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Trump ends CIA arms to Salafists in Syria

By Adam Garrie | The Duran | July 19, 2017

Today, two reports emerged within minutes of each other which indicate that under Donald Trump, the United States has fully shifted its policies in Syria away from arming and aiding Salafist/jihadist terrorist fighters and is now allying exclusively with Kurdish.

To a less extent, America is also politically allied with Russia in a limited capacity in south western Syria, something which is more significant due to the shift it represents rather than in terms of size or scope.

Here are the key events:

1. US media reports that Trump ends CIA arming of terrorists

The deeply anti-Trump Washington Post has reported the following,

“President Trump has decided to end the CIA’s covert program to arm and train moderate Syrian rebels battling the government of Bashar al-Assad, a move long sought by Russia, according to U.S. officials.

The program was a central plank of a policy begun by the Obama administration in 2013 to put pressure on Assad to step aside, but even its backers have questioned its efficacy since Russia deployed forces in Syria two years later.

Officials said the phasing out of the secret program reflects Trump’s interest in finding ways to work with Russia, which saw the anti-Assad program as an assault on its interests. The shuttering of the program is also an acknowledgement of Washington’s limited leverage and desire to remove Assad from power”.

The report adds,

“Officials said Trump made the decision to scrap the CIA program nearly a month ago, after an Oval Office meeting with CIA Director Mike Pompeo and national security adviser H.R. McMaster ahead of a July 7 meeting in Germany with Russian President Vladimir Putin”.

While the Washington Post calls this a win for Russia, in reality this will not directly effect Russia one way or another. It is however, a win for Syria.

By most reasonable accounts, the conflict in Syria could have ended far earlier if not for the CIA and other US actors arming, funding and training Salafist jihadist fighters in Syria (often referred to as moderate rebels by the western mainstream media).

As even the Washington Post admits, almost in a gloating fashion, arming such jihadists was a flagship policy of the United States under Barack Obama.

This will take a substantial deal of pressure off the Syrian Arab Army and their fight against remaining terrorists in Syria.

Ever since Trump took office, the general trajectory of US meddling in Syria shifted from arming jihadists to arming, funding and working in close military coordination with Kurdish forces.

Today’s revelation simply affirms what was long the apparent on the ground policy of the United States since February of 2017.

It is key to remember that even after this announcement, the US presence in Syria is still illegal according to international law.

2. FSA jihadists withdraw from front-line in Raqqa 

Almost simultaneous to the Washington Post report, Al-Masdar which is generally the most reliable source of on the ground information in Syria, reported the following,

“The Quwwat al-Nukhba sub-group of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), which fights within the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), has been dismissed from any and all front-line duties in the ongoing Raqqa operation.

About one week ago, word came out that the FSA-linked group was to give up its positions within Raqqa city and retreat to the SDF’s rear areas outside the urban center. However, contradictory reports then came in suggesting that a compromise was reached whereby the Arab faction could retain its positions within the city – this was supported by some photo evidence.

However, according to the latest reports, Quwwat al-Nukhba has officially withdrawn from all of its front-line positions within Raqqa city and handed them over to the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).

 Information on why the Arab militia has been booted out of the operation remains officially unclear. Nonetheless, some sources suggest that the group showed repeated incompetence during Raqqa battle, advancing quickly within the city but then withdrawing from all gains, abandoning them to ISIS, almost as soon as they were taken.

In any case, the United States – who has overall command of the SDF – represents the party that gave the order for the Arab FSA-linked faction to withdraw (perhaps at the behest of Kurdish recommendations).

This now means that the battle to capture Raqqa from ISIS has become an almost exclusively Kurdish operation”.

Raqqa is now officially a two-horse race between US backed Kurdish forces from the north and the Syrian Arab Army approaching from the west and from the south via Dier Ez-Zor, which is fast becoming a bigger hotspot of remaining ISIS fighters in Syria vis-a-vis Raqqa.

The upside of this for Syria is that the danger of a kind of semi-permanent style US funded Salafist insurgency is reduced to almost nil. This is especially true due to Syria’s strong central government vis-a-vis that of Iraq in the mid-2000s and into recent years.

With the US garrison in southern Syria located in At-Tanf now effectively cut off from the rest of the country via strong lines of control by the Syrian Arab Army and its allies, the US would have hit a logistical brick wall if it expended its resources continuing to arm increasingly encircled and materially ineffective jihadist groups like the FSA and its splinter groups and off-shoots.

This move also removes any scant Turkish influence from the race to Raqqa as the few FSA fighters participating in the surge represented the only people who are loyal to a group that is in great part, a Turkish proxy.

