Russia has long opposed the militarization of space. If the United States keeps ignoring Moscow’s calls on the issue the risk of a military confrontation in space could significantly increase.
Recently, the Russian space agency Roscosmos kicked off tenders for three GLONASS satellites to be launched in 2017-2018. The company is expected to spend over one billion rubles ($16 million) on the program.
The first launch is scheduled for December 25, 2017, the other two – for November 25, 2018. The satellite will be carried by a Soyuz-2.1b rocket from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome spaceport.
In February and May 2016, two Glonass-M satellites were added to the GLONASS system.
Currently, the system involves 27 satellites, 23 of which are in operation, two are put in orbital reserve, one is undergoing flight tests, and the last is undergoing maintenance.
In the event of a military conflict, communication satellites would be an important target, military expert and observer Viktor Baranets said.
“The current situation in space is that no satellites are protected, no matter at what orbits they are. The reason is that alongside with development of space systems, the US is running on all cylinders developing space weapons,” Baranets told Radio Sputnik.
Moreover, China already joined the game, with an anti-satellite missile test in 2007.
“Russia has its own plans too. I think that if Washington keeps ignoring Russia’s calls for the demilitarization of space, the so-called ‘combat cosmonautics’ would become reality,” Baranets pointed out.
His words were echoed by Russian defense expert Vasily Kashin. In an interview with Sputnik China, Kashin said that modern satellites are almost devoid of any opportunity to protect themselves from the impact of interceptor missiles.
In 2008, the Russian and Chinese governments proposed an international agreement to prevent the deployment of weapons in outer space but the US government under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama has consistently rejected launching negotiations to conclude such a treaty.
Before Barack Obama became president, during his presidential campaign, he called for talks with Russia on anti-satellite weapons which started back in the 1970s but then was terminated by Washington. However, no progress has been made on the issue.
Baranets said it could not be ruled out that in the future space might be militarized which would pose a threat to the entire world.
“Mankind will have to decide whether to militarize space or not. There are very difficult negotiations in process. Moreover, the US wants to pass a bill to declare certain orbits exclusively American,” Baranets said.
According to him, the defense industries of both Russia and the US are working to develop space combat systems. If the process is not stopped “space wars may be possible.”
The expert stressed that the 1967 Outer Space Treaty between the US, the USSR and Britain should be revised. The document represents the legal framework of international space law, including prohibition of weapons of mass destruction in orbit.
“The treaty should be revised as soon as possible. This will prevent militarization of space. Now, space is becoming a place for effective strikes against the enemy,” the expert concluded.
In turn, Kashin assumed that anti-satellite weaponry is a new reality that should be considered while planning a possible military operation.
In this new reality, Russia, China, the US, as well as India and Iran will most likely possess domestically-made sophisticated anti-satellite weapons, according to him.
Iran’s ambassador and permanent representative to the United Nations has held the Israel regime responsible for the desperate plight of the Palestinian nation and exacerbation of tensions in the Middle East.
“The illegal and brutal Israeli occupation continues and causes so much anguish to the Palestinian people, and dangerously inflames tensions on the volatile situation in the region. The Israeli regime continues to breach international law, including humanitarian and human rights. By doing so, it inflicts widespread suffering to civilians and deliberately destabilizes the situation, with far–reaching and serious consequences for peace and security in the Middle East and beyond,” Gholam Ali Khoshroo stated at a Security Council Open Debate on “Situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian Question” on Wednesday.
He further lambasted the Tel Aviv regime’s systematic violations of Palestinians’ rights and international law, including house demolitions, forced displacement of civilians, detentions of minors, and incessant provocations by illegal settlers and extremists at revered sites, particularly al-Aqsa Mosque compound in the occupied East Jerusalem al-Quds.
Khoshroo said the Israeli regime has continually intensified its illegal and oppressive measures against the defenseless Palestinian population over the past years, killed and injured many civilians, and deprived Palestinians of their right to protection.
The Iranian diplomat then pointed to Israel’s settlement expansion activities in the occupied West Bank, stating that they are in clear breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention, constitute war crimes under Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, and demonstrate that Israel has never had any interest in peace with the Palestinians and its participation in the so-called peace process has only been aimed at covering up its policy of aggression.
Turning to Israel’s blockade on the impoverished Gaza Strip, the Iranian UN ambassador said the siege “is causing massive deprivation, hopelessness and a grave humanitarian crisis. The destructive impact of such Israeli violations is immense as reflected in rising tensions, deteriorating socio-economic conditions, and deepening among the Palestinian civilian population.”
