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US Agrees to Clean Up World War II Mustard Gas Stockpile in Panama

Sputnik – 18.07.2017

The US has come to an agreement with Panama to destroy a stockpile of mustard gas left over from secret human tests conducted by the Americans during and shortly after World War II.

Tiny San Jose Island, with an area of 17 square miles and a permanent population of 10, once hosted a contingent of 200 US soldiers who began conducting chemical warfare testing from 1945 to 1947. Seventy years later, eight mustard gas bombs still remain undetonated on the island, and one Panamanian report claimed that there could be as many as 3,000 other bombs that still haven’t been found.

Panama has repeatedly pushed the United States to destroy the bombs since they were discovered in 2002, and the US only agreed to do so in 2017. Previously, Washington offered to pay for the training of Panamanians to dispose of the bombs, so long as the small Central American republic released the US from liability.

Panama refused and demanded that Washington clean the mess up themselves. As the American government took a hardline stance against the use of chemical weapons during the Syrian Civil War, it became increasingly amenable to the disposal of such weapons it created in decades past.

The disposal will begin in September 2017 and will take six to eight weeks, according to Panamanian officials. It will be overseen by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

In a new wrinkle, the Canadian Department of National Defense (DND) has revealed that they may also have mustard gas and other chemical weapons on the island. Ottawa is not going to participate in the disposal of the bombs, according to a statement from Global Affairs Canada, but in the past Canada has denied involvement in the San Jose weapons tests.

In fact, the new DND file notes that most of the mustard gas, as well as roughly 1,000 of the bombs used in the San Jose tests, were Canada-made. Canadian scientists helped design some of the tests, and Canadian pilots flew the planes that dropped chemical bombs during the experiments.

Furthermore, Canada used heavy duty metal shipping containers to transport mustard gas to the island — containers durable enough to have survived 70 years of weathering and decay. Mustard gas decomposes very slowly, especially outside of water, meaning much of the soil in San Jose may be contaminated.

Susan Smith, a professor of history at the University of Alberta and an expert on the use of mustard gas during World War II, said that Canada was a significant participant in the chemical weapons tests on San Jose Island. “This was an area where Canada indeed punched above its own weight,” Smith told the Ottawa Citizen. “Canada has a moral commitment to help clean up the mess it created.”

She added that the San Jose experiments tested how soldiers of different races reacted to mustard gas exposure, with white, Puerto Rican, black, and Japanese soldiers all being exposed.

“It felt like you were on fire,” then-93-year-old Rollins Edwards told NPR in 2015. Edwards served in the US Army during the war and was party to the mustard gas tests. “Guys started screaming and hollering and trying to break out. And then some of the guys fainted. And finally they opened the door and let us out, and the guys were just, they were in bad shape.”

Edwards says he still gets rashes and flaky skin from the chemical burns he suffered 70 years ago.

In 1974, a construction worker on San Jose Island suffered mysterious chemical burns. In 2001, Panama discovered the existence of the chemical weapons and asked Canada to assist in a comprehensive search for bombs in the island’s jungles, but Canada said no.

Most countries who fought in World War II did not use chemical weapons against enemy combatants. The Imperial Japanese did, but only against other Asian nations such as China. The Americans did at one point consider the use of mustard gas against the Japanese in the last days of the war, but opted for atomic weapons instead.

Canada, Panama and the United States are all signatories to the 1992 United Nations Chemical Weapons Convention, which stipulates that all chemical weapons worldwide are to be destroyed. The US government has disposed of 90 percent of its 37,000-ton stockpile of chemical weapons since then.

July 18, 2017 Posted by | Environmentalism, Militarism, War Crimes | , , , | 2 Comments

Schumer, ‘guardian of Israel,’ calls anti-Zionism a form of antisemitism

Sen. Chuck Schumer marches in the Celebrate Israel Parade in the rain on June 5, 2016 in New York City
If Americans Knew | July 18, 2017

In a recent speech on the Senate floor, New York Senator Charles Schumer said that anti-Zionism is a form of anti-Semitism. (In a 2010 speech Schumer said that God made him a ‘guardian of Israel’ – see below).

Schumer, the Senate minority leader, made his remarks at the end of a speech on health care. Schumer said he wanted to thank French President Emmanuel Macron for his recent comments claiming that anti-Zionism was antisemitism.

Schumer claimed that the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, an extremely diverse movement that includes many Jewish individuals and groups, is “antisemitic.”

Schumer said: “The global BDS movement is a deeply biased campaign that I would say, in similar words to Mr. Macron, is a ‘reinvented form of anti-Semitism’ because it seeks to impose boycotts on Israel and not on any other nation.”

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency’s report on Schumer’s remarks notes that Schumer is the Senate’s “highest-ranking Jewish lawmaker.”

The claim that criticism of Israel is antisemitic has been promoted by an international campaign working to embed this as a new definition of “antisemitism.”

Schumer says he is a ‘guardian of Israel’

In 2010, Schumer told an AIPAC convention: “As some of you know, my name is a Hebrew word. “Schumer” comes from the Hebrew word “Shomer,” which means “guardian,” “watchman.”

Schumer said his name was given to him “for a reason”:

“For as long as I live, for as long as I have the privilege of serving in the Senate from New York, I will unflinchingly, unstintingly and with all of my strength be Shomer Yisrael, a guardian of Israel. Ladies and gentlemen, Am Yisrael Chai, in Israel and America, the Jewish nation lives now and forever.”

July 18, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular, Video | , , , | 6 Comments

Youtube Expands Censorship, Blocks SANA And Hezbollah Media Wing In Syria

South Front | July 18, 2017

Youtube has expanded its efforts to censor alternative sources of the information about the conflict in Syria. Last week, Youtube banned the channel of Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA), a Syrian state-run media supporting the Assad government. This week, Youtube banned the channel of the Syrian Military Media, a Hezbollah media wing in Syria.

