The fragile truce in eastern Ukraine has on several occasions been violated by an “unidentified third party,” the OSCE mission stated in its daily report, citing officers of the joint coordination center who were trying to organize a ceasefire.
The OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) has witnessed three attempts by the Joint Centre for Control & Coordination (JCCC) to organize a ceasefire between Ukrainian troops and the self-proclaimed republics’ forces, according to the new report dated April 16. But within minutes after the arranged time, ceasefires were broken by a “third party,” Ukrainian and Russian officers tasked with mediating the truce told OSCE representatives.
“According to both Ukrainian Armed Forces and Russian Federation Armed Forces officers at the observation point, an unidentified ‘third party’ was provoking the two sides,” the mission’s report says.
“The SMM witnessed… [that] sporadic firing of mortars and machine guns started within a few minutes of the arranged [ceasefire] start time,” the report says.
The SMM does not mention where the fire was coming from, nor does it name possible perpetrators of the alleged provocations.
Eventually, Kiev forces and the militias did manage to secure a short ceasefire window from 13:07 to 15:37 local time as sporadic fighting around Donetsk continued throughout the day. Overall the OSCE mission registered 18 separate cases of ceasefire violations on the day.
Permanent representative of the self-proclaimed DPR, Dennis Pushilin, believes that the “third party” blamed for the provocations might be nationalist units, often privately funded, and not necessarily under the control of Kiev. Despite the earlier understanding that paramilitary forces in Ukraine will join the central command structure, a few rogue cells could still exist.
“These battalions only half obey the central government. All provocations occur where Azov and Right Sector battalions are concentrated. Namely Shirokino area, Donetsk airport and Avdeyevka. This pushes the situation to a new conflict,” Pushilin said.
“They want a new war and new blood. They aim to involve the Ukrainian armed forces in the conflict, although the Ukrainian army to a greater degree follow orders,” Pushilin said.
Meanwhile the SMM also witnessed several violations of heavy artillery presence in areas that are supposed to be demilitarized following the Minsk II agreement. Using surveillance drones, the monitors observed violations in areas controlled by both sides of the conflict, including 21 Ukrainian tanks and six artillery pieces. Four howitzers towed by trucks and two tanks were seen on the territory under DPR’s control.
Over 6,000 people have died in the conflict in eastern Ukraine, which has lasted for over a year, according to conservative UN estimates. A peace roadmap, brokered by the leaders of France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine in February, dubbed the Minsk-2 agreement, stipulates heavy weapons should be pulled back from the frontline and that a security zone should separate the warring sides as they engage in a political dialogue to bring about a constitutional reform.
The militarist Anglo CIA director John Brennan has said that the ‘war on terror,’ a mythical Zionist ideology adopted by pro-Zionist Western statesmen, may go on forever.
“CIA Director John Brennan said Americans should expect the war on terror to continue as long as evil people have access to lethal technologies and mass communication,” reported the Defense One website. He made the ludicrous comments during a Q&A session at Harvard Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics.
The irony of the CIA chief’s remarks is astounding, considering that the USA is the biggest state perpetrator and sponsor of terrorism in the world, having caused the deaths of millions since the end of World War II in various wars and proxy campaigns instigated by Washington.
But Brennan’s assertion that the ‘war on terror’ may last forever is true so long as Washington can fabricate new “bad guys” and boogeymen every few years. The WOT is nothing more than a heinous racket and theatrical PR stunt that was designed to provide the war industry with an excuse to make constant war on elusive, manufactured, and oftentimes entirely fictional enemies.
‘Terrorism’ is a concept, so warring against it has no foreseeable conclusion, especially when the premise is just a giant lie to hoodwink the masses.
Copyright 2015 Non-Aligned Media
Despite voicing its support for the settlement of the Ukrainian crisis, the US is actually working to undermine the Minsk peace deal, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said, commenting on the deployment of American military instructors to Ukraine.
The Russian Foreign Ministry is “gravely concerned” by the fact that military instructors from the US, UK and Canada will be training the troops from Ukraine’s National Guard, stressed the ministry’s spokesman, Aleksandr Lukashevich.
“This begs the question: Do they – in Washington, London and Ottawa – understand whom are we talking about? As they are the same Ukrainian ultra-nationalists from volunteer battalions, who wore Nazi emblems and blurred themselves with the blood of women, children and the elderly during reprisal raids in Donbass [south-eastern Ukraine],” he said.
“What will these foreign military experts teach them – how to continue killing those, who speak Russian?” the spokesman wondered.