Khoshroo also blamed illegal foreign intervention, extremism and violence for the ongoing conflicts in Libya, Iraq, Syria and Yemen.
“These problems have persisted and deepened because the international community has failed to do its part in dealing with the root causes, and naive trans-regional players have done erroneous actions,” he pointed out.
Saudi Arabia’s military aggression on Yemen
Elsewhere in his remarks, Khoshroo referred to Riyadh’s aerial bombardment campaign against its crisis-hit southern neighbor, stressing that the airstrikes have killed or permanently maimed thousands of civilians, including women and children, displaced millions of people, and turned Yemen from a disadvantaged country into a devastated one.
“All these horrendous and heinous attacks, which display total disregard for human life and international law are happening under the watch of Security Council, which has failed to take any action to stop them,” the Iranian diplomat said.
Saudi Arabia has been engaged in an atrocious campaign against Yemen since March 2015. The United Nations puts the death toll from the onslaught at about 10,000.
Fresh skepticism springs up about the fate of a deal which Boeing has signed to provide Iran Air with over 80 jetliners after the US aircraft maker says none will be delivered this year.
Since Boeing announced a tentative deal to sell jetliners to Iran in June, US lawmakers have been trying to block it. Under the agreement, Boeing must supply Iran some 80 passenger jets worth $25 billion at price lists.
On Tuesday, Boeing Chief Executive Officer Dennis Muilenburg said while the two sides were making progress on the deal, no deliveries would take place this year.
“We won’t deliver any aircraft under that deal this year – these are deliveries that are a year, two, three downstream,” Muilenburg told reporters on the sidelines of a conference in Chicago on future technologies.
Boeing’s deal is similar to another provisional agreement which Iran Air has signed with Airbus to get 118 jetliners from the European aircraft maker.
However, no formal contracts have been signed yet, meaning all of these deals could fail, given the volatile dynamics of the West’s relations with Iran.
Presidential election factor
The tentative deals have already hit a speed bump because major global banks are refusing to handle transactions with Iran for fear of running afoul of US sanctions on the country.
One major roadblock was lifted last month when the US government granted Airbus and Boeing permission to sell aircraft to the Islamic Republic.
Some Iranians, however, believe the US is most likely to put up new hurdles even if it does not scrap the deal entirely.
They are disheartened by what the next presidential elections in the United States might have in store for the patchy relations between Tehran and Washington. Both current US presidential candidates are expected to adopt a much stricter line than President Barack Obama toward Iran.
Another detracting factor which could scupper the deals is opposition from the US Congress.
The US House of Representatives has already passed a motion to block the Boeing deal, with further measures proposed in Congress to bar certain transactions by US financial institutions connected to the export of aircraft.
If the proposed bills to restrict the deal become law, they would also affect other companies’ sales to Iran, including those by Airbus.
Looking for new options
Last month, Iran indicated that it was cutting the Airbus deal by six aircraft and clipping the contract with Boeing by one jet.
Reports also have it that Iran Air has been cooling towards the purchase of 12 A380 superjumbos that were part of the provisional deal.
Iranian airlines, meanwhile, are looking for other options. They have approached smaller aircraft manufacturers which they believe are easier to deal with.
Tentative deals have been signed with France’s ATR and Brazil’s Embraer, while Japan’s Mitsubishi and China’s Comac have held talks with Iranian aviation companies.
Such developments have taken the shine off the deals with Airbus and Boeing – the biggest for Western aviation companies in Iran since the Islamic Revolution in 1979.
However, neither of the two airline behemoths wants to lose one of the last untapped aviation markets in the world.
On Tuesday, Muilenberg described Iran “significant opportunity for us.”
“And I’m pleased to see that we’re making steady progress,” he said, adding Boeing was “in the final stages of working through the deal structure with our customers in Iran” while also working through the US government licensing process.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi
The Iranian Foreign Ministry’s spokesman has denied claims made by a US official that a missile used by Yemen’s Houthi Ansarullah fighters to destroy an Emirati military vessel was made by Iran.
Bahram Qassemi added on Tuesday that the US should take a look at its own heavy dossier concerning the supply of arms and weapons to those attacking civilians in Yemen instead of projecting the blame on others.
Qassemi noted that the accusation has been made as US planes and weapons have been used and are still being used to kill thousands of Yemeni women and children, and destroy hospitals and schools in Yemen.