This censorship campaign is likely a part of the wider attempt to counter the non-mainstream reporting about the conflict. The mainstream media and their corporate sponsors have repeatedly discredited themselves during the conflicts in Syria and Iraq. Thus, the corporations have likely decided that the total censorship is the only way to suppress alternative points of view.

July 18, 2017 Posted by | Full Spectrum Dominance | , , | 2 Comments

DONETSK: Alexander Zakharchenko declares new state of Malorossiya

By Adam Garrie | The Duran | July 18, 2017

In 1667, the Treaty of Andrusovo affirmed Russian sovereignty over historic Russian lands that had been part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth since the 14th century. These areas were de-facto Russian ever since the Treaty of Pereyaslav, signed in 1654 as an alliance between local Cossacks and the government in Moscow.

The restoration of Russian lands was affirmed in the 1686 Treaty of Perpetual Peace.

These regions became known as Malorossiya (Little Russian) and formed the triumvirate of the Three Russias under a single sovereign (Great Russia, Little Russia and White Russia). The lands of Malorossiya on the left-bank of the river Dnieper were later incorporated into further territorial gains from Poland-Lithuania on the right-bank of the river Dnieper in 1793.

In 1764, former Ottoman regions around the Black Sea including  the cities of Odessa and Donetsk formed Novorossiya or New Russia. The former Ottoman Khanate of Crimea formally linked up with this region in 1783.

The current borders of Ukraine were manufactured haphazardly under Bolshevik rule which effectively slammed together the historic regions of Novorossiya and Malorossiya with western regions bordering former Polish lands that had been subsumed by Austro-Hungarian rule in the late-modern period. Areas that were part of the Second Polish Republic between the world wars, including Galicia and the Czech and Hungarian regions of Carpathian Ruthenia, were incorporated into The Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic after 1945.

https://i1.wp.com/theduran.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/lands.jpg?resize=1024%2C973

This odd mix of historic regions with different identities is the primary reasons that a conflict in the modern borders of Ukraine were simply a matter of “when” rather than “if”.

This reality has been acknowledged by Alexander Zakharchenko, the leader of the Donetsk People’s Republic who today announced the intent of Donetsk to lead a restoration of Malorossiya as part of a drive to reincorporate historic Russian territories into a close relationship with The Russian Federation.

Zakharchenko stated,

“We propose to establish the state of Malorossiya. Malorossiya is an independent young state. A transition period of up to 3 years.

… The state ‘Ukraine’ showed itself as a failed state and demonstrated the inability to provide its inhabitants with a peaceful and prosperous present and future.

We should be supported by the residents of the regions. This solution is possible provided that the international community supports the idea”.

Donetsk People’s Republic Income and Charges Minister Alexander Timofeev added the following,

“We, the representatives of former Ukraine, declare the establishment of a new state, Malorossiya, which is a successor state to Ukraine. We agree that the new state’s name will be Malorossiya because the very name of Ukraine has discredited itself. The city of Donetsk becomes Malorossiya’s capital”.

He further stated that Malorossiya would develop a constitution based on discussions throughout the regions including in the new/revived area and would ultimately require approval via a democratic referendum.

Timofeev continued,

“Malorossiya is a multinational state with Russian and Malorossiyan being its official languages, and regional languages retaining their rights and statuses…

… The policy aimed at joining the Union State of Russia and Belarus while preserving independence and sovereignty. The keeping of a visa-free regime in agreement with the European Union. De-oligarchisation, un-cluding (sic) on a legal basis”.

When discussing the model of Belarus in respect of its relations with Moscow, Timofeev is alluding to the Union-State between Belarus and Russia which was created in 1996. This has allowed for open borders and common economic and military interests between Minsk and Moscow.

Zakharchenko affirmed that the new state might need to live under emergency conditions for three years due to aggression from remnants of the regime currently ruling in Kiev.

In spite of these difficulties Zakharchenko also struck an optimistic tone, encouraging people to dream big. He stated,

“All of us here are going to talk about the future. We propose a plan for the reintegration of the country through the law and the Constitution. We must build a new country in which the concepts of conscience and honour are not forgotten. We offer the citizens of Ukraine a peaceful way out of the difficult situation, without war. This is our last offer not only to the Ukrainians, but also to all countries that supported the civil war in Donbass. I am convinced that we will do everything possible and impossible”.

Representatives at the meeting where the announcement was made were drawn from historic Malorossiya and Novorossiya regions including Kharkov, Dnepropetrovsk, Zaporozhye, Kherson, Nikolayev, Odessa, Sumy, Poltava, Chernigov, Kirovograd.

The leader of the regime in Kiev, Petro Poroshenko responded to Zakharchenko’s statement saying that Kiev would reconquer both Donbass and the Russian territory of the Crimean peninsula. Both of these statements speak to just how out of touch Poroshenko is with the realities on the ground.

Although the organisational phases of creating Malorossiya will be difficult due to the position of the Kiev regime and almost certainly the European Union also, the idea underlines something The Duran discussed in November of 2016,

“If the (Kiev) regime fell due to a combination of internal incompetence and international isolation, chances are that a more moderate government could be formed. Ideally such a new government would be one that recognises the democratic right to self-determination exercised by the Donbass Republics, one less hell-bent on extreme corruption and hopefully one that would hold regional referenda on autonomy and/or independence.”

Historic regions of different cultural, linguistic and sovereign backgrounds cannot be slammed together into an artificial state for an eternity. History shows that such states are typically dissolved or radically reformed after a certain period of uncomfortable pseudo-coexistence.

The impending collapse of the regime in Kiev and the longer term re-defining of the borders of the state now called Ukraine will have to be addressed sooner or later. The proposals which came out of Donetsk today are as good a beginning on the road to much needed change as any.