Moscow views the information that the National Guard training program will include exercises with Western-style weaponry and hardware as a possible “first step towards the supply of modern US arms to Ukraine, which the ‘party of war’ in Kiev is so eager to get its hands on,” he said.
Supporting any revanchist ambitions of warmongers in the Ukrainian government “may lead to the resumption of bloodshed” in the south-east of the country, Lukashevich warned.
The ministry believes that the US actions are in violation of the peace deal, which was signed by Kiev and the representatives of Donetsk and Lugansk during talks in Minsk on February 12, he said.
Lukashevich stated that the Minsk deal provides “the withdrawal of all foreign forces, military equipment, as well as mercenaries from the territory of Ukraine under the supervision of the OSCE. Instead, a US Airborne Brigade has landed near Lvov and intends to settle there for long.”
“The Obama administration, which verbally advocates the settlement of the Ukrainian crisis, is, in fact, contributing to the disruption of the Minsk agreements,” he stressed.
According to Moscow, Washington is trying to divert the international community’s attention from its military deployment in the Ukraine “by a ‘smokescreen’ of claims of an alleged presence of Russian troops in Donbass,” which hasn’t been backed by any proof.
“It’s obvious, that the US troops on Ukrainian soil won’t bring it peace,” Lukashevich concluded.
On Friday, paratroopers of the US 173rd Airborne Brigade, based in Vincenza, Italy, have arrived in western Ukraine to provide training for Ukrainian troops. Some 290 US troops are to take part in long-term joint drills with combat units of the National Guard, Arsen Avakov, Ukrainian Interior Minister, wrote on Facebook.
The US paratroopers’ training mission will last for 24 weeks and involve some 900 Ukrainian servicemen, Ukraine’s President, Petro Poroshenko, and US Vice-President, Joe Biden, agreed earlier in spring.
Kiev and rebels signed a ceasefire deal in February, which involved the pullout of heavy weapons and a profound political dialogue and constitutional reform, which would address the grievances of the dissenting regions and reintegrate them into Ukraine.
The deal has more or less held so far, with the level of violence in eastern Ukraine dropping significantly, OSCE monitors on the ground have been reporting.
The Ukrainian conflict began in April 2014 after Kiev sent troops to Donetsk and Lugansk Region as people there refused to recognize the new coup-imposed authorities in the capital. A year of fighting in south-eastern Ukraine has resulted in over 6,000 deaths, including score of civilians, according to conservative UN estimates.
Hezbollah Deputy Secretary General Naim Qassem
Lebanese resistance movement Hezbollah has blasted the ongoing Saudi military aggression against Yemen, comparing the move to the Israeli atrocities in the besieged Gaza Strip.
“What Saudi Arabia is committing [in Yemen] is identical to what Israel commits in Gaza,” Hezbollah Deputy Secretary General Naim Qassem said in a Thursday interview with France 24.
Israel has blockaded the Gaza Strip for over seven years, causing a humanitarian crisis in the Palestinian enclave. The Israeli regime has also launched three wars on Gaza, the latest of which came in summer 2014, when nearly 2,200 Palestinians were killed and over 11,100 others injured. The 50-day war ended with an Egyptian-brokered truce.
Qassem said the Saudi war “is about attacking infrastructure and shelling civilians.”
Referring to a recent UN Security Council resolution adopted against Yemen’s Houthi movement, the Hezbollah official said, “The Security Council decision in Yemen is unjust, because it looks at one part of the problem, and not at the whole [picture].”
“The Security Council should have stopped the Saudi aggression against Yemen and treated the issues related to the civilians and the wounded and the destruction of infrastructure,” he said.
Qassem also called for a political solution to the crisis in Yemen.
“It (the UN) was supposed to set the steps for a dialogue to reach a political solution. This, the Security Council has not done,” the Hezbollah official said.
During an interview with the Associated Press on Monday, Qassem slammed Saudi Arabia’s indiscriminate bombardment of Yemen as genocide.
Saudi Arabia’s military campaign against Yemen started on March 26 – without a UN mandate – in an attempt to restore power to fugitive former President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, a close ally of Riyadh. It has drawn widespread condemnation from international rights groups.
Civilians and Yemeni infrastructure have been the target of the Saudi aggression against Yemen.
According to Yemeni sources, around 2,600 people have been killed in the Saudi military campaign over the past three weeks.
The humanitarian situation in Yemen is rapidly deteriorating. Many international aid organizations have sought clearances to dispatch medical and other humanitarian supplies by air and sea to civilians in need.