Thus, the American decision to force the withdrawal of the minor contingent of the FSA from front-line fighting in Raqqa is close to a de-facto admission that incorporating such jihadists into the final battle with the jihadists of ISIS would be an exercise in futility, one that Kurds themselves also likely oppose.

3. The Russia connection 

At present, there is no overt linkage to these events and Donald Trump’s meeting at the G20 summit with Vladimir Putin. One can however, infer a conclusion that in order to work more effectively with Russia, the United States has dropped the last vestiges of support for jihadists such as the FSA, knowing that it would have reached a similar conclusion based on sheer logistics, even if Russia and the US did not strike a deal to mutually enforce the current ceasefire in south-western Syria along with Jordan.

In this sense, it is wise to remember that hyperbolic linkages of items 1 and 2 with the Trump-Putin meeting are at best circumstantial rather than causal–pragmatic rather than overtly strategic.

This still does not solve the crisis of what Kurdish forces might want as a result of their participation in the race for Raqqa, assuming they partly or wholly win the race.

Furthermore, if Kurds demand further concessions from Damascus including increased autonomy or even independence, many suspect that the United States will strongly back Kurdish demands rather than play the part of a neutral party. This would of course be opposed not only by Syria, Iraq and Iran but most strongly by Turkey which is a traditional US ally, although one which hardly sees eye-to-eye with the US on major Middle Eastern issues ranging from Qatar to Syria.

In this sense, the United States has chosen to infuriate Turkey further, make life slightly less difficult for Syria in terms of battle-field logistics, vaguely placate Russia and most importantly, declare an increased measure of loyalty to Kurds at the expense of the many anti-Kurdish actors in the region, including several technical US allies, namely both Turkey and Iraq.

July 19, 2017 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, War Crimes | , , , , | 1 Comment

Israel to build new field hospital in Syria to treat militants

Press TV – July 19, 2017

Israel’s military says the Tel Aviv regime plans to build a new field hospital in Syria to treat what it generally named patients amid international concerns over the regime’s support for the Takfiri militants fighting in the Arab country.

Lieutenant Colonel Tomer Koler told reporters in a phone conference on Wednesday that the hospital would be located on the Syrian side of the fence but on the Israeli side of the demarcation line in the Golan Heights, which is Syrian territory occupied by Israel. The fence built by Israel does not always comply with the line precisely.

Koler expressed hope that the hospital would be operational in the next month.

He noted that Israel had delivered what he called “humanitarian aid” into Syria, including hundreds of tons of food and clothing, as well as fuel and equipment such as generators.

Israel reportedly had a field hospital in the area but shut it last year.

Syria has been gripped by foreign-backed militancy since March 2011. The Syrian government says Tel Aviv and its Western and regional allies are aiding Takfiri militant groups, wreaking havoc in the country.

There have been reports that Israel offers medical treatment to terrorists, wounded while operating in Syria, in hospitals set up on the Golan Heights. Back on April 9, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tel Aviv would continue treating wounded militants from Syria as part of what he claimed to be a “humanitarian effort.”

Israel regularly hits positions held by the Syrian army in the Golan Heights, describing the attacks as retaliatory. Damascus says the raids aim to help Takfiri militants fighting against government forces. On several occasions, the Syrian army has confiscated Israeli-made arms and military equipment from terrorists fighting government forces.

Last month, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres expressed concerns about a spike in contacts between Israeli armed forces and Syria militants in recent months, saying it could lead to escalation and cause harm to UN observers deployed to the Golan Heights.

Moreover, the Wall Street Journal recently reported that Israel has been providing Takfiri terrorists in Syria’s Golan Heights with a steady flow of funds and medical supplies.

In September last year, the Israeli daily Ha’aretz quoted Israeli parliament member Akram Hasoon as saying that Israel was directly aiding the Takfiri terrorist group Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, formerly known as al-Nusra Front, another terrorist group operating in Syria. He revealed that an earlier attack by the Nusra group on the Druze Village of Khadr had the support of the Israeli minister for military affairs, Avigdor Lieberman.

July 19, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, War Crimes | , , | 3 Comments

Our Leaders Are Psychopaths

Corbett Report Extras | July 17, 2017

They walk among us. On the outside. they’re just like you and me, but on the inside they are unfeeling automatons who care only for themselves. They are the psychopaths, and they are in control of our governments, our corporations, our military and all of the positions of power. Join us this week on The Corbett Report as we delve into Political Ponerology, a diagnosis of our politicians and a brief look at the bigger picture.