July 18, 2017 Posted by | Timeless or most popular | , , , , | Leave a comment

Straitjacket of Russophobia prevents Trump returning seized Russian property

By Finian Cunningham | RT | July 18, 2017

The protracted row over the US’ seizure of Russian diplomatic property illustrates how Russophobia has become a dangerous impediment to healthy bilateral relations. All contact with Russia is being seen through a prism of anti-Russia hysteria.

Seven months after ex-US President Barack Obama ordered the confiscation of two Russian diplomatic compounds and the expulsion of 35 diplomats and their families, the row trundles on – much to Moscow’s vexation.

This week, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov held lengthy discussions with US Undersecretary of State Thomas Shannon in Washington DC to try to resolve the matter. After two hours of talks, there seems to have been no resolution.

Russia has reportedly said it reserves the right to retaliate by seizing US diplomatic property and expelling American officials.

Ominously, a senior US State Department official, John Sullivan, this week told the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee that the Trump administration would consult with Congress on any decisions taken. The official also said that the diplomatic property issue was “one of a whole host of issues that we are discussing with the Russia Federation”. That indicates the Trump administration is treating the return of Russian sovereign assets as part of a bargaining process. Meaning the row is being used in a provocative manner as leverage over the Russian side.

This is exactly what Russia has warned against.

Ahead of the talks in Washington, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said if the properties and diplomatic functioning of his country were not restored immediately, then that delay amounted to “daylight robbery”.

Russia’s grievance is understandable. The confiscation and closure of two of its diplomatic compounds in Washington DC and Maryland was ordered by the Obama administration on December 29. The move was said to be in response to an assessment made by US intelligence agencies that Russia had interfered in the November presidential elections to disadvantage Democrat contender Hillary Clinton.

Russia has rejected any allegations that it hacked into the US election. Moscow also points out that no evidence has ever been presented to support the claims made against it. Yet on the back of unsubstantiated allegations of Russian interference, the US seized its diplomatic facilities and expelled staff from the country. This draconian move by the US is a violation of the 1961 Vienna Convention governing diplomatic relations between nations.

Republican presidential winner Donald Trump has repeatedly dismissed claims that Russia interfered in the US elections as “fake news”. He dismisses speculation that his campaign team colluded with Russian government agents to disseminate damaging information about his rival.

So, here we have a striking case of double think. The Trump administration, or at least those close to the president, is of the view that allegations of Russian interference in the US election are baseless, yet the administration has so far refused to return property to Russia which was confiscated on the basis of alleged Russian electoral subterfuge.

Trump’s apparent inability to promptly resolve the dispute by doing the right thing – return the properties to Russia – is testimony to the anti-Russia hysteria that has gripped Washington and the US media.

There are no grounds for the US to continue its seizure of the Russian compounds. There is no evidence of Moscow subverting the presidential election, despite nearly seven months of Congressional investigations, as well as a separate probe carried out by a special prosecutor. There is only the cloud of constant media speculation and claims made by anonymous intelligence sources.

Evidently, Trump is paralyzed by the toxic atmosphere of Russophobia in Washington. Because he cannot act on his own judgement.

If he is seen to do the decent thing and return the Russian property that will be immediately blown up and distorted as “evidence” of Trump being in Russia’s pocket for the “favors” of collusion.

The brouhaha over Trump’s son Donald Jr and his son-in-law Jared Kushner meeting a Russian lawyer last year is another media storm in the teacup about alleged collusion. But the cumulative effect of constant media speculation linking president Trump to Russia inevitably places a straitjacket on normal relations between the two countries.

The meeting between Trump and Russian president Vladimir Putin at the G20 summit earlier this month is another illustration of the toxic impact. The two leaders held a cordial meeting and dealt with several substantive issues over the course of a two-hour discussion. However, while the positive meeting heralded a welcome restoration of normal relations, Trump was quickly put on the defensive by critical media coverage back home.

Likewise the protracted spat over Russian diplomatic property is another hostage to Russophobia. The Trump administration is caught in a contradiction. If the claims of Russian interference in the US elections are fake, as Trump maintains, then there is no logical justification for the continued withholding of Russian property.

The violation of Russian sovereign rights is bound to be seen by Moscow as a gratuitous provocation. When Obama imposed the diplomatic sanctions back in December, the Kremlin did not retaliate then. Instead, it responded magnanimously by inviting American diplomats and their families to official Christmas and New Year celebrations in Moscow.

At around that time, president-elect Trump’s incoming National Security Adviser Michael Flynn held private discussions with Russian ambassador to the US, Sergey Kislyak. According to media reports, US intelligence snooping claimed that Flynn told Kislyak the sanctions would be lifted by the new Trump administration. This may have been why Putin did not retaliate against Obama’s diplomatic confiscations and expulsions.

Shortly after, Trump was forced to sack Flynn for not fully disclosing his communications with the Russian ambassador. This was not an early piece of evidence of “collusion;” rather, it was an early casualty in the US media-intel campaign of Russophobia that has paralyzed the Trump administration from doing any normal business with Moscow.

For the US to issue preconditions that the diplomatic properties will be returned in exchange for “improved behavior” from Russia on international matters is an outrageous insult. It’s tantamount to imposing a ransom for goods stolen by the US side.

This is the stuff of agitating aggression towards Russia. During the heyday of the Cold War, there was no such comparable violation of diplomatic rights. Yet, here we are on the back of empty allegations and hysterical Russophobia witnessing an unprecedented affront to Russian sovereign rights.

The reckless infringement by the US is goading reciprocal moves by Russia. After seven months of provocation on this issue, the pressure is on Moscow to retaliate. That will inevitably lead to even more downward spiral in relations. And so it goes. This is how wars are incited.

The Trump administration is paralyzed inside and out. The US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, is a spigot for anti-Russian claims that Moscow interfered in the American elections. “Everyone knows Russia interfered,” says Haley, unburdened by any need to substantiate her assertion.

