence of a contract and payment having been made for the land.

“The use of Clause 5 should be limited as a rule to the built residential boundaries of the community, and to actual construction done before the parties to the transaction became aware that this was in fact not government property,” the document added.

Back in February, the Israeli parliament, known as the Knesset, passed a law on the expropriation of privately-owned Palestinian land in the West Bank, where Israeli settlements or outposts have been constructed.

However, Palestinians filed petitions to the Israeli High Court against the law.

Mendelblit proposed that the Israeli parliament suspend the land garb law until the court rules on the petitions and the Knesset accepted the bid.

Dror Etkes, Israeli anti-settlement activist, said the document by Mendelblit’s office seems to be “a parallel path being prepared … for the day after the High Court tosses the [expropriation] law into the garbage.”

“The purpose of this legal construction, rotten from the foundation, is to raise the claim of ‘good faith’ wherever Israel has stolen private Palestinian land and given it to settlers,” he said. “This is a situation in which lies, denial, violence and manipulation prevail – that is, everything except good faith.”

About 600,000 Israelis live in over 230 settlements built illegally since the 1967 occupation of the Palestinian territories.

The continued expansion of Israeli settlements is one of the major obstacles to the establishment of peace in the Middle East.

In recent months, Tel Aviv has stepped up its settlement construction activities in the occupied Palestinian territories in a blatant violation of international law and in defiance of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334.

The resolution, which was passed last December, states that Israel’s establishment of settlements in the occupied territories, including East Jerusalem al-Quds, “had no legal validity” and urges the regime to immediately and completely cease all its settlement activities.

July 2, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, War Crimes | , , , | 4 Comments

Israel abducts Palestinian lawmaker on security allegations

Press TV – July 2, 2017

Israeli military forces have abducted a Palestinian legislator and a senior member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) during separate raids across the occupied West Bank.

On Sunday morning, a large number of Israeli troopers raided the home of 55-year-old Khalida Jarrar in the central West Bank city of Ramallah, located 10 kilometers (six miles) north of Jerusalem al-Quds, and arrested her.

Her husband, Ghassan said Israeli forces seized computers during the raid.

Israel’s internal spy agency, Shin Bet, announced in a statement that Jarrar was arrested along with a Palestinian activist for “promoting terror activities,” without providing any further information.

Jarrar is one of the most outspoken critics of the Israeli occupation and has repeatedly slammed the Tel Aviv regime’s atrocities against Palestinians.

The Israeli regime has been denying the lawmaker the right to travel outside the occupied Palestinian territories since 1988. She campaigned for months in 2010 before receiving the permission to travel to Jordan for medical treatment.

In August 2014, Jarrar received a “special supervision order” from the Israeli military, instructing her to leave Ramallah to the West Bank city of Ariha (Jericho).

However, she set up a protest tent outside the Palestinian Legislative Council in Ramallah, where she lived and worked, until the controversial order was overturned later in September that year.

Israeli soldiers last arrested the Palestinian lawmaker on April 2, 2015 after storming her house in Ramallah. She was released from prison on June 3, 2016 on a suspended sentence of 12 months within a five-year period.

According to reports, a total of 13 Palestinian lawmakers are currently imprisoned in Israeli detention facilities.

Nine of them are being held without trial under the so-called administrative detention, which is a policy according to which Palestinian inmates are kept in Israeli detention facilities without trial or charge. Some Palestinian prisoners have been held in administrative detention for up to 11 years.

Palestinian MK enters prison with “pride”

Meanwhile, a Palestinian member of the Knesset (parliament) has headed to prison with “pride” as he began a two-year sentence on charges of giving cellphones and SIM cards to Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.

Basel Ghattas of the Joint List, a political alliance of four Arab-dominated parties in Israel, said he was entering prison with his “head held high” and with “support from my people.”

File photo shows Palestinian member of Knesset (Israel’s parliament) Basel Ghattas at his office at the Knesset in Jerusalem al-Quds

More than 6,500 Palestinians are reportedly held at Israeli jails. Hundreds of the inmates have apparently been incarcerated under the practice of administrative detention.