SHOW NOTES AND MP3: https://www.corbettreport.com/?p=406

July 19, 2017 Posted by | Militarism, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | 1 Comment

Dems are recklessly raging over Trump ‘treason’

By Jonathon Turley | The Hill | July 18, 2017

“So now you’d give the devil benefit of the law!” Those were the words of William Roper in one of the most riveting scenes from “A Man For All Seasons.

He was chastising his father-in-law, Sir Thomas More, for elevating the law above morality. Roper, who was himself a lawyer and member of Parliament, was the face of resolve — and relativism — in the law. When More asked if Roper would “cut a great road through the law to get after the devil,” Roper proudly declared that he would “cut down every law in England to do that.”

After the 50th anniversary of the classic movie, we seem to be living in the “Age of Roper” — and rage. There is a constant drumbeat in the news as experts declare prima facie cases for indictment and impeachment against President Trump, Donald Trump Jr., and Jared Kushner. Trump has been denounced as threatening free speech, the free press, and even the democratic process.

However, the push for criminal charges could well create the very dangers that critics associate with Trump. Few have considered the implications of broadening the scope of the criminal code and handing the government wider discretion in criminalizing speech and associations. Once you declare someone to be the devil, there is no cost too great to combat him or his spawn.

Trump has certainly become a diabolic figure for many (though his popularity among Republicans remains above 80 percent). This hatred has blinded many to the implications of pulling up the roots of our criminal laws “to get after the Donald.” In particular, they should consider the cost to free speech and the political process if they hand the government the power to criminalize some of this conduct.

Treason

In the chorus of criminal charges following the disclosure of the Russia meeting, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) was not to be outdone. Where others were arguing election fraud, Kaine declared that the case has moved to a potential treason charge. Likewise, Richard Painter, chief ethics lawyer for President George W. Bush, has said that, while rarely charged without a declaration of war, “the dictionary definition” of treason and the “common understanding” is “a betrayal of one’s country, and in particular, the helping of a foreign adversary against one’s own country.”

Former Watergate prosecutor Nick Ackerman declared the emails to be “almost a smoking cannon” and added that “there’s almost no question this is treason.” Even if there is a reluctance to bring a direct treason charge, Painter insists that “we just use other statutes because most of what is treason would have violated another statute anyway.”

Article III of the Constitution defines this crime as consisting “only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.” With neither a declaration of war nor an act of levying of war, such a charge is both absurd and dangerous. Many countries like China routinely charge communications with foreign organizations to be treason.

Indeed, Turkey’s Recep Tayyip President Erdogan this week pledged to “chop off the heads” of some of the thousands of Turks arrested as supporting the failed coup last year, including political opponents. That is precisely why the Framers, and later courts, have narrowly defined this crime and why relatively few treason cases have been brought and even fewer have succeeded in this country.

Espionage

Some lawmakers, like House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), have suggested that if the Russians were hacking or spying on the Democrats, Trump Jr. and others participated in the crime of espionage. Like treason, the effort to construe this meeting as espionage would rip the crime from its statutory roots. There is no evidence that Trump Jr. gave any sensitive information to Russian officials or sought to hurt U.S. national security. If this were espionage, a host of campaigns and citizens could be investigated as traitors or spies for using information from a foreign source.

Conspiracy

Cornell Law School Vice Dean Jens David Ohlin has declared the Trump Jr. emails to be “a shocking admission of a criminal conspiracy.” However, the crime itself requires a showing that Trump Jr. sought to “conspire either to commit any offense against the United States, or to defraud the United States.”

MSNBC legal analyst Paul Butler identified the crime as “conspiring with the U.S.’ sworn enemy to take over and subvert our democracy,” and declared it is now clear that “what Donald Trump Jr. is alleged to have done is a federal crime.” The suggestion that acquiring opposition research is an effort to “defraud” an election would, again, criminalize a host of political speech and associations.

It would allow the government to call campaigns into grand juries to answer for discussions of how they obtained information or who they consulted. We live in a global marketplace of ideas and exchanges. The line between information given as part of political speech and information given to defraud could vanish… with a great deal of our political discourse.

Obstruction

I have previously discussed how the firing of former FBI Director James Comey has prompted many to declare a prima facie case of obstruction. Like many others, Akerman declared the matter resolved, saying, “Our president is guilty of obstruction of justice for endeavoring to obstruct an FBI investigation.”

However, an obstruction charge is based on obstructing a grand jury or other pending proceeding. FBI investigations are not generally considered a pending proceeding and case law has rejected such claims. Moreover, it would allow the government to broaden the element of trying to “corruptly” influence to an extent never reached in any prior case.

