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ISIS launches 2nd chemical attack in Mosul in 2 days, injures 6 Iraqi soldiers

RT | April 17, 2017

At least six Iraqi soldiers have suffered inhalation problems following a chemical attack launched by Islamic State on Sunday. This is the second time in two days that the terrorists have used chemical agents to push back government forces in Mosul.

The chemical attack on Sunday occurred in a recently-liberated area of Mosul, where the Federal Police and Rapid Response forces are advancing towards the old city which is still roaming with Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) jihadists.

The spokesman for the Joint Operation Command in Iraq, Brigadier General Yahya Rasool, told the Associated Press that six soldiers suffered “breathing problems” from the attack.

The victims are now being treated at a field clinic, the spokesman added. An investigation has been launched to determine what type of gas was used.

Meanwhile, security sources told the AhlulBayt News Agency that missiles were loaded with chlorine and were fired at the al-Abar neighborhood.

This is the second time in as many days that IS terrorists have used chemical weapons in an effort to stop government troops’ advance on the old city.

“The Daesh terrorist gangs tried to block the advance of our forces by using shells filled with toxic chemical material, but the effect was limited,” Iraq’s Joint Operations Command said in a statement, referring to Saturday’s incident on their Facebook page.

The statement added that the attack on Saturday did not cause any deaths, only “limited injuries” to an unspecified number of troops who were immediately treated after being evacuated from the area.

Officers in Iraq’s Federal Police told Reuters that the chemical weapons agents were fired from the Urouba and Bab Jadid districts on Saturday.

Some 400,000 people are trapped in the area controlled by extremists, as Iraqi forces make slow progress in liberating the rest of the city from the jihadists.

The initial operation to liberate Iraq’s second largest city began exactly six months ago on October 16.

After securing the eastern part of the megalopolis earlier this year, fighting in heavily populated west Mosul was expected to turn into a tough challenge for Iraqi forces due to the city’s narrow alleyways and streets which does not allow for armored vehicles and tanks to go through.

While coalition forces have been reporting on their military advances, civilian casualties have been piling up – both at the hands of terrorists and sometimes as a result of indiscriminate shelling by the US-led coalition.

International human rights groups, as well as the Russian Foreign Ministry have warned that the humanitarian plight in war-torn Mosul has “escalated to the limit.” Iraq’s president has described it as a “full-on catastrophe.”

April 17, 2017 Posted by | Aletho News | , | 1 Comment

Russia Considers Regime Change in North Korea Unacceptable – Envoy to Pyongyang

Sputnik – 14.04.2017

Russia considers the United States’ goal of regime change in North Korea unacceptable, Russian Ambassador to North Korea Alexander Matsegora told Sputnik.

“Another serious problem here is that Western [countries] indeed often do not hide their ultimate goal to eliminate the North Korean political system. This means to eliminate North Korean statehood,” Matsegora said.

He stressed that “such an approach is unacceptable.”

April 14, 2017 Posted by | Aletho News | , | Leave a comment

Lavrov: Russian, Western Experts Should Make Up Syria Chemical Attack Probe Team

Sputnik – April 13, 2017

MOSCOW – Lavrov told reporters he “sufficiently convincingly” explained to US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Wednesday the reasons why a special independent UN and OPCW-based study should investigate the purported attack.

“But, considering the enormous very confrontational resonance surrounding what happened in Syria, we offered to complement these structures with professional inspectors in this field who would be invited from both Western countries, Russia, and regional countries,” Lavrov said.

He said “it seemed to me that Tillerson quite positively reacted to this idea.” Western countries’ reluctance to send experts to the site of a reported April 4 chemical attack in Syria’s Idlib province rely on “excuses” of purported dangers, he said.

Lavrov told a briefing that US, French and UK colleagues “do not pay attention to the fact that they need to visit not only the airfield they suspect was the place where chemical weapons were loaded onto planes, but also the place where these shells were struck.”

“They said ‘we do not know who controls this area, it is not safe to send inspectors there.’ These are all excuses,” he stressed.

Syrian opposition claimed on April 4 forces loyal to President Bashar Assad had used a chemical gas on people in the northwestern province, killing nearly 80 and injuring 200. Assad argued his government has no chemical weapons after agreeing to have them destroyed in 2013. He also ruled out having used chemicals against own people.

The Russian Defense Ministry said next day that the airstrike near Khan Shaykhun was carried out by Syrian aircraft, which struck a terrorist warehouse that stored chemical weapons slated for delivery to Iraq.

April 13, 2017 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | 1 Comment

Russia and Iran review Syrian operations

By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline | April 9, 2017

The reverberations of the US missile attack in Syria on Thursday are inexorably felt in the geopolitical arena. A series of developments through the weekend signals that the Syrian conflict is entering a new phase. The most consequential development was a phone conversation Sunday afternoon between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani, at the latter’s initiative, to discuss the emergent situation in Syria and in the region.