Caracas – According to a new report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), Venezuela reduced its military budget by 34 percent in 2014, leading the the region in arms spending cuts.
Venezuela is followed by Uruguay, which decreased its military spending by 11 percent over the past year.
In contrast, United States political allies Paraguay and Mexico led the region in upping military spending, raising their military budgets by 13 and 11 percent, respectively.
Brazil, which is the largest arms spender in Latin America and the tenth largest in the world, cut its military budget by 1.7 percent due to economic difficulties.
The Americas remains the region with the highest military spending, a fact undoubtedly attributable to the presence of the United States, which, despite a modest budget cut of 6.5 percent, retains its spot as the world’s top arms spender.
With an annual military budget of $610 billion, the US accounts for one-third of global spending, amounting to more than triple the budget of the second highest spender, China.
Nonetheless, this enormous disparity in spending has not prevented the US from branding Venezuela a menace to its neighbors, on numerous occasions.
In 2009, then US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton accused Venezuela of fomenting an “arms race” with its purchase of Russian weapons. That same year, Venezuela led the region in cutting military spending, slashing its arms budget by one-quarter.
Last month, President Barack Obama issued an Executive Order labeling Venezuela a “national security threat”, a move which has been vociferously condemned by a host of countries and multilateral blocs across the globe.
The commander of US-NATO forces, the vigorously vocal General Breedlove, stated on April 7 that the military alliance’s planners “have been working tirelessly to enhance NATO’s Response Force and implement the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force, and today our progress is manifested in the rapid deployments we see happening in locations across the Alliance.”
Breedlove is the man who declared on March 5 that Russia had sent combat troops and massive quantities of military equipment into Ukraine. He said that President Putin had “upped the ante” in eastern Ukraine by deploying “well over a thousand combat vehicles, Russian combat forces, some of their most sophisticated air defense, battalions of artillery.” His military opinion was that “What is clear is that right now, it is not getting better. It is getting worse every day.”
He spoke absolute drivel, because the ceasefire between Ukrainian forces and separatists in the east of the country was working, albeit shakily, and things were quietening down. The last thing that was needed was provocation. Silence and, or at the most, calm, reasoned comments were essential if both sides were to be encouraged to cool it.
But this man, the Supreme Allied Commander Europe, the man who has the trust of the American president, the prime nuclear button-shover, told a deliberate lie intended to increase tension.
The manufactured tension built up and on April 7 Breedlove’s HQ announced that the militaries of “11 Allied nations, Germany, Poland, Norway, Denmark, Hungary, Lithuania, Croatia, Portugal, and Slovenia tested their Headquarters’ response to alert procedures,” while “in the afternoon of 7 April, the 11th Air Mobile Brigade in The Netherlands and the 4th Rapid Reaction Brigade in the Czech Republic were given orders to rapidly prepare to deploy their troops and equipment” in a maneuver called “Noble Jump” which conjured up an image of a missile-wielding April bunny leaping into the fray against a coyly unnamed enemy who could be no other than Russia. (Although perhaps Russia need not be too troubled about some of NATO’s war preparations. My sources told me that the practice mobilization of the Dutch brigade was a shambles.)
While the ground-based martial bunny-hops were going on there was an aerial provocation in progress, this time involving a US Combat Sent RC-135U spyplane which was on a mission against Russia and flew along its Baltic Sea coastline. To prevent identification its transponder had been switched off — just like those of the aircraft in the 9/11 hijackings and Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 which disappeared mysteriously a year ago.
All aircraft have transponders which report their speed, height, heading and identification to air traffic controllers and other aircraft in order to avoid aerial confusion, so when Russian radar detected a large aircraft without such a signal but obviously using transmission devices to collect their radar and other electronic emissions, including civilian commercial communications, they sent up a fighter plane to have a look. Washington threw up its hands in mock horror and issued statements about how dangerous this was. Then the western media went into overdrive with a cavalier disregard for balanced reporting.
The Daily Mail of Britain is a garbage newspaper which maintains enormous readership because it specializes in glamorizing Britain’s sad, tacky and pathetic Celeb culture while concurrently condemning it, sometimes in the most portentous terms. The paper’s masses of online readers try to rationalize their attraction to vulgarity by glancing at items on international affairs and were told breathlessly that “In a maneuver with ominous echoes of the Cold War, a Russian fighter jet ‘aggressively’ intercepted an American plane over Poland, the Pentagon claims. Filing an official complaint to Russia, the State Department alleges a U.S. RC-135U reconnaissance aircraft was flying near the Baltic Sea in international airspace when a Russian SU-27 Flanker cut into its path.”