The Palestinian inmates regularly go on hunger strike in protest against the administrative detention policy and their harsh prison conditions.

July 2, 2017 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , | Leave a comment

How Israeli/Saudi ‘Alliance’ Plays Trump

By Alastair Crooke | Consortium News | July 1, 2017

The Israeli web site Debka, though not always reliable in some respects, nonetheless, occasionally, can give useful glimpses into the Israeli calculus: Here it is expressing somewhat unusual enthusiasm, even open rapture, about a recent political event:

“The Saudi king’s decision to elevate his son Mohammed bin Salman … is not merely the internal affair of the royal hierarchy, but a game-changing international event. The king’s son is ready to step into his allotted place in a new US-Arab-Israeli alliance established by President Trump in May, along with the UAE, Egyptian and Israeli leaders that will seek to dominate Middle East affairs. Israel will be accepted in a regional lineup for the first time alongside the strongest Sunni Arab nations who all share similar objectives, especially the aim to stop Iran”.

“A game-changing international event”? Why exactly are these Israelis so excited; why should the elevation of bin Salman, known by the initials MbS, be such a game-changer? Is there here something new? And how come the dismissal of Prince Nayef, whom MbS replaced as crown prince and who was a Western favorite, barely ruffled a leaf in protest?

On the face of it, not much has changed. Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu’s (and his father’s) obsession with Iran is well known. The Israeli PM (like his father before him) believes that Iran is the precursor to a new Jewish holocaust.

It was not always like this however: the Ben Gurion doctrine of courting regional minorities to Israel’s side (including Iran), was only “flipped” when the Israeli Labour Party won parliamentary elections in 1992.

In short, Iran’s subsequent identification with Satan by the Israeli government effectively was a domestic Israeli political need of the electoral moment: switching from the Arabs as “enemy” – in order for Rabin to make peace – required, in public terms, that Iran become the “far enemy” – the new existential threat to “plucky little” Israel’s survival, vice the now peace-partnering Arabs.

Netanyahu however, is a true “believer” (in Iran’s murderous intentions), and tried to corner President Obama into destroying Iran, by threatening America that either you do it (bomb Iran) – or, Israel shall (which effectively amounted to making America “do it” anyway). Obama demurred, and avoided Bibi’s binary threat to him of “war or war” by rather unenthusiastically negotiating a JCPOA with Iran – and thus re-balancing the region.

A New Strategic Situation

So what has changed? Iran has just re-elected President Hassan Rouhani who upholds the JCPOA and who actively engages with the West, and does not exude any clear and present danger to Israel, or the region (ISIS and al-Qaeda apart). “Nothing to see here”: aside from some jostling with U.S. partner forces for future influence in Syria.

Clearly however, Debka does espy something new in the strategic situation. And they may be right. Ostensibly, on the surface, things may look the same, but two dynamics seem to be conflating that may account for official Israel’s high excitement. (It is not just Debka that is on a high – several senior intelligence and security officials at the recent Herzaliyia security conference, were also selling the imminent strategic change meme.)

One of the two conflating dynamics which might help us understand the enigma of Israeli satisfaction is this: a well-known Arab journalist wrote recently of a dinner held some months ago in the Gulf (with prominent Gulf guests), at which an unnamed former Arab Prime Minister was quizzed about MbS’ prospects of becoming king. What he said shocked the gathering. Some expressed their incredulity.

He said bluntly: if MbS wanted to come to the throne, he would need America’s blessings. He would need to offer them something that no one had offered before – that no one had dared to offer before. And what was that, the journalist asked the former PM that MbS must offer: “He must recognize Israel. If he does that, the U.S. will support him. They’ll even crown him themselves.”

In one of the Sherlock Holmes detective stories, Holmes’s solution to a particular mystery rested on “the dog did that did not bark in the night.” Holmes’s point was why had the dog not barked when its nature is to bark.