Under such an ambiguous standard, prosecutors could charge people willy nilly for a host of interactions with witnesses or documents in the earliest stages of an investigation. Prosecutors could force pleas or testimony under constant threats of obstruction charges. That is why courts have narrowed the language of obstruction.

Election fraud

The same chilling results would occur if, as a host of experts have declared, the receiving information from any foreigner would violate the Federal Election Campaign Act. The law makes it illegal to “solicit, accept, or receive a contribution or donation… of money or other thing of value” from a foreign national in connection with a federal election. Experts have declared the law as all but satisfied as a basis to charge Trump’s son.

Nick Akerman, a former Watergate assistant special prosecutor, declared, “It’s illegal campaign contributions. It would be conspiring to commit campaign violations.”   Likewise, Ryan Goodman, a former Defense Department special counsel, has declared, “There is now a clear case that Donald Trump Jr. has met all the elements of the law.”

Of course, no court has ever reached such a conclusion and hopefully would never do so. If the receipt of opposition research from a foreigner is now equivalent to receiving illegal campaign funds, the law would extend to foreign academics, public interest groups, nongovernment organizations, and journalists supplying information to a campaign.

An environmental group might have given Hillary Clinton’s campaign a dossier on Trump’s business practices. All of those interactions could be investigated and prosecuted — sweeping a wide array of political speech into the criminal code. If successful, these experts and advocates would hand the next administration the ability to harass and pursue political opponents and groups.

During the Obama administration, Democrats tossed aside the principles of separation of powers and supported President Obama’s use of unilateral authority to circumvent Congress. The Democrats acted as if Obama would be our last president in abandoning core constitutional principles. Trump is now enjoying the very unilateral powers that the Democrats so unwisely embraced.

Trump will not be our last president — just as Obama was not. These laws will be left to the next president to use in the same broad fashion against others. Democrats have simply replaced blind loyalty under Obama with blind rage under Trump.

In the movie scene with Roper, More cautions those who too willingly discard or twist laws to achieve desired ends, saying, “Oh? And when the last law was down, and the devil turned round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country’s planted thick with laws from coast to coast — man’s laws, not God’s — and if you cut them down — and you’re just the man to do it — do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake.”

More shows the recklessness of Roper’s resolve — the dangerous tendency to make the law bend to your will in the name of a higher cause like Roper’s desire “to get after the devil.”

As satisfying as it may be to “get after the Donald” or his progeny, the engorged criminal code that would be left would then be handed to the next president. That president would then have a less obstructed range for the investigation of opponents and critics. If that day should come, we must ask ourselves how we will “stand upright in the wind that would blow.” As More noted, it is a question worth asking not for Trump’s sake, but for our own.

Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University.

July 19, 2017 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Progressive Hypocrite, Russophobia, Timeless or most popular | | Leave a comment

More ‘fake news’: NO second secret G20 Trump-Putin summit meeting

By Alexander Mercouris | The Duran | July 19, 2017

That there is an active media campaign to misrepresent President Trump’s actions, and his contacts with President Putin of Russia in particular, is confirmed by the media’s reporting of a wholly fictitious ‘second meeting’ between President Trump and President Putin at the G20 summit in Hamburg.

Reports of this ‘second undisclosed meeting’ are the lead story in news reports in the British media today.  Here is the story as it is reported by the BBC, and here it is as reported by the Guardian.

To get a sense of the paranoia surrounding anything to do with Donald Trump, consider what the BBC’s Jonathan Marcus says about the meeting:

Given the poor state of relations between Washington and Moscow and the controversy surrounding Russia’s efforts to interfere with the US presidential campaign, each and every encounter between Mr Putin and Mr Trump is bound to be carefully scrutinised.

Thus the apparently impromptu discussion between the two men at the G20 dinner inevitably raises many questions. What was President Trump seeking to do in approaching the Russian president? Were matters of substance discussed? If so, why was no formal note taken? And why did the US president have to rely upon a Russian official for translation?

This is all highly unusual, especially at a time when relations between the two countries are laden with so many problems.

Mr Trump also appeared unaware of another dimension – the message that his tete-a-tete would send to other leaders in the room, who must have watched the US president’s gambit with some unease.

As for the origins of this story, it is clear that it originates with a single individual, Ian Bremmer the President of the international consulting firm the Eurasia Group. Here is how the Guardian reports his account of the ‘meeting’:

Bremmer said there was a dinner that evening for the G20 heads of state and their spouses, though not all of them attended. “There were a lot of empty seats,” he continued. “Donald Trump got up from the table and sat down with Putin for about an hour. It was very animated and very friendly. Putin’s translator was translating. I found out about it because people were startled.”