The average Daily Mail reader might not be able to question the absurdly conflicting phrases “near the Baltic Sea,” “over Poland,” and “in international airspace,” but that doesn’t matter. The message was being spread around by the US-NATO propaganda apparatus that the dreaded Russkies were menacing the Free World. The media lapped it up.
Little attention was paid in the West to the Russian announcement that “an Su-27 fighter on duty was scrambled, approached the unidentified aircraft, flew around it several times, identified it as an RC-135U reconnaissance aircraft belonging to the U.S. Air Force and read its side number, and reported it to the command. After having been intercepted by the Russian fighter, the U.S. Air Force aircraft changed its course and moved away from the Russian border.”
What the Russians didn’t say was that the aircraft’s “side number” was 4849 and that it had been photographed the previous day in Eastern England at the Royal Air Force base at Mildenhall which houses a USAF tanker squadron, about 200 US special forces soldiers with Osprey aircraft and operatives from such elements as 97 Intelligence Squadron.
No doubt the Russians know that last October it was noticed that US RC-135U spy plane number 4849 carries on its side some eye-catching decals. A photograph taken by Gary Chadwick at Mildenhall shows the “mission markings applied above the crew entry hatch, on the left hand side of the RC-135U Combat Sent 64-14849 ‘OF’ with the 45th Reconnaissance Squadron/55th Wing of the U.S. Air Force : five hammer and sickle symbols.”
These symbols may be stickers or stencils, but whatever they are they cost money and take time and effort to apply on the side of an airplane to which they add neither beauty or distinction. So why are they placed there?
It might be thought strange that a US military aircraft in 2015 should have Soviet-era hammer and sickle decals on its side in order to publicly indicate a military exploit involving achievement of an objective of some sort. And it is interesting that one of the images has been added recently, because when a photograph of 4849 was taken last year there were only four such symbols. What enterprising and gallant mission merited the fifth hammer and sickle? Another addition was a fourth depiction of an aircraft carrier, signifying, no doubt, a successful electronic spying mission involving one of these ships that was not of the United States Navy. What nationality could it have been?
The anti-Russian spy-antics of the US are fully in line with the war-talk of Breedlove and his NATO colleagues who are beavering away in their brand-new billion dollar combat palace in Brussels to justify existence and expansion of their war machine. Russia’s actions have been propagandized accordingly, and the US spy flights are intended to provoke Moscow into taking action which can be used to escalate tension yet further. It would all be childishly funny were it not for the fact that Breedlove and his people are playing with the future of Europe and indeed the world. They are leading us to the nuclear threshold, and must be reined in before they stumble into ultimate confrontation.
Brian Cloughley writes about foreign policy and military affairs. He lives in Voutenay sur Cure, France.
After what could essentially be called a 1,100 mile military parade through Eastern Europe, US paratroopers of the 173rd Airborne Brigade have arrived in Ukraine to commence Operation Fearless Guardian.
It comes as Ukrainian hacking group CyberBerkut released a long list of foreign military inspectors set to arrive in Ukraine in April.
The convoy, consisting of 50 paratroops and 25 vehicles, disembarked from Vicenza, Italy. After traveling through Austria, as well as NATO allies Germany and Poland, the military caravan arrived in Yavoriv, Ukraine on Friday.
“This assistance is part of our ongoing efforts to help sustain Ukraine’s defense and internal security operations,” Pentagon spokeswoman Eileen Lainez told the Hill when the operation was first announced.
Operation Fearless Guardian is the codename given to US efforts to train the Ukrainian National Guard. Spanning a six-month period, the exercises will begin later this month. While 300 US soldiers will take part, the convoy delivered equipment as well.
“This equipment will provide maintenance support as well as troop and general cargo transport to and from training areas,” Captain P.J. Hartman said in a press release from the US Army.
Ukrainian media has reported that the training will conclude with the US military trainers handing over ammunition, though US Army Europe spokesman Donald Wrenn told Newsweek, “[W]e at Army Europe are not aware of any ammunition being provided following the training.”
Long planned, the mission was originally meant to begin last month, but it was delayed after the signing of the second ceasefire agreement in Minsk.
The convoy arrives amid renewed violence in the country’s east. Monitors with the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe reported evidence of fighting on Sunday, including tank rounds and machine gun fire. Ceasefire breaches last week left three independence supporters dead and five others injured.