Earlier in the day, Rouhani also had spoken with Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad to assure him of full Iranian support. On a parallel track, the Iranian and Syrian military chiefs also confabulated on Sunday. Prior to that on Saturday, Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces General Mohammad Hossein Baqeri and the Russian Chief of General Staff General Valeri Gerasimov discussed the Syrian situation. They vowed to continue their military cooperation in support of Assad “until the total defeat of the terrorists and those that support them” (according to the Iranian news agency.)

Again, on Saturday the chiefs of the Iranian and Russian national security councils, Admiral Ali Shamkhai and Nikolai Patrushev held a phone conversation to discuss Syria. Shamkhani hinted at intelligence available with Tehran that the chemical attack in Idlib on April 4 was executed “by a third party in order to create a pretext for carrying out a (US) military attack on Syria.”

Broadly, Moscow and Tehran have voiced identical demands that an independent investigation must be conducted on the chemical attack in Idlib to establish the culpability. Both have strongly condemned the US missile attack as an act of “aggression” and a violation of the UN Charter and international law.

The text of today’s Kremlin statement is reproduced below:

  • On the initiative of the Iranian party a phone conversation between Vladimir Putin and President of the Islamic Republic of Iran Hassan Rouhani was held. … [The presidents] exchanged their views of the situation in Syria.
  • Both parties pointed out the inadmissibility of US aggressive actions against the sovereign state in violation of the international law. Putin and Rouhani called for holding an objective, impartial investigation of all circumstances of the incident involving chemical weapons in the Syrian province of Idlib on April 4.
  • Particular importance was paid to the key aspects of the bilateral cooperation in the sphere of counterterrorism, a readiness to deepen cooperation in order to ensure stability in the Middle East was expressed.
  • The Leaders also noted the importance to continue close cooperation on political and diplomatic settlement of the armed conflict in Syria.

The statement hints at an intensification of the Russian-Iranian military operations in Syria. The intention could be to accelerate the liberation of areas still under the control of ISIS and Al-Qaeda affiliates. Importantly, Idlib province bordering Turkey is one such priority area. The extremist groups ensconced in Idlib still enjoy the backing of Turkey, and some of them used to be the CIA’s proxy groups.

Secondly, it is more than likely that discussions have taken place as to how to counter any future US attacks in Syria. Iranian media linked to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps reported today on a statement by the so-called Syria-Iran-Russia Joint Operations Room, which coordinates the military strategies in Syria. The statement warned that any future US aggression will be “given a lethal response”. It said, “We will respond to any aggression powerfully, as Russia and Iran would never allow the US to dominate the world.”

Significantly, the latest Iranian statements have referred to strategic cooperation among Iran, Syria, Russia and the “resistance front”. Today’s Kremlin statement pointedly touched on a mutual Russian-Iranian “readiness to deepen cooperation in order to ensure stability in the Middle East.” Taken together, Russian-Iranian military cooperation in Syria may assume new dimensions as a coordinated regional strategy.

April 10, 2017 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Venezuela Arrests Opposition Lawyer, Partner of Source in Iraq Passport Controversy: Reports

By Ryan Mallett-Outtrim | Venezuelanalysis | April 7, 2017

A lawyer for one of Venezuela’s most prominent right-wing politicians was detained Tuesday in Caracas, after allegedly being found with materials used in counterfeiting, according to unconfirmed reports.

The lawyer, Ana Teresa Argotti, was allegedly taken into police custody after a routine traffic stop. From her vehicle, police reportedly uncovered 17 identity cards, six passports, more than 30 official government stamps and raw materials used in the counterfeiting. The story was originally published by online news blog La Tabla. Along with the statement of an anonymous source, the blog also published photos that appeared to show Argotti in police custody. In one of the photos, Argotti appeared to be shown with her seized property, including the six passports, ID cards and both US and Venezuelan currency.

Argotti is reportedly the lawyer of Lilian Tintori. Tintori is the wife of Leopoldo Lopez, an opposition leader sentenced to over 13 years imprisonment for his role in leading violent anti-government protests in 2014.

The blog also claimed Argotti is the partner of former Venezuelan diplomatic staffer Misael Lopez. Lopez has accused Venezuelan diplomatic officials in Iraq of fraudulently selling hundreds of passports. The Venezuelan government has denied the claims and accused Lopez of acting as an agent of the US.

Venezuelanalysis cannot confirm the authenticity of the La Tabla report, though similar stories have been picked up by state media outlet teleSUR and Russia’s RT – both seemingly based on La Tabla’s piece.

Right-wing newspaper El Nacional has also reported on the story, including allegations police falsified evidence against Argotti.

“A source close to El Nacional Online confirmed that Argotti, adviser to Lilian Tintori, is under arrest,” the newspaper reported.

