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End of CIA Training Program Removes Roadblock to Real Peace in Syria

Sputnik – 21.07.2017

President Donald Trump’s decision to end CIA training for US-backed rebel groups in Syria opens the way for peace at last and humanitarian relief for the suffering people of that country, analysts told Sputnik.

The move was widely reported in the US media on Wednesday with no denials and has been universally accepted as taking place.

Trump reportedly decided to halt the training about a month ago, after a meeting with CIA Director Mike Pompeo and national security adviser H.R. McMaster, which preceded his talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany earlier this month.

SCRAPPING CIA TRAINING PROGRAM OPENS WAY FOR PEACE DEAL IN SYRIA

The CIA program’s goal was to train at least 5,400 allegedly non-Islamist rebels in an armed force to fight Daesh terror group (outlawed in Russia), while also opposing the legitimate Syrian government of President Bashar Assad.

“This decision opens the door noticeably wider for a negotiated resolution of the dire political conflict (and resulting humanitarian catastrophe) inside Syria,” historian and Middle East analyst Helena Cobban, a leading expert on Syria, said on Thursday.

Continued US support for the rebel groups, some of which were extreme Islamists, had effectively blocked any moves in the past to end the conflict in Syria that has lasted nearly six-and-a-half years and cost more than 600,000 lives, Cobban explained.

“So long as the United States’ covert-action teams were working hand-in-glove with the forces working tirelessly to overthrow the government of Syria, it was hard to envision the United States also sitting down with those political forces inside and outside the country who seek a negotiated resolution,” she said.

However, Trump’s decision to end the CIA support program breathed new life into the Syrian peace process, Cobban observed.

The problems plaguing massive US military aid and training for the rebels greatly embarrassed previous President Barack Obama. Senior US officers have testified to Congress that an undetermined number of such rebels have disappeared with US military equipment and actually joined Islamist forces, including Daesh.

On September 16, 2015, then CENTCOM commanding General Lloyd Austin told the US Senate Armed Services Committee that half a billion dollars of funding for military training of Syrian rebels approved by Congress had only produced only four or five opposition troops in the field by that point.

The CIA training and support program for the rebels failed to accomplish any constructive goals, but only spread and intensified the sufferings of ordinary people in Syria, Cobban recalled.

“The CIA’s aid to the Syrian ‘rebels’ prolonged and deepened the suffering of Syria’s people throughout the whole of the past six years,” she said.

The real purpose of the program was not to defeat Daesh, but to topple the legitimate Syrian government of President Bashar Assad, Cobban stated.

The Obama administration added to the CIA program a “very bright green light… to other non-Syrian actors working to overthrow Syria’s legitimate government, like the Saudi and other Gulf Cooperation Council countries, Turkey… and jihadis from all around the world,” she said.

However, a series of policy shifts by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the clash in the GCC between Qatar and other member states backed by Saudi Arabia looked likely to distract these previous support sources for the Syrian rebels, Cobban observed.

“With the Turkish government now acting a lot more pragmatically than before, and with the ongoing chaos among the GCC countries, it can be hoped that… groups who supported regime change in Syria will now… die of their own accord,” she said.

The end of CIA training for Syrian rebels was also likely to give a boost to cooperation between governments and other forces in the region that genuinely opposed the Islamic State and other Islamist terror groups, Cobban noted.

Rebels seeking regime change in Damascus were now more likely to “be quashed through the cooperation of all the sincerely anti-jihadi forces in the region. There is still a lot of diplomatic work to do, but this decision from Washington makes it seem at least more possible,” she concluded.

CIA PROGRAM SHOWED 5-YEAR RECORD OF CONSISTENT FAILURES

Trump’s decision to terminate the CIA program has been interpreted by analysts as an acknowledgment that the five-year-old program has totally failed to achieve any of its goals, caused damage to US credibility and was not capable of being reformed.

Author and political activist David Swanson said Trump’s decision to end the CIA training program was a long-belated acknowledgment of its complete failure to produce any significant moderate rebel fighting force, while many recruits actually joined the Islamic State or other Islamist groups.

Swanson said the decision to scrap the rebel military training program expressed “a recognition of reality.”