With the US media, Washington and the Deep State pummeling Trump on a daily basis over alleged Russia collusion, it is not surprising this White House is under siege to act reasonably on the matter of Russian diplomatic property. Bilateral relations remain trapped in a straitjacket of Russophobia.

Read more:

Obama needs no ‘additional evidence’ of hacking to substantiate anti-Russia sanctions – White House

July 18, 2017 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia, Timeless or most popular | , , | Leave a comment

CNN: “Russia is an adversary, Ukraine is not.”

So that settles it!

By Gary Leupp | Dissident Voice | July 17, 2017

Monday morning. David Chalian, CNN Political Director, on CNN’s “New Day” program. News ticker: “How do Trump-Russia and DNC-Ukraine compare?

New Day co-anchor Alysin Camerota (former Fox anchor) puts the question to her Political Director.

Chalian’s mechanical reply: “Russia is an adversary, Ukraine is not.”

Camerota, as always exuding wisdom, follows up: “Thanks so much for sifting through this with us.” (Good, so that’s settled! There had been so much sifting there, in those few precious boilerplate minutes.)

But wait, Mr. Political Director!  (And by the way, Dave, what’s your job description? How exactly do you direct CNN’s politics? The responsibility must rest heavily on your robust 43-year-old shoulders.) What law ever made Russia an adversary? My adversary, your adversary? Was some law passed that I didn’t notice?

Russia wasn’t an adversary under Yeltsin in the 90s, when the collapse of the old system produced mind-boggling misery as neocons in this country crowed about the triumph of capitalism and the need for U.S. “full-spectrum dominance” forever and ever. It wasn’t an adversary when Yeltsin bombarded the Russian Parliament building kin 1993 because legislators backed by the Supreme Court refused to disband. That as you know was two years before the U.S. interfered in the Russian elections to insure Yeltsin’s reelection.

TIME Magazine Cover: Boris Yeltsin – July 15, 1996

It wasn’t an adversary when the new leader Vladimir Putin offered assistance to the U.S. in its Afghan war, offering NATO a transport route through Russia.

Moscow only became, in the minds of some, an adversary when it started to seriously challenge Washington’s unremitting efforts to expand its anti-Russian military alliance, NATO. The main talking points of the clueless Camerotas are (1) Russia invaded Georgia in 2008, (2) Russia invaded Ukraine in 2014, and (3) Russia is somehow threatening the Baltic states. But these situations are never analyzed in any depth; they are simply a litany of officially mandated postulates about the past. And NATO never factors into the narrative.

Mr. Chalian: Is not your primary function as CNN’s Political Director to direct attention away from any critical thinking about NATO? And to discourage attention to the fact that NATO has expanded by 13 members since 1999, to surround Russia? Isn’t it among your key functions to discourage people from wondering why this is happening, or why Russians of all stripes find this expansion a matter of concern? And to depict Russian resistance to U.S. geopolitical expansion as aggression?

What sort of logical gymnastics do you have to inflict on yourself to argue as you do? And even to add to the list of Russian wrongs Moscow’s support for the Syrian state versus terrorism, in the face of U.S. efforts to topple the Syrian regime in league, as you know (you do know, right?) with al-Nusra aligned forces backed by Saudi Arabia?

And Ms. Camerota: Is it not your primary function as CNN morning anchor to furrow your brow and roll your eyes when reading the (politically directed) teleprompter content, whenever you are reporting on anything Russian, and to exude equanimity when, as your default mode, you glorify the U.S. military no matter what they do? And send best wishes to John McCain as though he—of course—deserves them?

Why do you inevitably tell anyone you interview who has fought in a U.S. war—any war, for any reason—that “We thank you for your service?”

Is that heart-felt enthusiasm for anyone’s participation in wars of aggression based on lies, or a rule of etiquette set down by the political director? Because it is a distinctly political statement. A loyalty oath you make every day, I suspect as a condition for continued employment.

Try asking the person you interview next time: Are you actually proud of what you did in Vietnam? Or Afghanistan? Or Iraq? Are you concerned about the war crimes? (You might be back on a plane to New Jersey within days.)

Pathetic. Let me “sift” through this with you. You guys in the final analysis promote war. Your promotion of Russophobia as an article of faith constitutes active collusion with the U.S. war machine. You are an active, unregistered, propagandist for NATO by default. And maybe you don’t even know it. Maybe on your own time you confuse NATO with UNESCO and for the life of you can’t grasp why any good person would worry about it.

Russia is not my adversary. Warmongers and their colluders are. You are.

Gary Leupp is a Professor of History at Tufts University, and author of numerous works on Japanese history. He can be reached at: gleupp@granite.tufts.edu.

July 18, 2017 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , , | 1 Comment

Gulf Crisis: US Admits Fake News of Russian Hacking

By Finian CUNNINGHAM | Strategic Culture Foundation | 18.07.2017

In a sharp about-turn, US intelligence agencies are now accusing the United Arab Emirates for hacking into Qatar’s official news agency, thereby sparking the Gulf crisis between Washington’s Arab allies. The latest twist amounts to an admission that the US is guilty of previously broadcasting fake news blaming Russia.

This week, the Washington Post cites US intelligence officials when it reported Monday: «The United Arab Emirates orchestrated the hacking of Qatari government news and social media sites in order to post incendiary false quotes attributed to Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al Thani, in late May that sparked the ongoing upheaval between Qatar and its neighbors».

However, last month, on June 7, the American news outlet CNN had a completely different take on the Gulf crisis, when it blamed Russia for trying to sow division between US allies in the Persian Gulf. It reported in an «exclusive» article with the headline: US suspects Russian hackers planted fake news behind Qatar crisis.

That CNN report went on to claim: «US officials say the Russian goal appears to be to cause rifts among the US and its allies. In recent months, suspected Russian cyber activities, including the use of fake news stories, have turned up amid elections in France, Germany and other countries».