“However, they clarified that the items seized from the lawyer were ‘planted’,” El Nacional reported.

April 9, 2017 Posted by | Aletho News | , | Leave a comment

The Escalating War on Syria and Need for International Law

By Rick Sterling | Dissident Voice | April 7, 2017

On Tuesday 4 April there were reports of children and other civilians killed by chemical poisoning in the town of Khan Sheikhoun, Syria. There were contradictory reports, some saying they smelled the gas; others claiming it caused immediate death like odorless sarin.

On Wednesday 5 April, President Trump blamed the Syrian government despite conflicting reports and contradictory information and accusations. He said, “Yesterday’s chemical attack in Syria [was] against innocent people including women, small children and even beautiful little babies. Their deaths was an affront to humanity. These heinous actions by the Assad regime cannot be tolerated … my attitude toward Syria and Assad has changed very much.”

On Thursday, 6 April, Trump ordered a ‘targeted military strike’ on Syria with 50 tomahawk missiles attacking the primary Syrian air base near Homs. This base is used to support the combat with ISIS in eastern Syria and Nusra/Al Qaeda in Idlib province.

As I will show below, it is likely the deaths in Khan Sheikhoun were caused by an armed opposition faction, not the Syrian government. The goal was precisely what has happened: a media firestorm leading to direct U.S. aggression against Syria.

What Happened and How?

On April 4 news broke of a ‘chemical weapon’ attack in Syria. Western media and governments quickly blamed the Syrian government. Just as quickly, neoconservatives such as Sen. John McCain recalled the 2013 crisis when Pres Obama ultimately decided not to attack Syria. Israeli PM Netanyahu chimed in with a not-too-subtle renewed call for war on Syria. He tweeted that it’s time for the international community to “fulfill its obligations from 2013.”

Basic facts include:

– On 22 March, the government controlled town of Khattab was over-run by militants with some civilians kidnapped and taken to the nearby opposition controlled town of Khan Sheikhoun.

– On 4 April, up to 80 persons, including many children, died at Khan Sheikhoun. Some showed signs of chemical poisoning. Photographs, videos, analyses and other sources are documented at “A Closer Look At Syria”.

– one of the videos features a UK born and raised Dr. Shajul Islam.  He received his UK medical license in 2012 but had the license suspended due to reports he was involved in the kidnapping in Syria of journalist John Cantlie.

– Many of the video scenes depict an area set into a limestone quarry with apparent caves and storage depots. There are flat bed trucks with bodies scattered on the ground in this semi-industrial area.  Other videos show scenes in medical clinic.

– Photographs show “White Helmet” individuals handling bodies without gloves which is very strange if they died or were dying from chemical poison.

Who is responsible?

There are three theories about what happened:

– The western government narrative is that the Syrian “regime” is responsible. They fired illegal chemical weapons into the town, primarily killing innocent civilians and many children.

– The Syrian army acknowledges firing air strikes but deny using chemical weapons at this or any time. This area was the base for militant attacks against government areas in Hama province in the preceding weeks. The Russian Ministry of Defense says that militants had a weapons production factory including chemical weapon ingredients, and that may have been hit and caused the chemical weapon deaths.

– A third theory is the kidnapped civilians from Khattab were killed or poisoned by the militants as part of a staged event.

Evidence Pointing to the Militants

Looking at the facts, history and overall circumstances, it is far more likely the armed opposition is responsible for this event. Here is why:

(1) The incident and publicity help the opposition and hurt the government.

Crime investigations usually begin with the question: Who has a motive? In this case, it’s strikingly clear that the armed opposition and their supporters benefit from this event. They have used the story to further demonize the Assad government and make renewed calls for US and “the world” to intervene.

The Syrian government is making steady advances in many parts of the country. They have no reason to use chemical weapons; they have every reason to NOT use chemical weapons. They know very well that the armed opposition has immediate access to major media.

Accusations that the Syrian government intentionally attacks civilians is contradicted by their policies and actions. As demonstrated last December in Aleppo, civilians are welcomed from opposition areas into government controlled areas. Even Syrian militants are welcomed after they sign an agreement to lay down arms.

It is also relevant to consider timing. There is a pattern of sensational events helpful to the armed opposition occurring simultaneous with critical international meetings or actions. In this case, the events in Khan Sheikhoun occurred the day before an important conference on Syria in Brussels. The conference titled “Supporting the future of Syria and the region” has been effectively sidetracked by news about the chemical weapons attack and the Syrian government being blamed.

(2) Extremists were responsible for the August 2013 Chemical Weapon attack in Damascus. 