Fearless Guardian is just the latest in a series of steps taken by Washington which contradicts its message of diplomacy over violence. The US has so far provided over $120 million in non-lethal military aid, including 230 Humvees and unarmed Raven drones.
“While we continue to believe that there is no military resolution to this crisis, Ukraine has the right to defend itself,” Lainez said last month.
On Tuesday, Canada also announced it would deploy 200 troops to Ukraine to assist in the training exercises, while the UK has already sent a number of military instructors.
During a TV interview last week, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov warned about an increase in Western military presence in Ukraine.
“Provocateurs in Kiev and those who support the ‘party of war’ might attempt to cook something up in the hopes of inflaming world public opinion, resulting in weapons flowing into Ukraine,” Lavrov said. “We must keep a close eye on this.”
Russia says the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is preparing the ground for the use of nuclear weapons by non-nuclear countries in contradiction to the Western military alliance’s obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
“NATO, contrary to the obligations taken under the treaty on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, is still conducting preparations for the use of nuclear weapons by countries that are non-nuclear states,” Alexander Grushko, Russia’s envoy to NATO, said at the Fourth Moscow International Security Conference on Thursday.
The NPT, which was ratified in 1970, constitutes the cornerstone of global efforts to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and to open up access to the peaceful use of nuclear energy. Non-nuclear signatories to the treaty have agreed not to seek to develop or acquire nuclear arms.
The Russian official further accused the military bloc of seeking to revive the Cold War ideology.
Meanwhile, Russian Defense Minister General Sergei Shoigu told the conference that NATO military exercises in the Arctic and Eastern Europe are against Russia.
The minister also warned that the participation of NATO’s non-nuclear states in the drills stimulate “the use of US tactical nuclear weapons” in violation of the NPT.
In February, NATO defense ministers agreed to increase from 13,000 soldiers to 30,000 the size of the alliance’s rapid reaction force. They also announced plans to set up six new command posts in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Bulgaria.
The Western military bloc has over the past year increased its presence and conducted several drills in Eastern Europe amid the crisis in Ukraine. Moscow, however, has repeatedly condemned NATO’s exercises and military buildup near Russia’s borders.
Moscow-West relations have been extremely tense in recent months. The West accuses Moscow of supporting pro-Russia forces in eastern Ukraine, an allegation strongly denied by the Kremlin.
The U.S. government has charged into another civil war in the Middle East. When you find yourself repeatedly asking, “Will they ever learn?” the answer may be that the decision-makers have no incentive to do things differently. What looks like failure may be the intended outcome. Quagmires have their benefits — to the ruling elite — if American casualties are minimized.
The Obama administration is assisting Saudi Arabia in its bombing of Yemen, creating — in concert with the Saudi embargo — a humanitarian catastrophe in the Middle East’s poorest country. Civilians are dying, and what infrastructure the country has is being destroyed.
Why? Secretary of State John Kerry says the United States won’t “stand by while the region is destabilized.” Kerry is a veteran, and presumably a student, of America’s Indochina war. So he must know that bombing is a terrible way to prevent destabilization. Kerry isn’t stupid — but that means he’s a liar and a demagogue.
Note that he says “the region,” not “Yemen.” Why would a civil war in Yemen affect the region? Because according to the official narrative, faithfully carried by most of the news media, Yemen is under siege by agents of Iran, the Houthis.
Iran today serves the same purpose the Soviet Union, or the International Communist Conspiracy, served from the end of World War II until 1989-91, when the Soviet empire collapsed. Iran is the all-purpose arch enemy on which virtually any evil can be blamed. So the war party and its Saudi and Israeli allies tell us every day that Iran is on the march, controlling capitals throughout the Middle East: Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut, and now Sana’a.
But this is absurd. Iran is not on the march. George W. Bush knowingly delivered Baghdad to Iran-friendly Iraqi Shiites in 2003. The Assad regime in Syria is a long-time Iranian ally that Obama and his first secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, declared open season on, emboldening al-Qaeda and its more-virulent mutation, ISIS. Iran’s friends in Lebanon, the political party Hezbollah, formed itself in response to Israel’s 1982 invasion and long occupation. None of these demonstrate an aggressive Iran. A better explanation is that those alliances help Iran cope with the American encirclement. (Recall: the CIA overthrew Iran’s democratic government in 1953 and was complicit in Iraq’s 1980s offensive war against Iran, in which Saddam Hussein used U.S.-facilitated chemical weapons. Since then, U.S. presidents and Israel’s government have attacked Iran in many ways: economic, cyber, proxy-terrorist, and covert.)