On Saturday, Yemeni forces targeted and destroyed the Emirati military vessel in a rocket attack near the Red Sea port city of Mokha.
Yemen has been under Saudi military strikes since late March 2015. The war was launched in a bid to reinstate Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, who has stepped down as president but is now seeking to grab power by force. The United Nations puts the death toll from the military aggression at about 10,000.
Houthi Ansarullah fighters, allied with Yemeni army factions, and forces loyal to Yemen’s former president Ali Abdullah Saleh have united and are fighting back the Saudi invaders.
JASTA Opens Many Doors
By overwhelming margins the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives voted on September 28th to override President Barack Obama’s veto of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA). Obama had noted that the Act would have negative consequences for U.S. officials overseas as it establishes the principle that governments can be held accountable in the courts for what they do. Prior to this legislation Washington generally respected the principle of sovereign immunity, which means in practice that governments resolve issues between themselves by negotiation, not through litigation.
With Congress now demanding foreign government accountability it is reasonable to assume that other countries might respond in kind by establishing reciprocity based on the language in JASTA, which would mean that serving or former American officials might be detained and tried for criminal actions undertaken by the U.S. in its war on terror. It might also lead to other suits against the United States government that would result in demands for what is already being described as “intrusive discovery” of documents relating to clandestine American operations overseas. In a letter President Obama has described JASTA as allowing foreign litigants to “second-guess our counterterrorism operations and other actions that we take every day” while Secretary of Defense Ash Carter assailed the “ability of foreign litigants to seek classified intelligence and analysis.” CIA Director John Brennan denounced the “associated risks to our national security,” adding that the bill harbored “grave implications” for national security with a “downside [that is] potentially huge.”
So-called State Sponsors of terrorism Syria, Iran and Sudan can already be sued in American courts but JASTA considerably broadens the playing field to permit additional litigation. Supporters of the Act insist that their intention is only to enable suits directed against Saudi Arabia, which might have been either complicit or negligent in its dealings with the alleged terrorists who carried out 9/11, 15 of whom were Saudis, but the language is actually much broader than that. The actual text, which does not specifically name Saudi Arabia, reads: “A foreign state shall not be immune from the jurisdiction of the courts of the United States in any case in which money damages are sought against a foreign state for physical injury to person or property or death occurring in the United States and caused by an act of international terrorism in the United States.”
The Act reproduces the U.S. Code definition of “international terrorism” which “means activities that (A) involve violent acts or acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State, or that would be a criminal violation if committed within the jurisdiction of the United States or of any State; (B) appear to be intended (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination or kidnapping; and (C) occur primarily outside the territorial jurisdiction of the United States, or transcend national boundaries in terms of the means by which they are accomplished, the persons they appear intended to intimidate or coerce, and the locale in which their perpetrators operate or seek asylum.”
I am all for the United States and Saudi Arabia (and others) being held accountable for war crimes and other unlawful behavior to include drones, renditions, torture and target assassinations but it will almost certainly be difficult to prove “knowing or reckless” criminal intent in court even with the new legislation. Also the Act opens up a Pandora’s box of possibilities that I am sure the Congressmen were not thinking of when they cast their votes. While the bill was drafted in such a fashion as to make an unnamed Saudi Arabia the actual target it also can be used against Pakistan, which may have funded the hijackers, and even Germany, where some of those involved in 9/11 lived for a time. It can plausibly be claimed that Islamabad and Berlin had some prior knowledge of the attack which they chose not to share, making them complicit, and the respective governments would have to appear in a U.S. court to demonstrate their innocence. In so doing, they might even demand in their defense that the United States government produce documentary evidence regarding what really did occur on 9/11, something the White House would surely want to avoid.
But the potentially biggest secondary target of the new legislation would without a doubt be Israel. The Israeli role in 9/11, insofar as can be determined, has never been seriously investigated at all and any suppositions or conclusions regarding its activities were never included in the final 9/11 Commission Report.
In 2001 Israel was running a massive spying operation directed against Muslims either resident or traveling in the United States. The operation included the creation of a number of cover companies in New Jersey, Florida and also on the west coast that served as spying mechanisms for Mossad officers. The effort was supported by the Mossad Station in Washington D.C. and included a large number of volunteers, the so-called “art students” who traveled around the U.S. selling various products at malls and outdoor markets. The FBI was aware of the numerous Israeli students who were routinely overstaying their visas and some in the Bureau certainly believed that they were assisting their country’s intelligence service in some way, but it proved difficult to link the students to actual undercover operations, so they were regarded as a minor nuisance.