It is common knowledge that the U.S. has been firmly committed to Prince Nayef succeeding King Salman. The authoritative Saudi insider and blogger Muhtahidd has tweeted that the U.S. sent messages last year to MbS warning that he should not seek to supplant Nayef. In July 2016,

Mujtahidd tweeted that Secretary of State John Kerry had told MbS that Nayef continuing as Crown Prince was a “red line” for the U.S.

Why then did the U.S. “dog” not bark on the night that MbS seized the succession, just before dawn? We have heard not one tiny growl on Nayef’s behalf. In fact, a trawl through Mutahhid’s early tweets lays it all bare … if one bothers to connect the dots.

A Kingmaker

The main actor in this drama is Mohammad bin Zayed (MbZ), the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, who according to Mutjtahidd recognized MbS’ ambition from early on, and saw in him an instrument by which MbZ could gain personal influence through becoming kingmaker in Saudi Arabia. From the outset MbZ apparently urged MbS to obtain America’s support for him becoming king – via the channel of Israeli full support.

In tweets from May 2, 2016, Mujtahhid describes MbZ’s advice to bin Salman: first, seize the succession to the throne before King Salman dies; second, gain U.S. favor by moving the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia away from religious values – away from values that reinforce an Islamic identity, and third, expand ties with Israel.

Mujtahidd developed the third element in his tweets – ties to Israel – by saying that it began “shyly” as a lead-in to direct contacts. Senior Saudis were to be encouraged to participate in debates with Israelis (i.e. appearing on Israeli TV channels), while highlighting a common interest in combating Iran and fighting “terrorism.”

MbZ was also reported by Mujtahidd as advising MbS to please Israel by supporting President Sisi of Egypt (with whom the Israelis have a close relationship) – and finally, Mujtahidd reports MbS (again in July last) that Netanyahu had met with MbS at Aqaba, three months earlier.

All of Mujtahidd’s points made over a year or more have been borne out in practice: The Saudi succession has been seized before the king has died; MbS has paraded his “opposition to religion” and Vision 2030 has emphasized a more secular, liberal economic identity for Saudi Arabia; Sisi has been supported (in spite of political differences); and Saudi ties to Israel have become incrementally more visible.

Mujtahidd is clear: There is no “big bang” shock recognition of Israel planned, but a continuing incrementalism (Israeli use of Saudi airspace, institution of telephone links, etc.).

On the one hand, Israel may be seeing the ambition and opportunism of two young men (MbZ and Mbs), but what “bakes the cake” for Israel, is the background, long-term dynamic of the declining legitimacy the Gulf “system” of monarchical, non-representational rule — a vulnerability exacerbated by financial tightening: an austerity that promises to limit Saudi ability to buy out popular disaffection.

This – the declining standing of Sunni authority and the leadership of Islam which the Saudis claim to be theirs and theirs alone – is what MbS and MbZ wish to reverse. Qatar was the first victim of their insistence on complete obedience.

Crosscurrents of Change

It was the “Arab Awakening” that initially fanned secular alienation with the absolute nature of the monarchial system, but then the Muslim Brotherhood doctrine of the Umma (the whole community of Muslims bound together by ties of religion) as sovereign, undermined it further, but from the Islamic stance. A left and a right punch. Also, the revisionist history of the first Islamic State, presented by ISIS, shreds Saudi’s religious credentials completely.

This is the combination that may be provoking such Israeli excitement: The ambition and opportunism of two young crown princes, coupled by their desire to restore Sunni authority (and the obedience of subordinate states) by mobilizing the Sunni world in a “jihad” against Iran and “terrorism,” must be music to some Israeli ears.

And this is the rabbit hole down which President Trump has fallen. It matters little whether the primary motive for Trump’s Riyadh fiesta was pecuniary, or whether it was triggered by son-in-law Jared Kushner’s ambitions. Either way, Trump has embraced pushback against Iran (and seemingly, regime change, as Rex Tillerson has implied). In fact, Trump seems to be surrounding himself more and more with anti-Iranian advisers. He seems to like the notion of leading an alliance of the U.S., Israel and the two Crown Princes pushing back against Iran and its “terrorism.”