There was no one else within earshot, Bremmer added, and it is not known what the men discussed. Trump was not joined in the conversation by his own translator, which is thought to be a breach of national security protocol. The White House later said that the translator who accompanied Trump spoke Japanese, not Russian, and that was why Trump and Putin spoke through the Russian translator.

Bremmer added: “It’s very clear that Trump’s best single relationship in the G20 is with Putin. US allies were surprised, flummoxed, disheartened. You’ve got Trump in the room with all these allies and who’s the one he spends time with?”

Such was the level of concern that someone decided to bring it to Bremmer’s attention. He said he had expected the White House to go public. “I sat on this for days hoping they would talk about it. I knew last week. It didn’t happen. I’m an analyst; I’m not in the business of breaking news,” he said.

This is utterly absurd. Discernable through the hysteria is what actually happened. During a dinner at which other G20 leaders were present Trump and Putin met and spoke with each other, though the amount of time they spent in each other’s company is disputed (the White House denies it was anything close to an hour).

This is not only perfectly normal. It is what such dinners are for: to enable leaders to get to know each other and to speak to each other in informal settings without their aides present.

No one expects serious business to be done during such meetings. In the absence of aides and with the leaders unprepared and with no formal record kept of what is said, conducting formal business during such meetings is impossible.  To compare such informal meetings with proper summits is ridiculous.

It is universally acknowledged that establishing a personal relationship between leaders is essential for effective diplomacy. That is why these sort of dinners take place. Trump was simply doing his job by making the most of the opportunity provided by this one.

The White House has provided its response to the reporting of this meeting

During the course of the dinner, all the leaders circulated throughout the room and spoke with one another freely. There was no ‘second meeting’ between President Trump and President Putin, just a brief conversation at the end of a dinner. The insinuation that the White House has tried to ‘hide’ a second meeting is false, malicious and absurd. It is not merely perfectly normal, it is part of a president’s duties, to interact with world leaders.

This is obviously correct, and it has been echoed by this typically pithy comment by President Trump himself:

What is disturbing about this story is not so much the gross misrepresentation of this perfectly innocuous meeting.  Rather it is the revelation that the President is being straightforwardly spied on, so that he cannot have a conversation at a dinner party without news of it being broadcast, and having the nature of the meeting completely misrepresented, by the media.

This is straightforward sabotage of the President’s work. One does not have to like President Trump or agree with his policy of seeking a rapprochement with Russia to be deeply disturbed by it.

July 19, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , | 1 Comment

Ukraine ‘Losing Control’ of Its Nuclear Facilities

Sputnik – 19.07.2017

Hundreds of containers with radioactive materials inside have been reportedly stolen from a nuclear storage facility in central Ukraine. An expert told Sputnik about the consequences this and other such cases could have for people in and outside the country.

According to 1+1 TV channel, the containers with Cesium-137-contaminated soil and metals, which had spent the past 30 years buried at an unguarded storage site near the city of Krapivnitsky in Kirovograd region, were supposed to stay there for at least 300 years more.

After the unknown thieves dug up the containers, the radiation level in the area jumped 10 times above normal.

In an interview with Radio Sputnik, Valery Menshikov, a member of the Environmental Policy Center in Moscow, shared his fears about the dangerous situation in Ukraine.

“What is now happening is Ukraine is bedlam, period. The stringent Soviet-era controls are gone and not only there. All nuclear storage facilities in Ukraine pose a very serious radiation threat. It’s a very alarming situation we have there now,” Menshikov warned.

He underscored the need to place such nuclear storage sites under strict control.

“Such places must be fenced off, have adequate alarm systems, etc. However, it looks like [the Krapivnitsky facility] had none of these things. In addition to vials with Cesium, there was also metal there and this metal could now be used in construction or smelted, which means that radiation will keep spreading,” Valery Menshikov added.

He blamed the sorry state of Ukraine’s nuclear energy sector on the erratic policy of the Kiev government.

“There are regulations, both domestic and international, drawn up by the IAEA, but the problem is that the current political situation in Ukraine has made it possible to get rid of experienced managers and specialists in the nuclear energy and other economic sectors and replace them (with incompetent ones),” Valery Menshikov emphasized.

“The loss of radiation safety is also evident at Ukrainian nuclear power plants, hence the strange things that keep happening there,” Menshikov concluded.

Ukraine’s nuclear industry has been in dire straits since Kiev ended nuclear energy cooperation with Russia in 2015 and specialists fear that the recurrent cases of thefts of radioactive materials and lax security at the country’s nuclear facilities are dangerously fraught with a repetition of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

July 19, 2017 Posted by | Environmentalism, Nuclear Power, Timeless or most popular | | Leave a comment