But the hands-off attitude towards Israeli spying shifted dramatically when, on September 11, 2001, a New Jersey housewife saw something from the window of her apartment building, which overlooked the World Trade Center. She watched as the buildings burned and crumbled but also noted something strange. Three young men were kneeling on the roof of a white transit van parked by the water’s edge, making a movie in which they featured themselves high fiving and laughing in front of the catastrophic scene unfolding behind them. The woman wrote down the license plate number of the van and called the police, who responded quickly and soon both the local force and the FBI began looking for the vehicle, which was subsequently seen by other witnesses in various locations along the New Jersey waterfront, its occupants “celebrating and filming.”
The license plate number revealed that the van belonged to a New Jersey registered company called Urban Moving Systems. At 4 p.m. the vehicle was spotted and pulled over. Five men between the ages of 22 and 27 years old emerged. They were detained at gunpoint and handcuffed. They were all Israelis. One of them had $4,700 in cash hidden in his sock and another had two foreign passports. Bomb sniffing dogs reacted to the smell of explosives in the van. The driver told the police “We are Israeli. We are not your problem. Your problems are our problems. The Palestinians are the problem.” The men were detained at the Bergen County jail in New Jersey before being transferred the FBI’s Foreign Counterintelligence Section, which handles allegations of spying.
After the arrest, the FBI obtained a warrant to search the offices of the van’s registered owner, Urban Moving System of Weehawken, N.J. Papers and computers were seized. The company owner Dominick Suter, also an Israeli, answered FBI questions but when a follow-up interview was set up a few days later it was learned that he had fled the country for Israel, putting both his business and home up for sale. The office space and warehouse were abandoned. It was later learned that Suter has been associated with at least fourteen businesses in the United States, mostly in New Jersey and New York but also in Florida, which was determined to be a main focus for the Israeli intelligence operation in the U.S. that was directed against Arabs.
The five Israelis were held in Brooklyn, initially on charges relating to visa fraud. FBI interrogators questioned them for more than two months. Several were held in solitary confinement so they could not communicate with each other and two of them were given repeated polygraph exams, which they failed. The two men that the FBI focused on most intensively were believed to be Mossad staff officers and the other three were volunteers helping with surveillance. Even though the Israelis were not exactly cooperative, the FBI concluded from documents obtained at their office in Weehawken that they were targeting Arabs in New York and New Jersey, including at least two of the 9/11 hijackers.
There are a lot a dots all leading back to Israel that might well have been connected once upon a time, but the trail has grown cold. Police records in New Jersey and New York where the men were held have disappeared and FBI interrogation reports are inaccessible. Media coverage of the case also died, though the five were referred to in the press as the “dancing Israelis” and by some, more disparagingly, as the “dancing Shlomos.”
Inevitably, the George W. Bush White House intervened. After 71 days in detention, the five Israelis were released from prison, put on a plane, and deported. Now it is just possible that Mossad affiliated Urban Moving was indeed uninvolved in 9/11 but it also must be recognized that Israel had the means, ability and access required to bring down the World Trade Center using controlled pancake explosions. More than fifteen years later it is perhaps past time to reveal what exactly the FBI knew and currently knows about both the scale and modus operandi of Israeli espionage in the United States. Did Israel have critical intelligence either in broad outline or possibly in specific detail about 9/11 and let it happen to bind Washington more closely to it in a “global war on terror?”
Questions about just what happened on 9/11 will not go away. Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein has called for a new “independent investigation” because the Bush administration’s initial 9/11 inquiry was “dominated by members with an interest in protecting the reputation and careers of foreign affairs and intelligence communities.” It “was not given enough money, time, or access to relevant classified information.” That “classified information” could well include the role of Israel.
I am no lawyer, but it would seem to me that both Israel and Saudi Arabia might well be pretty good places to start in using litigation to determine just who could have been involved in what was to become the 9/11 terrorist attack. It would indeed be ironic if an Israel-loving Congress has, through its passage of JASTA to squeeze money out of the Saudis, also inadvertently opened the door to finding out just what the Mossad and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were up to back in 2001.
The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) says that Iran has carried out its commitments to the historic nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action
“I can certify that Tehran respects its commitments to the letter. The Iranians are doing what they promised the international community,” said IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano during an interview with the French daily Le Monde on Saturday.
The July 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), struck between Iran and Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States, envisaged Tehran scaling back its nuclear program in return for the lifting of all nuclear-related sanctions on the Islamic Republic.