And what of Yemen, where the Houthis drove out the U.S.-backed autocratic president while also fighting declared enemies of the United States, Sunni al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and the Yemeni affiliate of ISIS? Yes, the Houthis practice a kind of Shiite Islam, Zaidi, but it differs importantly from Iranian Shiism. In fact, the Houthis are merely the latest manifestation of a long-oppressed Yemeni religious minority seeking autonomy from the central government. After years of being frustrated, lied to, and double-crossed, it finally moved on that government. Say what you will about the group, but don’t call it an agent of Iran.
Saudi Arabia sees Iran as a menace, but the kingdom is hardly credible, and the Obama administration is likely to be placating the royal family now that a nuclear deal with Iran may be at hand. As independent researcher Jonathan Marshall notes, “Decades before Iran became an enemy, however, Saudi Arabia began intervening in its southern neighbor [Yemen]. Besides grabbing land, the Saudis poured vast sums of money into Yemen to promote its extreme brand of Sunni Islam known as Wahhabism. In 2009, it invaded northern Yemen to attack the Houthis, unsuccessfully.”
Marshall adds, “Washington has also inserted itself in Yemen’s civil conflicts for decades.”
Of course Washington has been killing Yemenis with drones — not all of them even “suspected terrorists” — since 2001, when the corrupt and oppressive government in Sana’a became an ally in the “war on terror.”
“Yemen’s government repeatedly used U.S. military aid to support an all-out assault against the Houthis (“Operation Scorched Earth”),” Marshall writes, “causing extensive civilian casualties.”
As we should know by now, U.S. intervention is no innocent mistake.
The front page of the neocon flagship Washington Post on Tuesday warned that the Russians have decided, despite U.S. objections, “to send an advanced air-defense system to Iran … potentially altering the strategic balance in the Middle East.”
So, at least, says the lede of an article entitled “Putin lifts 5-year hold on missile sale to Iran” by Karoun Demirjian, whose editors apparently took it upon themselves to sex up the first paragraph, which was not at all supported by the rest of her story which was factual and fair – balanced, even.
Not only did Demirjian include much of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s explanation of Moscow’s decision to end its self-imposed restriction on the delivery of S-300 surface-to-air missiles to Iran, but she mentioned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s umpteenth warning on Monday about “the prospect of airstrikes to destroy or hinder Tehran’s nuclear program.”
Lavrov noted that United Nations resolutions “did not impose any restrictions on providing air defense weapons to Iran” and described the “separate Russian free-will embargo” as “irrelevant” in the light of the “meaningful progress” achieved by the negotiated framework deal of April 2 in which Iran accepted unprecedented constraints on its nuclear program to show that it was intended for peaceful purposes only.
The Russian Foreign Minister emphasized that the S-300 is a “completely defensive weapon [that] will not endanger the security of any state in the region, certainly including Israel.” Pointing to “the extremely tense situation in the region around Iran, he said modern air-defense systems are vitally important for that country.” Lavrov added that by freezing the S-300 contract for five years, Russia also had lost a lot of money. (The deal is said to be worth $800 million.)
Predictably, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton told Fox News that the air-defense system would be a “game-changer” for Israel regarding air strikes. According to Bolton, once the system is in place, only stealth bombers would be able to penetrate Iranian space, and only the U.S. has those and was not likely to use them.
The U.S. media also highlighted comments by popular go-to retired Air Force three-star General David A. Deptula, who served as Air Force deputy chief of staff for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance until he retired in 2010 to make some real money. Deptula called delivering the S-300 system to Iran “significant, as it complicates the calculus for planning any military action involving air strikes.”
It strikes me as a bit strange that the media likes to feature retired generals like Deptula, whose reputation for integrity are not the best. Deptula has been temporarily barred from doing business with the government after what Air Force Deputy General Counsel Randy Grandon described as “particularly egregious” breaches of post-employment rules. He remains, however, a media favorite.
Adding to his woes, Deptula was also caught with 125 classified documents on his personal laptop – including 10 labeled “Secret,” 14 labeled “Top Secret” and one with the high protection of “Secret, Compartmented Information.” Deptula pleaded ignorance and was let off – further proof that different standards apply to generals like Deptula and David Petraeus.