While CNN hinted that the alleged Russian hackers in the Gulf could have been criminal privateers, the thrust of its report last month very much pointed the finger of blame at the Russian government for hacking into the Qatar news agency. Using assertion, speculation and anonymous sources, the alleged Russian cyber-attack on Qatar was linked to alleged meddling by the Kremlin in the US presidential election last year.

«US intelligence has long been concerned with what they say is the Russian government’s ability to plant fake news in otherwise credible streams, according to US officials», reported CNN.

But now this week, US intelligence officials have changed their tune on who they think is whipping up the Gulf crisis. It is not Russia, it is the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

«[US] Officials became aware last week that newly analyzed information gathered by US intelligence agencies confirmed that on May 23, senior members of the UAE government discussed the plan and its implementation,» reports the Washington Post this week.

For over a month now, the UAE has aligned with Saudi Arabia and Bahrain to blockade Qatar, another member of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). The crisis has become deadlocked with neither side willing to back down, much to the strategic concern of Washington. All of the monarchial energy-rich states are longtime allies of the US and together as a unit are a linchpin in maintaining the global petrodollar system. The other GCC members, Kuwait and Oman, have taken a neutral stance in the diplomatic crisis and have acted as brokers to resolve the dispute. Egypt, has joined with the Saudi-led bloc, to impose sanctions against Qatar.

The row blew up dramatically days after US President Donald Trump made an official state visit to Saudi Arabia on May 20-22. In exchange for a record $110-billion arms deals with the Saudi rulers, it seems clear that Trump gave the green light for the Saudis to instigate a blockade on Qatar. Ostensibly, the Saudis and the others are accusing Qatar of sponsoring terrorism and, they say, that is why they acted to isolate the neighboring gas-rich state. The absurd hypocrisy behind the accusation belies the real motive of petty rivalry among the Gulf monarchs. In particular, the Qatari-based Al Jazeera news network has been a bane for the Saudi and Egyptian rulers owing to its relatively independent and critical reporting on repression in those countries. Qatar’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood has also rankled the Saudis and Egyptians.

Two days after Trump flew out of Saudi on May 22, the official Qatari News Agency was hit with a fake news attack. Its news reports attributed statements to the Qatari emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al Thani, in which he praised Iran – the Shia arch-enemy of the US-backed Sunni monarchies – as well as making critical comments about Trump.

The whole debacle was an obvious set-up. Despite urgent notices from Qatar that its new agency had been hacked with fake news, the Saudi, Bahraini and Emirati media continued to prominently report the statements as if they were genuine, with the evident intention of smearing Qatar and provoking a stand-off.

The stage was then set for Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain and Egypt to announce on June 5 a total embargo of commercial, media and transport links with Qatar «because of its support for terrorism and friendly relations with Iran».

US President Trump initially voiced support for the blockade on Qatar, claiming it as a success from his trip to Saudi Arabia.

«So good to see the Saudi Arabia visit with the King [Saudi King Salman] and 50 countries already paying off», Trump smugly declared through his Twitter feed. «They said they would take a hard line on funding extremism, and all reference was pointing to Qatar. Perhaps this will be the beginning of the end to the horror of terrorism!»

But ever since Trump set off the worst crisis in the Gulf among US allies, his top diplomat Rex Tillerson has been busy trying to calm the row.

Qatar serves as the base for US Central Command in the Middle East with an airbase housing 10,000 troops. American warplanes flying out of Qatar are the main strike force for operations in Iraq, Syria and Yemen. Strategic planners in Washington realize that the US cannot afford to alienate Qatar.

Tillerson has diverged noticeably from Trump’s simplistic broadside supporting Saudi Arabia, and has instead sought to bring Qatar back into the GCC fold. The US Secretary of State has hinted that the Saudi-led blockade is draconian and unrealistic. On June 23, Saudi Arabia and its partners demanded that Qatar shut down the Al Jazeera network along with a dozen other ultimatums. Qatar refused.

Last week, Tillerson had a frenetic week of shuttle diplomacy flying between Qatar and Saudi Arabia to get both sides to compromise. On Friday, July 14, the former Exxon CEO returned to the US deflated, unable to break the deadlock.

While traveling back to the US, Tillerson alluded to the strategic importance at stake for Washington in maintaining Gulf Arab unity. He said it is «really important to us from a national security standpoint. We need this part of the world to be stable, and this particular conflict between these parties is obviously not helpful».

This would explain why the US has now moved to expose the Saudi-led camp as being behind the fake news hack incident against the Qatari news agency.

That disclosure undermines the Saudi-led position. It confirms what the Qataris have been saying from the outset; namely, that they have been set up for a faux crisis by Gulf rivals, whose objective is to subjugate Qatari sovereignty under Saudi tutelage. Shutting down the «offensive» Al Jazeera news station being one of the desired outcomes.

By undermining the Saudis and UAE in this way, the US is wagering that it can lever the Saudis and the others GCC members into softening their demands on Qatar.

So keen are the US military and geopolitical planners to defuse the prolonged Gulf crisis – a crisis that threatens the petrodollar system – that they were obliged to come clean about the real identify of the perpetrators of the cyber attack on Qatar. That means dishing the dirt on the Saudis and UAE as the source of the hack, and abandoning the earlier claim that Russia was to blame.

CNN is once again caught out faking news about Russian hackers. At the time of its «exclusive» last month accusing Russia of destabilizing US allies in the Gulf, the news channel at least had the decency to quote Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on the claim.

Peskov said in the June 7 report: «It is another lie.. CNN again and again publish references to unnamed sources in unnamed agencies, etc, etc. These streams of information have no connection with the reality. It is so far away from the reality. Fake is a fake».

What the whole episode shows is not just how irresponsible US intelligence officials and major media are in publishing false claims defaming Russia. It also shows them as unscrupulous and expedient.