“The deal is being implemented since January without any particular problem,” he noted. “There was a small incident in February: the stock of heavy water very slightly exceeded the limit set — 130 tones. But we immediately signaled that to Iran which took all the necessary measures.”
In September, the IAEA once again confirmed Iran’s commitment to the landmark nuclear agreement, with Amano at the time noting that the agency would continue evaluating the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran.
In a quarterly report on Iran on September 8, Iran’s commitment to the nuclear agreement was confirmed by the IAEA which is tasked with overseeing the implementation of the JCPOA.
Since January, the IAEA has released regular reports confirming the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear activities and Tehran’s commitment to the agreement.
Iran warns the West to keep its end of the bargain in last year’s nuclear agreement, saying any failure could prompt Tehran to radically reverse the steps it has taken under the deal.
“Should the West fail to live up to its promises, our reversion would not be one to the previous state, but to a state which would be much different from how we used to be prior to the JCPOA,” said head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran Ali Akbar Salehi.
The JCPOA stands for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the nuclear accord signed between Iran and the six major world powers, namely Russia, China, France, Britain, the US and Germany, in July 2015.
The deal, which took effect in January, calls for an end to decades of economic sanctions against Iran in exchange for restrictions on its nuclear program.
However, months after the lifting of anti-Iran bans on paper, major foreign banks are wary of doing business with Iran, fearing they would violate restrictions on US banks and face penalties.
Tehran has criticized Washington and its allies for refusing to translate their words into action and assure the banks that they would not be punished for resuming ties with Iran.
“On the surface, the US says that it is acting commensurate with the JCPOA but behind the scenes, it scares banks by telling them that the slightest mistake would result in this or that consequence,” Salehi said in a Thursday televised interview.
Likewise, Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) Ali Shamkhani criticized obstructive US measures in the implementation of JCPOA.
“If we are to witness obstruction and disruption on the part of the US even in small matters such as the purchase of passenger planes, then we will take more serious decisions to restore our rights,” he said.
Shamkhani further said experience proves that trusting the US in any matter, from the lifting of sanctions to regional developments, is in fact “chasing a mirage.”
Turkey says it is “more than ready” to work with Russia and Iran on a Syrian ceasefire and the delivery of humanitarian aid to the war-torn country.
Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Thursday he discussed the issues of ceasefire and humanitarian aid with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif.
“We are discussing the same issues with our ally Russia,” he said.
“We have to try harder for a ceasefire and political resolution. If Russia is prepared to cooperate with us on the ceasefire and humanitarian aid, we are more than ready,” he said.
Zarif had stopped in Ankara on Wednesday on his way back to Tehran from New York, where he attended the 71st Session of the United Nations General Assembly.
He held closed-door talks with Cavusoglu and Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim during the visit.
An unnamed Turkish diplomatic source said the conflict in Syria was among topics on the agenda of Zarif’s discussions.
This is the third round of talks between the Iranian and Turkish foreign ministers over the past two months.
Iran and Turkey differ over the crisis in Syria. Turkey supports militants, while Iran and Russia assist the Syrian government in its fight against foreign-backed terrorist groups, including Daesh.
Russia has been conducting airstrikes against Daesh and other terrorist groups in Syria at the Syrian government’s request since September 2015. Iran has also been providing advisory assistance to the Syrian government.
On Thursday, Russia said there is a trend for cooperation with Turkey on Syria to be “constructive” now that Moscow and Ankara are mending their ties.
“If need be, joint actions are possible,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, without elaborating.
Earlier this month, Turkish troops entered the Syrian territory in a sudden incursion which resulted in the occupation of Jarablus after Daesh left the city without resistance.
On Sunday, Cavusoglu said Turkey was planning to send troops deeper into Syrian territory to establish what it calls a safe zone.
Kurdish witnesses said on Wednesday Turkey had killed six children and three women in an airstrike in the Syrian border town of Kahila.
Manipulation of public perception has risen to a new level with the emergence of powerful social media. Facebook, Twitter and Google are multibillion dollar corporate giants hugely influencing public understanding. Social media campaigns include paid ‘boosting’ of Facebook posts, paid promotion of Tweets, and biased results from search engines. Marketing and advertising companies use social media to promote their clients. U.S. foreign policy managers hire these companies to influence public perception to support U.S. foreign policy goals. For example, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made sure that Twitter was primed for street protests in Iran following the 2009 election. She insured that Twitter was ready to spread and manage news of protests following the election and strange killing of a young woman. (p 423, Hard Choices hardback).