The Shi’a — pilloried by the Sunni Establishment as discontents, rejectionists and revolutionaries — have over a thousand-year history. Language changes, but the Shi’a as (false) innovators, apostates, heretics – and now “terrorists” – are as old as Islam. Terrible persecutions have ensued over the centuries. And Shi’a Islam is no insignificant 10 percent minority — in the Arab heartland, it is more like 60-40 percent. In the northern crescent, it is some 100 million Shi’i to 30 million Sunnis. And Sh’ism is undergoing a profound revival.

What interest of America will be served by intruding into these ancient animosities? MbS, MbZ and Netanyahu may be American “allies,” but their interests are not America’s. The former might be happy for America to spill its blood in fighting their fights. But why should Trump want to do that?

Alastair Crooke is a former British diplomat who was a senior figure in British intelligence and in European Union diplomacy. He is the founder and director of the Conflicts Forum.

July 2, 2017 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , | Leave a comment

What Trump Can Expect from Putin

By Ray McGovern | Consortium News | July 1, 2017

In the style of a President’s Daily Brief for President Trump:

When you meet with President Putin next week, you can count on him asking you why the U.S. is encircling Russia with antiballistic missile systems.

Putin regarded the now-defunct Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty as the key to maintaining the nuclear-weapons balance between the United States and Russia and told filmmaker Oliver Stone that the U.S. withdrawal from the treaty in 2001 and the follow-on U.S. deployment of ABM batteries could “destroy this balance. And that’s a great mistake.”

For decades, the Russians have viewed an invulnerable nuclear-tipped strategic missile force as a deterrent to a U.S. attack though they have never displayed an inclination to commit suicide by actually firing them.

From this perspective, Putin wonders why the U.S. might seek to upset the nuclear balance by deploying ABM systems around Russia’s borders, making Russia’s ICBM force vulnerable.

Putin’s generals, like yours, are required to impute the most provocative intentions to military capabilities; that is what military intelligence is all about. Thus, they cannot avoid seeing the ABM deployments as giving the U.S. the capability for a first strike to decapitate Russia’s ICBM force and, by doing so, protecting the U.S. from Russian nuclear retaliation.

And, as Putin has made clear, the Kremlin sees U.S. claims that the deployments are needed to thwart a strategic strike from Iran as insultingly disingenuous – all the more so in light of the 2015 multilateral agreement handcuffing Iran’s development of a nuclear bomb for the foreseeable future.

Yet, the U.S.-Russia strategic balance becomes more and more precarious with the deployment of each new ABM site or warship, together with rising concerns at the possibility of a U.S. technological breakthrough. With the time window for Russian leaders to evaluate data indicating a possible U.S. nuclear strike closing, launch-on-warning becomes more likely – and so does World War III.

Your visit to Warsaw en route to Hamburg for the G-20 summit will shine the spotlight on the threat Putin sees in the deployment of missile defense systems in Poland – as well as Romania and elsewhere on Russia’s periphery.

It is no secret that Russian leaders feel double-crossed by NATO’s steady creep eastward, but Russia’s strategic planners seemed to believe they could handle that – up to a point. That point was reached with the Feb. 22, 2014 coup d’etat in Ukraine, which Moscow viewed as one U.S.-backed regime change too many and one that installed a virulently anti-Russian government along a route historically used by foreign invaders.

On April 17, 2014, the day before Crimea was re-incorporated into Russia, Putin spoke of what motivated Russia’s strong reaction. The “more important” reason he gave was the need to thwart plans to incorporate Ukraine and Crimea into the anti-ballistic missile deployment encircling Russia.

Putin explained: “This issue is no less, and probably even more important, than NATO’s eastward expansion. Incidentally, our decision on Crimea was partially prompted by this.”

ABM: ‘A Separate Issue’

In his interviews with Oliver Stone (aired on Showtime as “The Putin Interviews”), Putin made the same distinction between the NATO buildup (bad enough) and ABM deployment (more dangerous still), telling Stone the ABM challenge is “a separate issue which no doubt is going to require a response from Russia.”