Just because the lingering Gulf crisis is spiraling to threaten US strategic interests, only then is there a sudden switch to a version of events that more accurately reflects reality. If it weren’t for US strategic concerns in the Gulf, the fake news put out about Russian hackers would no doubt continue. Which begs the question: if Russian hackers in the Gulf is fake news, then what does that say about similar claims of Russian hacking in the US?

July 18, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Trump’s Iran policies are in a cul-de-sac

By M K Bhadrakumar | Asia Times | July 16, 2017

“Now, as the world marks the two-year anniversary of the adoption of the nuclear agreement with Iran, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the threat of an Iranian nuclear weapon is more remote than it has been in decades … Iran’s nuclear program has been defanged and all its pathways to a bomb blocked… Two years later, the results are in, and they show the effort has been a clear success.”

At first glance, the above might seem a triumphalist narrative by the former US President Barack Obama – or his Secretary of State John Kerry. But, they actually happen to be excerpts from an opinion piece in Foreign Policy magazine on Thursday, penned by Carmi Gillon, formerly the director of Israel’s General Security Service, the Shin Bet, whose responsibility it was to counter the possibility of Iran developing a nuclear weapon.

While it is too much to expect the Trump administration or a large section of America’s political elites to show the moral courage and honesty that the erstwhile Israeli spymaster has shown, it is nonetheless soothing to the nerves that the US State Department will “very likely” notify Congress on Monday that Iran is complying with the JCPOA.

President Donald Trump could have fulfilled by now his campaign pledge to “rip up” what he called “the worst deal ever”. But he hasn’t. Instead, he is walking a fine line.

On one hand, he has acquiesced with the lifting of nuclear-related sanctions while, on the other hand, he is desperately keen to maintain and even reinforce the sanctions regime on different grounds – relating it to Iran’s missile program or its human right record and regional policies.

Trump did not stop Iran’s big multi-billion dollar landmark deal to buy aircraft from Boeing. Nor did he try to prevail upon French President Emmanuel Macron to stop oil major Total from concluding a mega deal with Iran to develop the South Pars gas fields.

To be sure, the Trump administration can draw vicarious satisfaction that Iran’s nuclear program has been contained and is under strict international scrutiny and yet Tehran is unable to receive ‘peace dividends’ in terms of substantial economic benefits.

There is no scope to renegotiate the JCPOA to bring non-nuclear issues within its ambit. Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani outlined this point when he said in May that the deal is multilateral and irreversible, as it would be tantamount to “saying we should turn a shirt back to cotton.”

The European Union stance largely concurs with the Iranian view. Russia and China are strong supporters of the JCPOA. Thus, the US is pretty much on its own if it undercuts or derails the JCPOA, an option that exists only in principle.

Quite obviously, although normalization of relations between the US and Iran is not on the cards, that does not prevent Trump administration officials from attending the meetings of the monitoring mechanism of ‘world powers’ on the implementation of the JCPOA, where US and Iranian representatives come face to face on a regular basis.

The point is, even the JCPOA’s most trenchant critics admit grudgingly that the deal has had a positive impact. Gillon wrote:

“In Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, after leading a vociferous international campaign against the agreement, now remains mostly silent on the subject. And while the majority of my colleagues in the Israeli military and intelligence communities supported the deal once it was reached, many of those who had major reservations now acknowledge that it has had a positive impact on Israel’s security and must be fully maintained by the United States and the other signatory nations.”

All in all, therefore, the Trump administration is coming to recognize it must implement the JCPOA, no matter the outcome of the National Security Council-led review of the deal that is evaluating whether the suspension of sanctions against Iran under the agreement is ‘vital to the national security interests of the United States’.

Anything else will be motiveless spite. The big question is whether the Trump administration sees the writing on the wall? Of course, it is capable of showing realism – the hint of a rethink on the Paris agreement on climate change or the belated articulation of commitment to Article 5 of the NATO charter are recent examples.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration’s project to isolate Iran by creating an ‘Arab NATO’ and by creating an Arab-Israeli alliance against it is unlikely to take off. The rift between Qatar and the boycotting states creates a new quandary in regional politics.

Washington helplessly watches the unraveling of the Gulf Cooperation Council as contradictions in Saudi Arabia’s regional leadership grow in ways no one imagined possible until a month ago.

Iran’s cooperation is badly needed if the crisis in Syria and Iraq (and Yemen and Bahrain) is to be effectively managed. In Syria, the Trump administration outsources to Moscow the responsibility of bringing Iran on board. But it is not an option in the other three theatres.

The sooner realism prevails, the better. A beginning could be made on Monday when Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif will be in New York to attend the High-Level Political Forum under UN auspices.

Four years ago, on the sidelines of the same annual UN meeting, Kerry met Zarif and set the ball rolling on negotiations that culminated in the JCPOA on July 15, 2015.

Fresh from the mediatory mission to the Gulf, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson must be in a chastened mood. A meeting with Zarif is just what is needed to inject a much-needed realism into the US’ Middle East policies. Even Israel must be quietly pleased.

July 18, 2017 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Trump shows realism toward Iran

By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline | July 18, 2017

The United States’ regional strategies in the Middle East face multiple challenges and it needs strong nerves and robust realism not to overreact. Importantly, the temptation to display ‘muscular’ diplomacy must be curbed. Thus, the decision by the Trump administration on Monday to certify for the second time Iran’s compliance with the July 2015 nuclear deal signifies strategic maturity.

However, this judicious decision does not mean that the sea of troubles is receding. The media leak by the Washington Post, attributed to US intelligence officials, exposing that the UAE had pre-planned the rift with Qatar, can only be seen as a display of Washington’s disenchantment with the ‘boycotting states’ (Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt and Bahrain) and a gentle warning to them not to exacerbate tensions. The UAE, in fact, was just about to initiate Qatar’s formal expulsion from the GCC when the ‘media leak’ created a new ‘fact on the ground’ and Abu Dhabi hastily beat a retreat.