Western supporters of the armed opposition were quick to blame the Syrian government for the chemical attack in Ghouta on 21 August 2013. However, subsequent investigations by the most credible investigative journalists and researchers concluded the Syrian government was probably NOT responsible. Seymour Hersh and Robert Parry concluded the attack was most likely carried out by militants with support from Turkey. The in-depth examination titled Who Ghouta concluded “The only plausible scenario that fits the evidence is an attack by opposition forces.” An MIT study made a detailed trajectory analysis, concluded that the missile could not have been fired from government territory and warned “Faulty intelligence could have led to an unjustified US military action.”

(3) Armed Opposition Groups have a history of Staging Incidents

From the start, the Syrian conflict has included an information war. Hillary Clinton boasted of “training for more than a thousand activists, students and independent journalists.” In December 2012, NBC journalist Richard Engel was reportedly kidnapped and abused by “shabiha” supporters of the Syrian government. Engel and his film crew were “liberated” by Free Syrian Army rebels after a gunfight with the Assad supporting kidnappers. In reality, the entire episode from kidnapping to rescue was a hoax designed to demonize Assad supporters and glorify the “rebels”. The true story emerged years later after the actual events were leaked. When it was going to be made public, Engel finally admitted the truth.

(4) Supporters of the armed opposition have a history of fabricating stories which demonize the Syrian Government.

In February 2014, it was announced that a defecting Syrian military photographer, who was anonymous but code named “Caesar”, had 55 thousand photos showing the torture and murder of 11 thousand innocent Syrian civilians. This news received sensational media attention with live interviews on CNN and front page coverage throughout the western world. The news relied on the judgment of legal prosecutors who “verified” the story and produced a “Caesar Report”. This was released the day before the start of Geneva negotiations. It effectively disrupted the talks and facilitated the “rebels” refusal to negotiate and walk away. In reality, the “verification” and report were commissioned by the government of Qatar which has been a major funder of the armed opposition. Since then it has been discovered that nearly half the 55 thousand photos show the opposite of what was claimed: they show dead Syrian soldiers and victims of explosions NOT tortured civilians. That is just one of the findings confirming the fraud involved in this sensational story. A concise expose of “Caesar” is here.

How the Public has been Misinformed on Syria

Historian and journalist Stephen Kinzer has said, “Coverage of the Syrian war will be remembered as one of the most shameful episodes in the history of the American press.” Here are a few examples showing the bias, half-truths and outright false statements regarding the events at Khan Sheikhoun:

– The PBS Newshour typically features two guests who are questioned by the host. The problem is that their guests consistently share the same basic viewpoint. On 4 April, one guest was from the Soros funded Physicians for Human Rights. She claimed, “We know that sarin has been used before by the Assad regime.” In fact that has NOT been confirmed by any credible organization. On the contrary, the most thorough investigations point to sarin being used by the armed opposition NOT the Syrian government. The other guest was Andrew Tabler from the neoconservative Israeli associated “Washington Institute”.  His editorial from last Fall makes clear what he wants: “The case for (finally) bombing Assad.” The discussion on Syria at PBS Newshour is consistently biased.

– The New York Times feature story on 4 April was “Worst Chemical Attack in Years in Syria; U.S. Blames Assad“. One of the authors, Michael Gordon, was an influential proponent for “weapons of mass destruction in Iraq” that justified the 2003 invasion. But that has apparently not hurt his career. In this story on Syria, he and co-author Anne Barnard claim that “American intelligence agencies concluded” the 2013 attack was carried out by the Syrian government. That is false. The intelligence agencies did NOT agree and the “assessment” came from the White House not the intelligence agencies. It is astounding that they either do not know this or they are intentionally misleading the public. Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity explained the significance in their memorandum “A Call for Syria – Sarin Proof”.

– DemocracyNow! is a popular television/radio show. It is widely considered to be “progressive” but is also highly biased in its presentation on Syria. It almost solely promotes the perspective of those who support the armed opposition and/or western intervention in Syria. On April 5, they interviewed Dr. Rola Hallam. She is infamous for being the key player in the documentary “Saving Syria’s Children” which purports to show a chemical weapon attack in Aleppo but was actually staged. The “documentary” was then broadcast at a critical time trying to influence the 2013 vote in British parliament for an attack on Syria. On April 6, DemocracyNow! interviewed another “Syrian” who lives in the West and promotes western intervention: Lina Sergie Attar. Viewers of DemocracyNow! have no idea that the majority of Syrians support the government and especially the national Army in their struggle against invasion and terrorism.

Public understanding about what’s happening in Syria has been seriously confused by the bad analysis of prominent analysts. Some have suggested that Israel was content to live with Assad. Former Israeli Ambassador to the US Michael Oren clarified the truth as he said “we always wanted Bashar Assad to go, we always preferred the bad guys who weren’t backed by Iran to those who were backed by Iran.” In short, Israel prefers Al Qaeda or ISIS or, better yet, the conflict to continue so that both sides are destroyed.