A More Subdued Tone
The S-300 announcement hit as Secretary of State John Kerry was testifying on Capitol Hill about the framework deal on Iran’s nuclear program. Speaking later to Fox News, Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Illinois, professed shock that Kerry did not seem more upset. According to Kinzinger, Kerry actually said, “You have to understand Iran’s perspective.”
And in keeping with Kerry’s tone of sang-froid, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf, referring to the S-300 deal, said, “We see this as separate from the negotiations [regarding Iran’s nuclear program], and we don’t think this will have an impact on our unity.”
White House press secretary Josh Earnest took the S-300 announcement with his customary, studied earnestness. Referring not only to the decision to deliver the S-300s but also to reports of a $20 billion barter deal that would involve Russia buying 500,000 barrels of oil a day in return for Russian grain, equipment and construction materials, Earnest referred to “potential sanctions concerns” and said the U.S. would “evaluate these two proposals moving forward,” adding that the U.S. has been in direct touch with Russia to make sure the Russians understand – and they do – the potential concerns that we have.”
With respect to the various sanctions against Iran, I believe this nonchalant tone can be seen largely as whistling in the dark. With the S-300 and the barter deals, Russia is putting a huge dent in the sanctions regimes. From now on, money is likely to call the shots, as competitors vie for various slices of the Iranian – and the Russian – pie. Whether or not there is a final agreement by the end of June on the Iranian nuclear issue, Washington is not likely to be able to hold the line on sanctions and will become even more isolated if it persists in trying.
Worse still for the neocons and others who favor using sanctions to punish Russia over Ukraine, the lifting of sanctions against Iran may have a cascading effect. If, for example, the Ukrainian ceasefire holds more or less over the next months, it is possible that the $1.5 billion sale of two French-built Mistral-Class helicopter carrier ships to Russia, concluded four years ago, will go through.
The contract does not expire for two months and Russia’s state arms exporter is trying to work out a compromise before taking France to court. Russian officials are expressing hope that a compromise can be reached within the time left.
And, regarding the outrage among neocons over the audacious idea that Iran should be allowed to defend itself against airstrikes, there is the “exceptional” argument that Israel, United States and their allies should have the unchallenged right to bomb Iran or any other country as they see fit – and that the targeted country should have no right to protect its people, indeed that trying to defend itself is some kind of unacceptable provocation.
There is also the hypocrisy regarding how the neocons like to differentiate between “defensive” and “offensive” weapons when the question is about giving U.S.-backed governments weapons that have dual purposes, that can be used offensively as well as defensively.
For instance, in regard to Ukraine earlier this year, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland counseled U.S. officials to portray the delivery of sophisticated U.S. military hardware to the coup regime in Kiev as “defensive,” even though the weapons had an offensive capacity, such as targeting ethnic Russian rebels firing artillery or mortars at Ukrainian troops attacking eastern Ukraine.
According to the German newspaper, Bild, which published an intercepted conversation between Nuland and U.S. officials in Munich, Germany, she said, “I’d strongly urge you to use the phrase ‘defensive systems’ that we would deliver to oppose Putin’s ‘offensive systems.’”
However, NATO Commander and Air Force General Philip Breedlove left little doubt that these “defensive” weapons would help the Ukrainian government pursue its military objectives by enabling more effective concentration of fire. “Russian artillery is by far what kills most Ukrainian soldiers, so a system is needed that can localize the source of fire and repress it,” Breedlove reportedly said.
So, when “defensive” weapons help a U.S.-backed regime kill its opponents, that’s fine. However, if some truly defensive weapons, such as anti-aircraft missiles to protect a country’s cities, go to a nation that Israel might want to bomb, then that is unacceptable.
Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. During his earlier, 27-year career as a CIA analyst, he led the Soviet Foreign Policy Branch and prepared – and briefed – the President’s Daily Brief. He now serves on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).
The UN Security Council has imposes an arms embargo against the Houthi rebels in Yemen and blacklisted a Houthi leader and the
Fourteen members of the Security Council voted in favor of the resolution, Russia being the only abstention.
The Russian representative explained the move by saying that not all of Moscow’s proposals had been included in the final text drafted by Jordan and Gulf Arab states.
“The co-sponsors refused to include the requirements insisted upon by Russia addressed to all sides to the conflict to swiftly halt fire and to begin peace talks,” Russian UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told the council after the vote.
The resolution also blacklisted Houthi leader Abdel-Malek al-Houthi, as well as the son of Yemen’s former president, Ali Abdullah Saleh.
The Jordanian draft resolution was being debated alongside a separate Russian draft, which called for a “humanitarian pause” in airstrikes by the Saudi-led military coalition.