Putin blames your predecessors for his mistrust of Washington on this important issue. He has branded a huge mistake President Bush’s 2001 decision to exit the ABM Treaty – an agreement that sharply limited the number of permitted anti-ballistic missile sites – noting that the Treaty had been for three decades the “cornerstone of the system of national security as a whole.”

Putin’s misgivings were hardly allayed by President Obama’s ten-second pas de deux five years ago with Dmitry Medvedev in South Korea. An ABC open mike picked up their private conversation on March 26, 2012, at a summit on nuclear security in Seoul.

Obama is heard assuring then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev that the missile defense issue “can be solved,” but that it was “important for him (Putin) to give me space.” President Obama asked Medvedev to tell Putin that Obama would have “more flexibility” after being re-elected. More flexibility or no, the missile defense program proceeded unabated, with Washington shunning bilateral talks.

It is now five years later, but there will be a residue of distrust on Putin’s part with respect to ABM deployment. We still expect Putin to show his characteristic reserve, but you will be dealing with someone who feels he’s been diddled on this key issue, and who, on occasion, gets angry when others don’t grasp the gravity of this potentially existential moment.

For example, speaking to journalists on June 17, 2016, Putin criticized the reasons that the U.S. gives for the need to deploy ABM systems, especially the “threat from Iran.” Observing their apathetic reaction, Putin uncharacteristically lost his cool.

Given this history, you will have a suitcase of mistrust to overcome in talks with Putin. It will take more than smooth Obama-style reassurances to allay the Russian President’s misgivings over Washington’s intentions on missile defense.

Given the priority he places on the challenge, however, he may propose that U.S. and Russian negotiators begin to talk seriously about the issue.

Lost Opportunities

It may be helpful to recall that less than four years ago U.S.-Russian relations were in a much more positive place. After a disputed sarin incident outside Damascus on Aug. 21, 2013, Putin helped Obama out of a geopolitical corner by persuading Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to surrender Syria’s entire chemical weapons inventory, under close U.N. supervision, for destruction on a U.S. ship.

A few days later, on Sept. 11, 2013, Putin placed an op-ed in The New York Times, titled “A plea for caution from Russia,” the last part of which he is said to have drafted himself:

“My working and personal relationship with President Obama is marked by growing trust. I appreciate this. I carefully studied his address to the nation on Tuesday. And I would rather disagree with a case he made on American exceptionalism …

“It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional … There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy.  … We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.”

Russia then played a central role in facilitating Iran’s concessions regarding the nuclear accord that President Obama considered perhaps his greatest diplomatic achievement, with the key interim agreement reached on Nov. 24, 2013. But Putin felt betrayed when Obama’s State Department helped organize the coup in Ukraine just three months later.

Since the Ukraine crisis, U.S. media and political circles have subjected Putin to an unrelenting demonization, including comparisons of him to Adolf Hitler and an over-the-top campaign to blame him for Hillary Clinton’s defeat and the Trump presidency.

Yet, while the tone of the Russia-bashing in Washington has reached hysterical levels, the Defense Intelligence Agency has just published a balanced assessment of “Russia’s Threat Perceptions,” which offers a view from Moscow’s vantage point:

“Since returning to power in 2012, Russian President Putin has sought to reassert Russia as a great power on the global stage and to restructure an international order that the Kremlin believes is tilted too heavily in favor of the United States at Russia’s expense.

“Moscow seeks to promote a multipolar world predicated on the principles of respect for state sovereignty and non-interference in other state’s internal affairs, the primacy of the UN, and a careful balance of power preventing one state or group of states from dominating the international order. …

“Moscow has sought to build a robust military able to project power, add credibility to Russian diplomacy, and ensure that Russian interests can no longer be summarily dismissed without consequence.”

A fair assessment, in our view.

Ray McGovern was a CIA analyst for 27 years, during which he served as chief of the Soviet Foreign Policy Branch.  He also prepared the President’s Daily Brief under Presidents Nixon, Ford, and Reagan, conducting the early morning briefings under Reagan.

July 2, 2017 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , | Leave a comment