In geopolitical terms, the rift in the Gulf puts the US in a quandary. Whatever hopes it had of creating an alliance system between the Gulf Arab Sheikhs and Israelis to contain Iran have evaporated. The fallout in the Gulf doesn’t lend itself to resolution easily. Which means two things: a) US’ containment strategy toward Iran has floundered; and, b) US’ regional allies are bogged down in an internal quagmire that preoccupy then for a conceivable future.

Enter Israel. Unsurprisingly, Israel is both despondent and furious that its best-laid plans to confront Iran (with American help) have collapsed. The implications are most serious for the Golan Heights, the Syrian territory under illegal Israeli occupation since the 1967 War. Put simply, Iran is on a roll and with the support of the Shi’ite militia supported by it and Hezbollah, Syrian government forces may push toward territory straddling Golan Heights which Israel had planned as a buffer zone controlled by by al-Qaeda affiliates (with Israeli military backing).

On Sunday, in a sudden outburst, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected the recent US-Russian accord on the ‘de-escalation zone’ in Southern Syria. It is a disturbing signal that Israel might be planning a military operation in Syrian territory to consolidate a buffer zone straddling the Golan Heights. Any Israeli invasion is assured of success because of its military superiority. But the question is, what happens thereafter? Without doubt, Syrian government, Iranian militia and Hezbollah will open a ‘resistance front’.

Succinctly put, Netanyahu feels let down that Trump is not unleashing a war on Iran and is piling on pressure at a time when Trump’s popularity is at an abysmally low point and the US media is smelling blood that the investigations over the so-called Russian meddling in the November election is now touching the president’s son and son-in-law as well. The Jewish lobby controls the US media.

Significantly, Al-Masdar News from Beirut reported on Monday that the Russian military has deployed to the proposed ‘de-militarization’ zone in southern Syria. Indeed, the Russian media have shown irritation toward the Israeli belligerence and have questioned Israel’s intentions in consorting with al-Qaeda and ISIS groups.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Monday that the US-Russian accord on ‘de-escalation zone’ in southern Syria was finalized only after making sure that “Israel’s security interests are fully taken into consideration.” Of course, it is possible that Israel has since shifted the goal post, typically. Plan B could be to invade Syria. Or, Israel could be bargaining with the Trump administration to get a bigger say in any Syrian settlement. Or, Israel is aligning with the Russophobes in the Washington establishment who never really warmed up to Trump’s 126-minute dalliance with President Vladimir Putin in Hamburg.

In view of the above, clearly, the Trump administration’s decision Monday to certify on Iran nuclear deal compliance signals that it understands the limits to the US’ capacity to confront Iran in the overall context of regional realignments, which run on several templates:

  • Iran’s dominating presence on the ground in Iraq and Syria;
  • Iran’s unwavering support of President Bashar Al-Assad;
  • The US-Turkish alienation in northern Syria;
  • Turkish-Israeli antipathies;
  • Rift among the US’ Gulf allies;
  • The collapse of the Syrian rebel groups;
  • The impending defeat of ISIS;
  • Stalemate in the war in Yemen; and,
  • The deteriorating situation in Afghanistan.

Quite obviously, Iran is a serious player in the geopolitics of the ‘Greater Middle East’. The point is, a direct high-level contact between Washington and Tehran will be a ‘force multiplier’ for US diplomacy. Outsourcing to Moscow the job of getting Tehran on board assumes that Iran doesn’t have its own interests. That is far from the case. (Read my opinion piece in Asia Times, Trump’s Iran policies are in a cul-de-sac.)

July 18, 2017 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , | Leave a comment

US adding new sanctions against Iran over missile program

Press TV – July 18, 2017

The administration of US President Donald Trump says it is imposing new economic sanctions against Iran over the Islamic Republic’s ballistic missile program.

The US Departments of Treasury and State said Tuesday they are targeting 18 Iranian individuals, groups and networks.

The new sanctions freeze any assets the targets may have in the US and prevents Americans from doing business with them.

The restrictions ranged from a company that allegedly aided Iran’s drone program to a Turkey-based provider of naval equipment and a China-based network that provided electronics to Iran, according to the Associated Press.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the sanctions “send a strong signal that the United States cannot and will not tolerate Iran’s provocative and destabilizing behavior.”

The move comes one day after the Trump administration certified to Congress that Iran is in compliance with the 2015 nuclear agreement, which lifted nuclear-related sanctions imposed against Tehran.

The Trump administration notified the Congress of Iran’s compliance for the first time in April.

The White House is bound by US law to notify Congress of Iran’s compliance with the nuclear deal every 90 days. The Trump administration had notified the Congress of Iran’s compliance for the first time in April.

The certification that Iran is technically complying with the nuclear agreement clears the way for sanctions to remain lifted.

Washington claims Iran’s missile program is in breach of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231, which endorsed Tehran’s nuclear deal with the P5+1 states in 2015.

However, Tehran insists its missile tests do not breach any UN resolutions because they are solely for defense purposes and not designed to carry nuclear warheads.

The Islamic Republic has said it will spare no effort to meet its national security needs, and does not allow any party to intervene in the imperative.

July 18, 2017 Posted by | Economics, Wars for Israel | , , | Leave a comment

Afghanistan civilian deaths hit record highs as US-led airstrikes reach 2012 levels

RT | July 18, 2017

The US Air Force and its allies have dropped more munitions on Afghanistan in the first half of 2017 than in all of the previous year. This is level with the previous high in the first half of 2012 and coincides with a spike in civilian casualties, according to the UN.

So far this year, 232 civilians were killed in the airstrikes, compared to 162 the first six months of 2016. Around half of those died in operations carried out by the Afghan Air Force.