Before the conflict began, in 2010, Secy of State Hillary Clinton made demands to Damascus that all revolved around Israeli interests. She wanted Syria to end its alliance with Hezbollah, to reduce its interactions with Iran and to come to an agreement with Israel. In contrast with what some analysts have said, Israeli interests have been a major factor driving and maintaining the conflict. With the liberation of Aleppo and prospect of a victory by Syria and allies, Israeli demands to escalate the war have probably increased.

Some of the world’s most famed political analysts have contributed to the confusion and lack of resistance as the war on Syria has continued. For example, Noam Chomsky on Democracy two days ago said “The Assad regime is a moral disgrace, the Russians with them.” Evidently he believes all or most of the accusations which have been said about the ‘regime’. In sharp contrast with Chomsky’s assessment, it’s remarkable that Syria has held together as well as it has in the face of attack by some of the most powerful and richest countries on earth. Over 100,000 Syrians have given their lives defending their country against the onslaught. Russia has supported their ally in compliance with international law, continually trying to work with the U.S. coalition as a “partner” against terrorism. Evidently Chomsky is unaware or does not believe the extent of lies that have been created around Syria. Evidently he does not recognize the distorted and shameful media coverage mentioned by Kinzer. Everyone makes mistakes but Chomsky’s poor analysis here is a whopper. If he was to visit Syria and talk with real Syrians I think his perception would be dramatically changed just as described by the PBS Frontline crew here. With consummate hypocrisy, both Syrian and Russian governments are now demonized by western neoconservatives and liberals who have done little or nothing to stop their own government’s collusion with terrorists raining havoc and destruction in Syria.

The need to restore International Law

International law has been undermined and replaced by “humanitarian law”. This has contributed to the current disastrous situation whereby the U.S. and NATO are waging aggression under a humanitarian pretext.

International law regarding attacks on sovereign states is clear: it is illegal unless authorized by the UN Security Council or in legitimate self defense. It is clear that Syria poses no threat to any of its neighbors or any other nation. It is also clear that Syria has been the victim for six long years of aggression by foreign states which have funded and promoted a proxy army of fanatics and mercenaries from around the world.

As the former Nicaraguan Foreign Minister and President of the UN General Assembly, Father Miguel D’Escoto, has said: “What the U.S. government is doing in Syria is tantamount to a war of aggression, which, according to the Nuremberg Tribunal, is the worst possible crime a State can commit against another State.”

There has been a sustained attempt to derail Trump’s campaign pledge to stop the US “regime change” policy. This has been accompanied by a semi-hysterical demonization of Syria’s ally Russia. Liberals have been willing accomplices in this campaign which serves the interests of the U.S. military security complex, Israel and Saudi Arabia.

It looks like the foreign policy hawks and neocons have succeeded. Yesterday’s attacks on Syria mark an escalation in the war of aggression and violation of international law against Syria. This could lead to WW3 unless there is sufficient outcry and opposition.

Rick Sterling is an investigative journalist. He lives in the SF Bay Area and can be contacted at rsterling1@gmail.com.

April 7, 2017 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

US Missile Attack on Syria Base Condemned, Welcomed

Al-Manar | April 7, 2017

Syria strongly condemned a US missile attack targeting an army airbase near Homs as an “act of aggression,” while the Zionist entity and Syrian armed opposition groups calling for further attacks.

The US military launched about 60 Tomahawk missiles against several targets on al-Shayrat air base 38 kilometers southeast of the city of Homs.

Homs Governor Talal Barazi said the US missile strikes serve the goals of armed terrorist groups and ISIL, adding that the aggression will not prevent the Syrian government from “fighting terrorism.”

Iran strongly condemned the US attack. In a Friday statement, Foreign Ministry spokesman said Tehran “roundly condemns any unilateral military action and the missile attacks against al-Shayrat Airbase in Syria by American warships.”

“Iran strongly condemns any such unilateral strikes… Such measures will strengthen terrorists in Syria … and will complicate the situation in Syria and the region,” ISNA quoted Bahram Qasemi as saying.

Bolivia requested a closed-door UN Security Council to be held on Friday. Russia also said it will call the 15-nation body into session.

A source in the Greek Ministry of National Defence said that Greece is strongly against any military intervention in Syria as it could hamper peace efforts. “Greece is strongly against any military intervention in Syria,” a National Defense Ministry source told Sputnik, adding that such action will hamper dialogue and peace in Syria.

Indonesia said it was concerned with unilateral actions “by any parties, including the use of Tomahawk missiles,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Armanatha Nasir said in a text message. “Military actions, undertaken without prior authorization of the UN Security Council, are not in line with international legal principles in the peaceful settlement of disputes, as stipulated in the UN Charter.”

The government of Japan is calling a UN Security Council emergency meeting in the wake of the US missile strike, media reported citing a government source. According to the Kyodo news agency, earlier in the day, Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said that Tokyo was checking the information about the US strike, and that Japan would express its position after it obtained all the information.