Previous president Barack Obama had been praised as an alleged moderate and technocrat, yet he had ignored his own best intelligence assessments to launch the costly CIA training program after being given due warning that it would not work, Swanson recalled.

“When Obama was president he had the CIA produce a study on whether aiding proxy forces had ever succeeded on its own terms. The answer was no, yet Obama, the supposedly intelligent technocrat went ahead and did exactly what the study had found would not work,” he said.

Trump’s decision to end the CIA training program was rational and sensible, but came as a surprise because US policies in the Middle East and especially on Syria had not been guided by such considerations, Swanson observed.

“Ending it after years of predictable and predicted failure is only hard to explain because we have come to expect completely illogical madness,” he said.

Trump may also have scrapped the program as part of some quid pro quo arrangement he had negotiated with Putin at their G20 meeting, Swanson noted.

The decision to end the CIA training could indicate “some deal struck between Trump and Putin, but since neither of them is likely to tell us, we are left to speculate,” he said.

Although Trump had ordered the end of the training program, it remained to be seen whether he could ensure that the US armed forces and the CIA obeyed his orders and actually enforced the decision, Swanson cautioned.

“The decision is a good one on its own terms if it’s real. But what goes with it remains to be seen — including whether the US military and CIA actually comply with it,” he warned.

Swanson assessed that the results of the CIA training program had been entirely disastrous.

It had only produced “massive death and suffering, militarization of a region, fueling of hatred and hostility and terrorism for years to come,” he concluded.

The CIA reportedly maintained its program to provide weapons to Syrian opposition fighters since 2012. However, the private intelligence firm Soufran Group noted in a report on Thursday that the training program was ineffective and problematic since its launch.

July 21, 2017 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , | Leave a comment

Is Iran in Our Gun Sights Now?

By Pat Buchanan • Unz Review • July 21, 2017

“Iran must be free. The dictatorship must be destroyed. Containment is appeasement and appeasement is surrender.”

Thus does our Churchill, Newt Gingrich, dismiss, in dealing with Iran, the policy of containment crafted by George Kennan and pursued by nine U.S. presidents to bloodless victory in the Cold War.

Why is containment surrender? “Because freedom is threatened everywhere so long as this dictatorship stays in power,” says Gingrich.

But how is our freedom threatened by a regime with 3 percent of our GDP that has been around since Jimmy Carter was president?

Fortunately, Gingrich has found a leader to bring down the Iranian regime and ensure the freedom of mankind. “In our country that was George Washington and … the Marquis de Lafayette. In Italy it was Garibaldi,” says Gingrich.

Whom has he found to rival Washington and Garibaldi? Says Gingrich, “Maryam Rajavi.”

Who is she? The leader of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, or Mujahedeen-e-Khalq, which opposed the Shah, broke with the old Ayatollah, collaborated with Saddam Hussein, and, until 2012, was designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. Department of State.

At the NCRI conference in Paris in July where Gingrich spoke, and the speaking fees were reportedly excellent, John Bolton and Rudy Giuliani were also on hand.

Calling Iran’s twice-elected President Hassan Rouhani, “a violent, vicious murderer,” Giuliani said, “the time has come for regime change.”

Bolton followed suit. “Tehran is not merely a nuclear weapons threat, it is not merely a terrorist threat, it is a conventional threat to everybody in the region,” he said. Hence, “the declared policy of the United States of America should be the overthrow of the mullahs’ regime in Tehran.”

We will all celebrate in Tehran in 2019, Bolton assured the NCRI faithful.

Good luck. Yet, as The New York Times said yesterday, all this talk, echoed all over this capital, is driving us straight toward war. “A drumbeat of provocative words, outright threats and actions — from President Trump and some of his top aides as well as Sunni Arab leaders and American activists — is raising tensions that could lead to armed conflict with Iran.”

Is this what America wants or needs — a new Mideast war against a country three times the size of Iraq?

After Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen, would America and the world be well-served by a war with Iran that could explode into a Sunni-Shiite religious war across the Middle East?

Bolton calls Iran “a nuclear weapons threat.”