The results of media manipulation can be seen in the widespread misunderstanding of the conflict in Syria. One element of propaganda around Syria is the demonization of the Syrian government and leadership. Influenced by the mainstream and much alternative media, most in the West do not know that Bashar al Assad is popular with most Syrians. There were three contestants in the Syrian presidential election of June 2014. Turnout was 73% of the registered voters, with 88% voting for Assad. In Beirut, the streets were clogged with tens of thousands of Syrian refugees marching through the city to vote at the Syrian Embassy. Hundreds of Syrian citizens from the USA and other western countries flew to Syria to vote because Syrian Embassies in Washington and other western capitals were shut down. While John Kerry was condemning the Syrian election as a “farce” before it had even happened, a marketing company known as The Syria Campaign waged a campaign to block knowledge of the Syrian election. Along with demonizing President Assad, they launched a campaign which led to Facebook censoring information about the Syrian election.
The Syria Campaign was created by a larger company named “Purpose”. According to their own website they “incubated” The Syria Campaign.
The major achievement of The Syria Campaign has been the branding and promotion of the “White Helmets”. The “White Helmets”, also known as “Syria Civil Defense”, began with a British military contractor, James LeMesurier, giving some rescue training to Syrians in Turkey. Funding was provided by the US and UK. They appropriated the name from a real Syria Civil Defense.
The “White Helmets” are marketed in the West as civilian volunteers doing rescue work. On 22 September 2016 it was announced that the Right Livelihood Award, the so called “Alternative Nobel Prize”, is being given to the US/UK created White Helmets “for their outstanding bravery, compassion and humanitarian engagement in rescuing civilians from the destruction of the Syrian civil war.”
The Right Livelihood organizers may come to regret their selection of the White Helmets because the group is not who they claim to be. In fact, the White Helmets are largely a propaganda tool promoting western intervention against Syria. Unlike a legitimate rescue organization such as the Red Cross or Red Crescent, the “White Helmets” only work in areas controlled by the armed opposition. As shown in this video, the White Helmets pick up the bodies of individuals executed by the terrorists, they claim to be unarmed but are not, and they falsely claim to be neutral. Many of the videos from AlQaeda/terrorist dominated areas of Syria have the “White Helmets” logo because the White Helmets work in alliance with them. This primarily is a media marketing tool to raise public support for continuing the support to the armed opposition as well as the demonization of the Syrian government.
The Rights Livelihood press release says the White Helmets “remain outspoken in calling for an end to hostilities in the country.” That is false. The White Helmets actively call for US/NATO intervention through a “No Fly Zone” which would begin with attacks and destruction of anti-aircraft positions. Taking over the skies above another country is an act of war as confirmed by US General Dempsey. The White Helmets have never criticized or called for the end of funding to extremist organizations including Nusra/AlQaeda. On the contrary, White Helmets is generally embedded with this organization which is defined as “terrorist” by even the USA. That is likely why the head of the White Helmets, Raed Saleh, was denied entry to the USA.
The foreign and marketing company origins of the White Helmets was exposed over one and a half years ago. Since then, Vanessa Beeley has revealed the organization in more depth in articles such as “Who Are the White Helmets?” and “War by Way of Deception“.
Despite these exposes, understanding of the White Helmets is limited. Many liberal and progressive people have uncritically accepted the propaganda and misinformation around Syria. Much of the progressive media has effectively blocked or censored critical examinations amid a flood of propaganda about “barrel bombs” dropped by the ‘brutal dictator” and his “regime”.
In the last week, Netflix started showing a 40 minute documentary movie about the “White Helmets”. It is actually a promotion video. A substantial portion of it takes place in Turkey where we see trainees in hotel rooms making impassioned phone calls to inquire about their family in Syria. The “family values” theme is evident throughout. It’s a good marketing angle, especially effective with females. The political message of the video is also clear: after a bombing attack “It’s the Russians …. they say they are fighting ISIS but they are targeting civilians”. The movie includes video previously promoted by the White Helmets such as the “Miracle Baby” rescue. It’s debatable whether this incident is real or staged. The video includes self promoting proclamations such as “You are real heroes”. While no doubt there are some real rescues in the midst of war, many of the videos purporting to show the heroes at work have an unrealistic and contrived look to them as revealed here.
“Alternative media” in the West has sadly echoed mainstream media regarding the Syria conflict. The result is that many progressive individuals and groups are confused or worse. For example, the activist group CodePink recently issued a media release promoting the Netflix White Helmets propaganda video.