The American and coalition forces have dropped 1,634 munitions in Afghanistan during the first half of 2017, according to figures released by the US Air Force. The US and allied jets have flown over 2,000 combat sorties, and more than 500 of them ended up releasing at least one munition.

By comparison, there were 28,760 sorties recorded in all of 2012, with 1,975 of them reported to have released at least one weapon.

A drastic increase in aerial missions predictably caused more fatalities among Afghan civilians. A Monday report released by the UN’s mission to Afghanistan said the death toll began to climb due to the coalition bombings during the first half of 2017.

The last time the US Air Force expended munitions at this level was in 2012. At the time, there were nearly 50,000 US soldiers in the country, compared to the 9,800 US troops estimated to be stationed there now.

In June, President Donald Trump authorized the Pentagon, headed by Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, to set the number of US forces in Afghanistan. Mattis reportedly plans to deploy an additional 4,000 troops to the war-torn country, signaling the largest troop increase since Trump took office.

“Each one of these casualty figures reflects a broken family, unimaginable trauma and suffering, and the brutal violation of people’s human rights,” Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said in a statement.

“Many Afghan civilians are suffering psychological trauma, having lost family and friends, and are living in fear knowing the risks they face as they go about their daily lives. Many more have been forced from their homes and suffered lasting damage to their health, education and livelihoods. The continuing national tragedy of Afghanistan must not be overlooked,” Al Hussein said.

July 18, 2017 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism, War Crimes | , | 1 Comment

Netanyahu Pushes Trump Toward Wider Wars

By Robert Parry | Consortium News | July 18, 2017

A weakened, even desperate President Donald Trump must decide whether to stand up to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or to repudiate the Syrian partial ceasefire, which Trump hammered out with Russian President Vladimir Putin on July 7.

 (Official White House Photo by Dan Hansen)

Whether intentionally or not, this crossroads is where the months of Russia-gate hysteria have led the United States, making Trump even more vulnerable to Israeli and neoconservative pressure and making any cooperation with Russia more dangerous for him politically.

After meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris on Sunday, Netanyahu declared that Israel was totally opposed to the Trump-Putin cease-fire deal in southern Syria because it perpetuates Iranian presence in Syria in support of the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad.

Netanyahu’s position increases pressure on Trump to escalate U.S. military involvement in Syria and possibly move toward war against Iran and even Russia. The American neocons, who generally move in sync with Netanyahu’s wishes, already have as their list of current goals “regime changes” in Damascus, Tehran and Moscow – regardless of the dangers to the Middle East and indeed the world.

At the G-20 summit on July 7, Trump met for several hours with Putin coming away with an agreed-upon cease-fire for southwestern Syria, an accord that has proven more successful than previous efforts to reduce the violence that has torn the country apart since 2011.

But that limited peace could mean failure for the proxy war that Israel, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and other regional players helped launch six years ago with the goal of removing Assad from power and shattering the so-called “Shiite crescent” from Tehran through Damascus to Beirut. Instead, that “crescent” appears more firmly in place, with Assad’s military bolstered by Shiite militia forces from Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah.

In other words, the “regime change” gambit against Assad’s government would have backfired, with Iranian and Hezbollah forces arrayed along Israel’s border with Syria. And instead of accepting that reversal and seeking some modus vivendi with Iran, Netanyahu and his Sunni-Arab allies (most notably the Saudi monarchy) have decided to go in the other direction (a wider war) and to bring President Trump along with them.

Neophyte Trump

Trump – a relative neophyte in global intrigue – has been slow to comprehend how his outreach to Netanyahu and Saudi King Salman runs counter to his collaboration with Putin on efforts to defeat the Sunni jihadist groups, including Al Qaeda and Islamic State, which have served as the point of the spear in the war to overthrow Assad.

Al Qaeda and Islamic State have received direct and indirect support from Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, Turkey, Israel and even the Obama administration, albeit sometimes unwittingly. To block Assad’s overthrow – and the likely victory by these terror groups – Russia, Iran and Hezbollah came to Assad’s defense, helping to turn the tide of the war since 2015.

In his nearly half year in office, Trump has maintained an open hostility toward Iran – sharing a position held by Washington’s neocons as well as Netanyahu and Salman – but the U.S. President also has advocated cooperation with Russia to crush Islamic State and Al Qaeda inside Syria.

Collaboration with Russia – and indirectly with Iran and the Syrian military – makes sense for most U.S. interests, i.e., stabilizing Syria, reversing the refugee flow that has destabilized Europe, and denying Al Qaeda and Islamic State a base for launching terror strikes against Western targets.

But the same collaboration would be a bitter defeat for Netanyahu and Salman who have invested heavily in this and other “regime change” projects that require major U.S. investments in terms of diplomacy, money and military manpower.

So, in last weekend’s trip to Paris, Netanyahu chose to raise the stakes on Trump at a time when Democrats and the U.S. mainstream media are pounding him daily with the Russia-gate scandal, even raising the possibility that his son, Donald Trump Jr., might be prosecuted and imprisoned for having a meeting in June 2016 with a Russian lawyer.

If Trump wants the Russia-gate pain to lessen, he will be tempted to give Netanyahu what he wants and count on the savvy Israeli leader to intervene with the influential neocons of Official Washington to pull back on the scandal-mongering.

The problem, however, would be that Netanyahu really wants the U.S. military to complete the “regime change” project in Syria – much as it did in Iraq and Libya – meaning more American dead, more American treasure expended and a likely wider war, extending to Iran and possibly nuclear-armed Russia.

That might fulfill the neocon current menu of “regime change” schemes but it runs the risk of unleashing a nuclear conflagration on the world. In that way, liberals and even some progressives – who have embraced Russia-gate as a way to remove the hated Donald Trump from office – may end up contributing to the end of human civilization as well.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s.

July 18, 2017 Posted by | Wars for Israel | , , , , | 1 Comment