But in 2007, all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies declared with high confidence Iran had no nuclear weapons program. They stated this again in 2011. Under the nuclear deal, Iran exported almost all of its uranium, stopped enriching to 20 percent, shut down thousands of centrifuges, poured concrete into the core of its heavy water reactor, and allows U.N. inspectors to crawl all over every facility.

Is Iran, despite all this, operating a secret nuclear weapons program? Or is this War Party propaganda meant to drag us into another Mideast war?

To ascertain the truth, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee should call the heads of the CIA and DIA, and the Director of National Intelligence, to testify in open session.

We are told we are menaced also by a Shiite Crescent rising and stretching from Beirut to Damascus, Baghdad and Tehran.

And who created this Shiite Crescent?

It was George W. Bush who ordered the Sunni regime of Saddam overthrown, delivering Iraq to its Shiite majority. It was Israel whose invasion and occupation of Lebanon from 1982 to 2000 gave birth to the Shiite resistance now known as Hezbollah.

As for Bashar Assad in Syria, his father sent troops to fight alongside Americans in the Gulf War.

The Ayatollah’s regime, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and the Basij militia are deeply hostile to this country. But Iran does not want war with the United States — for the best of reasons. Iran would be smashed like Iraq, and its inevitable rise, as the largest and most advanced country on the Persian Gulf, would be aborted.

Moreover, we have interests in common: Peace in the Gulf, from which Iran’s oil flows and without which Iran cannot grow, as Rouhani intends, by deepening Iran’s ties to Europe and the advanced world.

And we have enemies in common: ISIS, al-Qaida and all the Sunni terrorists whose wildest dream is to see their American enemies fight their Shiite enemies.

Who else wants a U.S. war with Iran, besides ISIS?

Unfortunately, their number is legion: Saudis, Israelis, neocons and their think tanks, websites and magazines, hawks in both parties on Capitol Hill, democracy crusaders, and many in the Pentagon who want to deliver payback for what the Iranian-backed Shiite militias did to us in Iraq.

President Trump is key. If he does the War Party’s bidding, that will be his legacy, as the Iraq War is the legacy of George W. Bush.

Copyright 2017 Creators.com.

July 20, 2017 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Wars for Israel, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , | 4 Comments

‘Maintain public confidence’: Obama’s plan to defend from election cyberattacks

RT | July 20, 2017

The Obama administration quietly set up an interagency task force to deal with possible physical and cyber disruptions of the 2016 US presidential election, but believed most cyber incidents would be “unsubstantiated or inconsequential.”

Time magazine, which obtained and published the 15-page Concept of Operations document on Thursday, wrote that the plan was put in place to counter “Russian hacking.” The actual word “Russia” appears nowhere in the document, however.

The planning document, which Time dated to October 2016, shows that the Obama administration set up the Cyber Unified Coordination Group (UCG) to coordinate the response of various federal agencies to “reports of cyber incidents impacting election infrastructure.”

In addition to a lot of training, advice and interagency communication, the first specific action the agencies were instructed to take was to “develop integrated public relations guidance that seeks to maintain public confidence in the electoral system” ‒ a task that fell on the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Office of Public Affairs. The Department of Justice, Director of National Intelligence, and the FBI were supposed to assist with that task.

Any public statements “should be developed to avoid inadvertently calling into doubt the integrity of the voting process and to avoid negative impacts to voter turnout,” the document said.

The FBI was to set up a national command post at its headquarters in Washington, DC, from which it would monitor reports from the entire country from 6am to midnight on Election Day. The FBI would also establish Cyber Incident Command Center (CICC), starting on November 7.

A cyber threat intelligence center was to work with the intelligence community to “aggregate relevant intelligence and information to build and maintain a common threat and incident picture” that would then “set cyber incidents in the context of adversary activity across all domains to draw connections and implications,” the document says.

Cyber Action Teams (CAT) were set up at 26 FBI field offices and one overseas location, ready to deploy in case of a serious incident. Six interagency coordination calls were scheduled for Election Day, once every three hours between 6am and midnight.

The coordination mechanism was supposed to stay in effect until November 11, to “address any post-election cyber incidents (e.g. planted stories calling into question the results).”