Armed Opposition’s Position Intersects with the Zionist One Again

The foreign-backed National Coalition armed opposition group welcomed the US missile strikes and hoped they will continue in order to ‘stop Syrian government bombardment’, an SNC media official said Friday.

“We hope for the continuation of the strikes in order to prevent the regime from using its planes to launch any new air raids or going back to using internationally banned weapons,” said Ahmad Ramadan, head of the SNC’s media office.

Zionist Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office also celebrated the attack with an early morning statement, saying he supported “strong message” sent by US strikes.

Britain gave its backing, too. “The U.K. government fully supports the U.S. action which we believe was an appropriate response to the barbaric chemical weapons attack launched by the Syrian regime and is intended to deter further attacks,” a government spokesman said.

Australia’s Turnbull, in turn, said the strikes sent “a vitally important message” that the world will not tolerate the use of chemical weapons. “The retribution has been proportionate and it has been swift,” he told reporters in Sydney. “We support the United States in that swift action.”

A few hours before the attack, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also said on Thursday Turkey would welcome a US military attack on Syria. Speaking live on nationwide Kanal 7 TV, he said Turkey was ready to do its part if such an onslaught took place.

The Pentagon said the Russians deployed to the targeted military facility were given prior notice, and that the missiles did not hit sections of the airbase where Moscow’s forces were reportedly present.

There has been no immediate reaction from Moscow, but Russia had warned on Thursday that there could be “negative consequences” if Washington takes military action against Syria.

“All responsibility if military action occurs will be on the shoulders of those who initiated such a doubtful tragic enterprise,” Russian Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN Vladimir Safronkov said.

“Look at Iraq, look at Libya,” he said, referring to the countries which have been rocked by violence, terrorism and chaos since the West launched a military intervention.

April 7, 2017 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Chemical attack blame game ‘failed’ at Syria conference in Brussels – Russian envoy

RT | April 6, 2017

Attempts by some members of the Brussels conference on Syria to redraw the agenda and focus on allegations of the Syrian government’s complicity in the suspected chemical attack in Idlib have failed, Russia’s deputy foreign minister has said.

“In what concerns this conference, of course, some tried to redirect it in order to focus attention on the incident that has occurred [in Idlib]. I must say that they failed to achieve that,” said Gennady Gatilov, Russia’s representative at the UN-sponsored international donor conference that was held on April 4-5 in Brussels.

Moscow hopes that the incident will not lead to the derailment of intra-Syrian talks as that would play into hands of those who strive to obstruct the peace process.

“Anything can affect the talks. But we would not like for such incidents to be used by opponents of the negotiation process to disrupt it,” the Russian diplomat said, stressing that it is necessary for the negotiations to be inclusive.

Despite the apparent discord at the conference, its participants were largely united in that there is no alternative to political settlement to the protracted military conflict.

“I would like to note that all spoke in favor of political solution, the majority agreed that there is no military solution,” Gatilov said, as cited by TASS. He added that “practically all hailed” the negotiations in Astana made possible by the mediation of Russia, Turkey and Iran and commended them as “great help” for the Geneva process.

No breakthrough has yet been achieved in the talks, Gatilov said, referring to the latest round of intra-Syrian negotiations that took place in Geneva last week.

“Regrettably, so far it has yielded no practical results but it is not the reason to say that the round failed. Obviously, it is going to be a long process and we had been saying this all the time,” Gatilov said.

The slow progress is due to major differences between the take of the Syrian government and rebels on an array of key issues, he said. The major point of disagreement between the sides is what topic should be given a priority in the talks. While opposition argues that the talks should pave way for a transitional government, the Syrian authorities insist on the preeminence of the fight against terrorism.

On Tuesday, a suspected chemical attack on the hospital in the town of Khan Sheikhoun in rebel-held Idlib province claimed the lives of dozens of people, including children. Rebel groups accused the Syrian government of mounting the attack, the claims which the Syrian authorities flatly denied.

Russia has demanded a thorough investigation into the incident, saying it should be led by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said. The OPCW will be entrusted with collecting evidence of the attack within the fact-finding mission. The composition of the mission should be subject to approval by the UN Security Council.

In the aftermath of the attack, Russia’s Defense Ministry issued a statement, saying that the Syrian Air Force on Tuesday bombed a warehouse housing chemical weapons bound for Iraq. The storage facility, which was used to produce and store munitions containing toxic gas, was managed by the rebels. Defense Ministry spokesman Major-General Igor Konashenkov noted that the symptoms displayed by the victims of the attack in Khan Sheikhoun are similar to those shown by civilians who suffered in the Aleppo chemical attack, perpetrated by the militants.

The death of civilians has sparked an international outcry, with some of the Western governments, including the US, backing the allegations put forward by the rebels.

Commenting on the attack, US President Donald Trump said that it was “unacceptable” went “beyond the red line” and made him to rethink his stance on the Syrian government and President Bashar Assad.