The White Helmets video is produced by Grain Media and Violet Films/Ultra-Violet Consulting. The latter advertises itself as a marketing corporation specializing in social media management, grant writing, crowd building and campaign implementation. The only question is who paid them to produce this video.
There is growing resistance to this manipulation and deception. In response to a petition to give the Nobel Peace Prize to the White Helmets, there is a counter petition at Change.org. The Right Livelihood Awards have just been announced and there will soon be a petition demanding retraction of the award to the White Helmets.
The story of the White Helmets is principally a “feel good” hoax to manipulate public perception about the conflict in Syria and continue the drive for “regime change”. That’s why big money was paid to “Purpose” to “incubate” The Syria Campaign to brand and promote the White Helmets using Facebook, Twitter, etc. That’s why big money was paid to create a self-promotional documentary. The judges at Rights Livelihood were probably influenced by the documentary since critical examination of facts around Syria is so rare. It’s a sad commentary on the media. As Stephen Kinzer recently said,
“Coverage of the Syrian war will be remembered as one of the most shameful episodes in the history of the American press.”
Rick Sterling is a retired aerospace engineer who now does research/writing on international issues. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has ruled out the establishment of a no-fly zone in Syria, stressing that such a measure would merely complicate the ongoing crisis in the Arab country and strengthen foreign-sponsored Takfiri militants on the ground.
“A no-fly zone (in Syria) will benefit terrorists, who have everything except for military aircraft,” Rouhani said during a presser after his speech at the 71st United Nations General Assembly session in New York on Thursday.
“They have mortar shells, tanks, missiles and armored personnel carriers. They have cannons and artillery batteries but no warplanes. The creation of a no-fly zone is a not a right step. This is an ill-advised suggestion,” the Iranian president added.
On Wednesday, US Secretary of State John Kerry demanded that Russia and the Syrian government halt anti-terror flights over the Syrian battle zones in order to “restore credibility” to the efforts aimed at resolving the Arab country’s years-long crisis.
The Iranian president noted that humanitarian disasters are unfolding in Syria as a portion of the country’s soil is under the control of terrorist groups like Daesh and Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, Syria’s al-Qaeda branch formerly known as al-Nusra Front).
“They kill people. They burn victims alive. The crimes we witness are unprecedented in history,” the Iranian president said.
The Iranian president further made a reference to the plight of millions of Syrians, who have been internally displaced and have not received the necessary foodstuff and medicine for months due to the foreign-backed militancy in their homeland.
He also listed the delivery of humanitarian aid, the fight against terrorism, the participation of various political groups and factions in the future Syrian government through a popular vote as the main requirements for real democracy to flourish in the crisis-hit Arab country.
‘Terrorism contagious virus’
Elsewhere in his remarks, the Iranian president highlighted the significance of combating terrorism and extremism in the Middle East, which he described as “plagued by instability and insecurity” that has “spread to other parts of the world too.”
“It has plagued Europe, Africa, Asia, and America. The terrorism virus is contagious,” Rouhani stated, adding, “The issue of terrorism must be tackled with unity and collaboration, and failure to do so will endanger all of us.”
Iran’s nuclear agreement
Broaching the subject of the landmark nuclear deal between Iran and the six world powers, President Rouhani criticized the US government for the belated license to allow the sale of commercial airliners to Iran, stating that the green light must have been given right after the implementation of the agreement, dubbed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), on January 16.
Iran has had numerous negotiations with leading aerospace companies Boeing and Airbus before and after the implementation of the nuclear agreement, he added.
Rouhani stated that Tehran welcomes American traders, technicians, business owners plus company representatives, and is determined to expand banking ties with world countries.
The Iranian president further noted that the Islamic Republic expects the United States to stand firmly committed to its obligations under the JCPOA.
He stressed that the JCPOA is in the interest of the region and the world, and its significance remains intact even if the other side does not honor its commitments under the nuclear accord.
‘Iranian Armed Forces not seeking adventurism’
Rouhani stressed that the Iranian Armed Forces have long been present in the Persian Gulf, and they are duty-bound to defend the country’s territory and airspace, and to secure its interests in the high seas.
He pointed out that the Iranian forces are not seeking adventurism, military confrontations or the escalation of tensions, questioning the presence of US forces in the Persian Gulf when Washington is not militarily involved in a war in the Middle East.
The Iranian president added that the American forces in the region must obey international regulations, highlighting that tensions would not benefit anyone at the current tense situation in the Middle East.