For all the concern about potential cyberattacks on the US election systems, however, the document noted that “the vast majority of cyber incidents will be assessed as ‘baseline’ or ‘low’ on the schema,” based on DHS intelligence assessments.

“These are unsubstantiated or inconsequential events, or events that are unlikely to impact health or safety, national security, economic security, foreign relations, civil liberties, or public confidence,” the document explained.

July 20, 2017 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, Russophobia | , , | Leave a comment

Which European Nation Suffers From The Most Drug-Induced Deaths?

By Tyler Durden | Zero Hedge | July 19, 2017

As highlighted by the latest edition of the European Drug ReportEstonia is the country with the most drug-induced deaths per million population in Europe.

Infographic: Drug deaths in Europe | Statista

You will find more statistics at Statista

At 103 – 82 above the EU average – only Sweden comes close with 100 deaths. However, at the other end of the scale, as Martin Armstrong at Statista points out, Portugal, where drugs were decriminalised back in 2001, had only 6 per million people.

Looking outside of Europe, Estonia’s problems are pulled into sharp relief by the rate in the United States. In 2016, there were a staggering 185 deaths per million.

July 20, 2017 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Timeless or most popular | , , | Leave a comment

Real actions, not sanctions, needed to save public health in Syria

By Dr Alexander Yakovenko | RT | July 20, 2017

The humanitarian situation in Syria remains complex. According to the UN, 13.5 million Syrians – or more than half of the country’s population – need assistance. Of the UN 2017 humanitarian appeal for Syria of $3.4 billion, so far $702 million has been allocated by donors.

The Syrian public health system, which was once considered the best in the region, has now significantly deteriorated and its state is of particular concern.

The population has limited access to medical and sanitary services, and the immunization against the primary diseases remains very low. As of the end of June, 17 cases of poliomyelitis were registered in the country. The threat of an epidemic remains high. Due to the lack of clean drinking water, outbreaks of dysentery, cholera and typhoid fever are ever more possible.

According to WHO, as a result of the ongoing armed conflict up to two-thirds of the medical workers have left the country. In public hospitals, people are treated mostly by inexperienced graduates of medical schools. Due to under-funding, many centers for primary health care are closed, especially in rural areas. The issue of the destruction of medical institutions in Syria, as well as their “militarization” (used for military purposes by terrorists and opposition), remains subject to politicization and bias.

The definitive catastrophe of Syria’s public health is being averted for now only due to the remaining network of non-governmental commercial medical institutions, which despite having been seriously affected, continue to function. However, due to the high cost, many Syrians can’t afford to visit private practitioners.

The situation in the national pharmaceutical industry, which until 2011 was one of the most developed in the region, is indicative of this crisis. More than 90 percent of the required medicines were manufactured domestically. There were 63 pharmaceutical plants in Syria producing 6,000 types of products. As a result of the conflict, the production of medicines has decreased by 70-75 percent.

US and EU sanctions against Syria that prevent the import of drugs to the country remain one of the biggest problems. Hospitals badly need anesthetics, antibiotics, serum, medicines for chronic non-infectious diseases, medical equipment. Some medication is available, but at prices that are inaccessible to most of the population. Even in the absence of a direct prohibition on the supply of medicines and medical equipment, unilateral restrictions do not allow carrying out banking operations.

What is needed now is for the international community to focus on this dire situation and make a concerted effort to help Syria save its public health sector. Good will and real assistance, not sanctions, will help define the future for the Syrian people.

Dr Alexander Yakovenko, Russian Ambassador to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Deputy foreign minister (2005-2011). Follow him on Twitter @Amb_Yakovenko

July 20, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | | Leave a comment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Schumer says he is a ‘guardian of Israel’

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

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

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

July 18, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular, Video | , , , | 5 Comments

DONETSK: Alexander Zakharchenko declares new state of Malorossiya

By Adam Garrie | The Duran | July 18, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Zakharchenko stated,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Timofeev continued,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Straitjacket of Russophobia prevents Trump returning seized Russian property

By Finian Cunningham | RT | July 18, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

This is exactly what Russia has warned against.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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