In his turn, Vice President Mike Pence blamed the attack on a “failure of the past administration to both confront the mindless violence of the Assad regime and also hold Russia and Syria to account for the promises to destroy chemical weapons,” in an interview to Fox News on Wednesday.

Responding to a question, if Washington sees Moscow also responsible for the attack, Pence stated that Russian must ensure the implementation of the pledge by the Syrian government to destroy all chemical stockpiles, saying that “the time come has come for them [Russia] to keep the word that they made, to see the elimination of the chemical weapons so that they no longer threaten the people in that country.”

“We were told that there were an agreement between Russians and Assad to destroy chemical weapons and that the threat to civilians from a chemical attack had been eliminated, it was not,” Pence claimed.

April 6, 2017 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , | 1 Comment

Russia submits resolution to UN on chemical weapons attack in Syria

By Adam Garrie | The Duran | April 6, 2017

Russia has tabled a UN Security Council resolution calling for a through investigation of the chemical weapons incident in Idlib Governorate.

Vladimir Safronkov, Russia’s acting Ambassador to the UN who has stepped in to fill the position of the late Vitaly Churkin has said,

“… we submitted our short draft resolution, drawn up in a business manner and aimed at conducting a true investigation rather than to appoint the guilty ones until the facts are established”.

The Russian draft resolution proposes to,

“… fully investigate the reports about the incident on the ground under the mandatory condition that the list of investigators will be submitted to the UN for approval and will be geographically balanced as well”

This is in sharp contrast to the US-UK-France co-sponsored resolution which automatically assigned blame to the Syrian government in spite of clear evidence to the contrary. That resolution was vetoed by Russia.

The Russian resolution calls for the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the group which helped the Syrian government to remove the remains of its chemical weapons stockpiles in 2013, to explore this incident.

It also demands that illegal terrorist groups cooperate with investigations, something which may not be possible.

This response is similar to Russia’s reaction to the use of chemical weapons in Donbass by forces loyal to the Kiev regime. At that time Russia called for an investigation rather than a war.

April 6, 2017 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | 1 Comment

Kremlin Disagrees With Polish Claim of Traffic Controllers Provoking 2010 Crash

Sputnik – 03.04.2017

MOSCOW – The Kremlin disagrees with Poland’s accusations toward Russian air traffic controllers of provoking the deadly 2010 plane crash that killed then-president Lech Kaczynski and other officials, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Monday.

National Public Prosecutor’s Office deputy chief Marek Pasionek said earlier in the day that Poland had amassed evidence to bring “charges of the crime of deliberately provoking the catastrophe.” Pasionek said the accusations have been leveled against Russian air traffic controllers and a “third person” in the flight control tower.

“Certainly, the circumstances of this tragedy, this catastrophe, have already been seriously investigated, examined and of course it is not seen as possible to agree with these conclusions,” Peskov told reporters.

On April 10, 2010, a Russia-made passenger plane carrying Kaczynski, his wife, and a number of high-ranking Polish officials crashed as it attempted to land at an airfield covered in heavy fog near Smolensk. All 96 people on board died in the Tu-154M crash.

The Polish Defense Ministry said last year that Warsaw would restart its investigation into the crash from scratch.

April 3, 2017 Posted by | Aletho News | , | Leave a comment

Trump takes sabbatical on Russia ties

By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline | April 2, 2017

The NATO Foreign ministers meeting in Brussels on Friday assumed special significance since it happened to be the first appearance by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on the alliance’s ‘diplomatic podium’. The alliance, in fact, refixed the date of the ministerial to suit Tillerson’s scheduling convenience. And he, for sure, did not disappoint his audience.

Tillerson’s interventions on Friday were the first structured statements of the Donald Trump administration on two important vectors of the US foreign policies – NATO’s raison d’etre as a military alliance and, secondly, Ukraine – which together inevitably reflect on the overall approach that can be expected from Washington in relations with Russia – at least in the near term. Tillerson is slated to visit Moscow on April 12.

Tillerson unequivocally stressed the Trump administration’s commitment to NATO. He described the alliance as the “bedrock of transatlantic security”. Thereupon, he went on to identify ISIS and Russia as the two “common threats” that the alliance faces. He said NATO as an alliance is “fundamental to countering both non-violent, but at times violent, Russian agitation and Russian aggression.” Tillerson called on NATO to “remain vigilant in strengthening NATO’s eastern defences… from Baltic to the Black Sea.”

No doubt, it was exceptionally strong language for the US’ top diplomat to use. Tillerson cited against this backdrop this weekend deployment to Poland of the US’ “enhanced, forward presence battalion”. He hinted that the Trump administration envisages a lead role for NATO in fighting the ISIS and, importantly, in the stabilization of Iraq.