An all-inclusive arms embargo on all parties in the Yemeni conflict, suggested earlier by Russia as an amendment to the Arab draft, was rejected.
“We insisted that the arms embargo needs to be comprehensive; it’s well known that Yemen is awash in weapons,” Churkin said. “The adopted resolution should not be used for further escalation of the armed conflict.”
The Shiite Houthi rebels took control of Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, in September 2014, forcing President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi to flee to Saudi Arabia. They are now fighting for the strategic port city of Aden.
The Houthi offensive is supported by soldiers loyal to Saleh, who was forced to give up power in Yemen after a 33-year rule in 2012.
Saudi Arabia and its Sunni Arab allies have been bombing the Houthi rebels since March 25, with over 1,000 people killed since the start of the conflict.
Al-Houthi and the ex-president’s eldest son, Ahmed Ali Abdullah Saleh, will face an asset freeze and travel ban in accordance with the sanctions.
Last November, UNSC imposed the similar sanctions on former president Saleh, the rebel group’s military commander Abd al-Khaliq al-Houthi and the Houthi’s second-in-command, Abdullah Yahya al Hakim.
The resolution also urged “Member States, in particular States neighboring Yemen, to inspect … all cargo to Yemen” if they have reasonable grounds to believe it contains weapons.
The document demanded all Yemeni parties to stop fighting, especially the Houthis, who are called upon to withdraw from Sanaa and other areas they have seized.
It also blamed ex-President Saleh for “destabilizing actions” in Yemen, including supporting the Houthi uprising.
Anti-nuclear demonstrators at Faslane naval base, April 13 2015. (Photo by Veronika Tudhope)
Some 36 anti-nuclear activists have been arrested at Faslane naval base in Scotland, according to organizers, as hundreds of protesters blockaded the home of Britain’s nuclear weapons system.
Workers at the naval facility were sent home after failing to gain access to the site due to the blockade, according to The Common Space journalist Liam O’Hare.
Scrap Trident, a coalition of organizations including the Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (SCND) and Trident Ploughshares, have been demonstrating outside the facility since 7 a.m.
Protesters are demanding an end to the UK’s intercontinental ballistic missile program, which is up for renewal by the Westminster parliament in 2016.
Trident has become a contentious issue ahead of the general election in May, with Defense Secretary Michael Fallon pledging last week that a Conservative-led government would replace the Vanguard-class nuclear submarines with four new nuclear missile carriers.
Fallon’s election promise followed a statement by Scottish National Party (SNP) leader Nicola Sturgeon, in which she said Trident was a “red line” issue the SNP would not support.
In the event of a hung Parliament, Labour may seek to form a minority government in an informal coalition with SNP.
Critics, including Fallon of the Conservative Party, argue that Labour would abandon the UK’s nuclear weapons program to secure power.
Shadow Defense Secretary Vernon Coaker rejected the idea, insisting last week Labour was committed to renewing Britain’s nuclear weapons program, which is set to cost taxpayers £100 billion over the course of its deployment.
Labour leader Ed Miliband said in January he supported renewing Trident, adding he is “not in favor of unilateral disarmament.”
Monday’s blockade of Faslane naval base follows anti-Trident demonstrations in Glasgow and London over the weekend.
Scrap Trident organizers claim that 36 anti-nuclear activists were arrested in the blockade.
O’Hare, of The Common Space, reports that police have attempted to move anti-nuclear activists camped outside the naval facility’s south gate, while the majority of demonstrators are protesting outside the north gate.
Arthur West, chair of Scottish CND, said in a statement: “The purpose of the event is to draw attention to the fact that all Britain’s nuclear weapons are based just 25 miles away from our biggest city [Glasgow].”
“We say get rid of nuclear weapons and spend the money on decent things like housing, jobs and education.”
Speaking to RT, West added: “Scottish CND are campaigning in cities and towns across Scotland in the run-up to the general election.”
“Our main message to voters at the election is to only support candidates who have given a clear commitment that they will vote against Trident replacement when the issue comes up in the next parliament.”
Patrick Harvie, co-convenor of the Scottish Green Party, was among the demonstrators at Faslane on Monday.
Harvie, a member of the Scottish parliament, said in a statement: “Trident is an obscenity. Through direct action and through the ballot box we can make the case for the UK to play a new role on the world stage.”
He added: “By choosing to disarm Trident we can reskill workers on the Clyde to provide defense of the strategically important northern seas, and diversify our economy for social good.”