Saudi ‘miscalculation’ in Yemen
“Saudi Arabia is making a miscalculation” over its aggression against Yemen. About two years of bombardment of Yemen has had no achievement for them, and has been devastating for the people of Yemen,” the Iranian president said.
Hundreds of thousands of Yemeni women and children are being slaughtered on a daily basis, while the country’s entire infrastructure has been destroyed, he added.
The Iranian president further noted that Saudi Arabia does not have unlimited authority over the holy sites in Mecca and Medina, and that the Riyadh regime must discharge its responsibility regarding the annual Hajj rituals.
‘Not important who wins US election’
Rouhani went on to say that it does not concern Iran who wins the forthcoming presidential election in the United States, stressing that the Islamic Republic attaches great significance to “its own national interests.”
“The next US administration will receive a proper response from Iran should it respect the Islamic Republic’s national interests and reduce tensions. But if it seeks to heighten tensions, new conditions will be created for the two countries,” the Iranian president added.
The Iranian interior minister says the UN has failed to provide Tehran with sufficient aid to help the country cover the expenses of the services it is offering to refugees on its soil, particularly Afghan nationals.
Abdolreza Rahmani-Fazli made the remarks in a Tuesday meeting with UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Filippo Grandi in New York.
The Iranian minister traveled to New York to attend the UN General Assembly High-Level Meeting on Refugees and Migrants, which addresses large movements of refugees and migrants.
Rahmani-Fazli further voiced Iran’s concern over the situation of illegal migrants, which has created many problems for both the Iranian government and people.
“The United Nations and relevant international institutions should provide the Afghan government with more serious” assistance so it can organize and secure the repatriation of its nationals, he added.
Foreign assistance to Iran only covers less than three percent of its expenses in dealing with the refugees it is sheltering, said Rahmani-Fazli, urging international aid bodies to take more responsibility “in providing the required expenditure to take care of the healthcare, medical, educational and food costs of refugees and displaced people.”
Iran has been hosting large numbers of Afghan refugees, who fled wars and conflicts in their country. In recent years, Tehran has been urging the Afghan nationals to return home voluntarily to contribute to the reconstruction of their homeland.
More than 350,000 Afghan refugee children are now going to school in Iran while some 48,000 undocumented Afghan children were allowed last year to enroll for the first time in Iranian public schools, according to UNHCR.
Fazli called for efforts to restore security to the countries grappling with terror groups and help them improve their economic conditions as the only “realistic” approach towards stemming mass migrations and displacements.
For his part, Grandi said his observations during a visit to Iran in June showed that the country’s attitude towards refugees “is a model in the world.”
Also on Tuesday, the Iranian interior minister met with Swiss Head of the Department of Justice and Police Simonetta Sommaruga as well as Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has once again confirmed Iran’s commitment to a landmark nuclear agreement Tehran signed with the six world powers last year.
“Iran continues to implement its nuclear-related commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA),” IAEA Director General Yukiya Amanon said in an introductory statement to the agency’s Board of Governors in Vienna on Monday.
He added that his report on Verification and monitoring in the Islamic Republic of Iran in light of United Nations Security Council resolution 2231 (2015) summarizes the verification and monitoring activities conducted by the UN nuclear agency in the last few months.
The IAEA chief said Iran has submitted its declarations under the Additional Protocol, which Tehran is applying provisionally, pending its entry into force.
“The Agency continues to verify the non-diversion of nuclear material declared by Iran under its Safeguards Agreement,” Amano pointed out.
He noted that the IAEA would continue evaluating the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran.
In a quarterly report on Iran on September 8, the IAEA confirmed Iran’s commitment to the nuclear agreement reached between the Islamic Republic and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council – the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia – plus Germany on July 14, 2015.
The UN nuclear agency, which is tasked with overseeing the implementation of the JCPOA, said Tehran has not exceeded the limits set in the accord on its low-enriched uranium and heavy water stockpile.
Under the JCPOA, which took effect in January, Iran undertook to put limitations on its nuclear program in exchange for the removal of nuclear-related bans imposed against Tehran.
The deal requires Iran’s storage of uranium enriched to up to 3.67 percent purity to stay below 300 kilograms. Tehran has also agreed to keep its heavy water stockpile below 130 metric tonnes.
Since January, the IAEA has released regular reports confirming the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear activities and Tehran’s commitment to the agreement.
In April, the IAEA director general hailed Iran for respecting the nuclear accord, saying the Islamic Republic has even gone beyond its obligations.