This effectively rules out any significant level of military cooperation between the US and Russia in the fight against ISIS. (Notably, though, Tillerson made no mention of Syria.) Indeed, it remains to be seen how an enhanced NATO presence in Iraq will be perceived in Tehran.

Tillerson also addressed a meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Commission in Brussels on Friday and his remarks there have been the most detailed statement so far on the Trump administration’s policies towards the Ukraine crisis. Tillerson literally tore into Russia. The following excerpts bring out the flavour of this unequivocal condemnation of Russian policies in Syria through the past 3-year period:

  • Three years ago, Russia’s aggression against Ukraine shook the very foundations of security and stability in Europe. Today, Russia’s ongoing hostility and occupation is compromising our shared vision of a Europe that is whole, free, and at peace. American and NATO support for Ukraine remains steadfast. As we have repeated at every Ministerial and Summit since Russia launched its campaign of aggression against Ukraine, NATO Allies stand firm in our support of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. We do not, and will not, accept Russian efforts to change the borders of territory of Ukraine… NATO solidarity is crucial to finding a political solution to this conflict.

Tillerson made it clear that the US squarely holds Russia accountable for the implementation of the Minsk agreements. He warned Moscow:

  • The United States sanctions will remain until Moscow reverses the actions that triggered our sanctions. We note with alarm the escalating violence along the line of contact and the repeated targeting of civilian infrastructure by Russia-led separatist forces, which poses an elevated risk of humanitarian disaster. We call on Russia to exercise its influence over the separatists to put a stop to the violence, end the campaign of attacks and intimidation against OSCE monitors, and facilitate the access they need to do their job. The OSCE must be able to fulfill its mandate which included monitoring throughout the conflict zone and to the international border. And Russia must understand there is no basis to move forward on the political aspects of the Minsk agreements until there is visible, verifiable, and irreversible improvement in the security situation.

Simply put, Tillerson has put Russia on notice that the Trump administration policies will be hard as nails when it comes to the Ukraine situation. (Meanwhile, there are growing demands that the US should supply lethal weapons to Ukraine.)

On Crimea, Tillerson was pretty much blunt: “Crimea-related sanctions must remain in place until Russia returns control of the peninsula to Ukraine.”

Most important, Tillerson just stopped short of saying that the US is supportive of Ukraine’s induction as a NATO member country. He urged Kiev to bring the Ukrainian armed forces to continue to reform and modernise so as to come up to the NATO standards by 2020. In a subtle reference to what lies ahead, Tillerson recalled Trump’s assertion that “every country has the right to chart its own future.” To be sure,Ukraine is looming ahead as the inflection point in Russia’s relations with the US.

The overall tenor of Tillerson’s remarks suggests that not only is the Trump administration unable or unwilling to do anything to improve relations with Russia in immediate terms, it might simply continue with the Barack Obama administration’s Russia policies for as long as the civil war conditions prevail in Washington between him on the one hand and the Russophobes in the Congress and the American foreign and security policy community on the other. Read the triumphalist opinion piece by Time magazine – These Five Facts Explain Why Trump’s Russia Reset May Be Over.

April 2, 2017 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Drills With Russian-Speaking Extras Mean NATO ‘Preparing for Ukrainian Scenario’

Sputnik – March 31, 2017

Germany’s recently published job offer for Russian “extras” for US and NATO military drills caused vivid reaction among media and politicians. Political observer Alexander Khrolenko believes that Western armed forces are being trained “for a Ukrainian scenario.”

According to the expert, the exercises mean that NATO is preparing for a full-scale military conflict with Russia.

“It is not difficult to guess that the Pentagon has organized training for a Ukrainian scenario, because the only ‘crisis region’ in Europe, where people speak Russian, is Donbass,” Khrolenko wrote for RIA Novosti.

In his opinion, the Pentagon is concerned about the psychological factors servicemen may face in a war against Russians.

“The simulation of the conflicts with partisan groups in large cities makes it possible to predict major problems in the area of operation that can involve the Russian-speaking population,” the journalist wrote.

Earlier, a job offer was published on the official web portal of Berlin on Sunday seeking Russian “role players” for North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and US Army training drills.

“We are looking for performers to take part in role games during US military exercises,” the website said.

The starting date was said to be April 26. All participants must have a good knowledge of Russian, English and German. It would be “a great advantage” if they also know Polish or Czech, the advertisement said.

“Interestingly, there are no signs of an international scandal in Germany. If Russia were recruiting American extras for military exercises, then there would be a lot of noise. But now everything is good,” the expert noted.

According to Khrolenko, only several activists oppose the drills. For instance, Deputy Chairman of the German Left Party Tobias Pfluger called the job offer “a disaster from the point of view of world politics.” He also noted that the situation is quite dangerous and can lead to escalation given the high concentration of NATO forces deployed against Russia.

March 31, 2017 Posted by | Aletho News | , | Leave a comment