Since the collapse of the USSR, and the inception of the unipolar world order with the United States at its center, the term ‘benevolent hegemony’ has entered the lexicon of international relations and geopolitics. The full fleshing out of this idea was revealed in the 1996 essay by American neoconservatives Bill Kristol and Robert Kagan, ‘Toward a Neo-Reaganite Foreign Policy’. Its essence is an excuse for the United States to pursue whichever diplomatic and military means are believed to forward the goals of an American Empire, on the basis that unlike past empires, this one is not based on the prestige of the American people, or indeed any given leader, but instead on a set of ‘universal values and principles’ which are supposedly positive for all who live under them. One need only look at the neoconservatives themselves and come to the conclusion that they certainly do not represent the interests of the American people, as their international operations rarely have any positive impact for working men and women, and in fact very often engender negative consequences for them. Nor could it be said that neoconservatives aid the prestige of a given leader, as their legacy of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan destroyed the presidential legacy of George W. Bush, and notably his British ally Tony Blair.
This is excusable of course, because it has never been claimed by the neoconservative establishment that their policies are crafted with these people in mind. They are in aid of an ideology, and because most Westerners suffer under the delusion that this ideology is itself benevolent, then the means that America uses to propagate and expand its influence must also be benevolent. Slowly however, this facade is beginning to peel away.
Tom Rogan, a foreign policy analyst for the neoconservative publication National Review recently penned an article describing ‘Three Ways the US Can Save Syria‘. Obviously this is in response to the fact that America is being defeated in the country, the Syrian Army’s gradual recapture of Aleppo being just the latest blow to the terrorist rebel groups agitating against the legitimate government. If President Assad ends the insurgency of terrorists, then the American Empire loses not only in terms of its original geopolitical goals which spurred its meddling, but in terms of international prestige, especially among the nations of the Middle East. In light of this, Rogan’s urgent recommendations make sense, but in his zeal he gives the world a very clear picture of what ‘benevolent hegemony’ looks like.
The first recommendation concerns the oil market. Russia, the key counter-force to the United States in Syria, has been economically harmed by a dramatic dip in global oil prices, Russia is presently in talks with OPEC members about capping oil production, which would raise the price back up to reasonable levels. Rogan proposes diplomatic interference with this effort (mainly involving Saudi Arabia) in order to do as much economic damage to Russia as possible. The carrot he wishes to lead the Saudis with is the proposal for surface-to-air missiles given to allied rebel groups in Syria, but could just as easily be more rockets for Saudi aircraft to target funerals in Yemen.
Consider how benevolent this is; the stated aim being to wound a sovereign nation’s economy and by extension its people, the means being to arm dangerous groups within a sovereign nation in order that they can kill more civilian and government targets.
The second recommendation is perhaps the most alarming, as it can be perceived to be a direct terror threat against the nation of Turkey and its president, Tayyip Erdogan. Rogan acknowledges that after the failed July coup orchestrated against America’s own supposed NATO ally, the country does not trust the US, and is seeking to mend relations with Russia. For a long time, the relationship between Syria and Turkey was decidedly negative, but as the war has dragged on and millions of the displaced have flooded across borders with no checks on their movement, Ankara knows that stability in Syria is in fact vital to its own national security interests, and has thus moved away from its previous position on the conflict. In response to this setback, Rogan has the following proposition:
“Here America’s golden ticket is the Kurds — specifically, U.S. armament support to Kurdish militias such as the Syrian-based YPG. At present, the U.S. carefully qualifies its support to the YPG to mollify the Turks. Erdogan fears U.S. support will enable the YPG and other Kurdish forces to destabilize Turkey’s southern frontier. And to some degree he is right. But if Erdogan wants to play us, we should play him.”
In case the severity of this is not clear, the insinuation is that if Turkey does not end rapprochement with Russia and pursue an aggressively anti-Assad agenda, the American military should arm groups it knows may conduct violent attacks against the Turkish state. Is there any way this cannot be taken as blackmail via terror, and if so how benevolent is such a proposal?
The third recommendation is to supply “humanitarian airlifts” to rebel-held areas of Syria. Rogan recollects the Bush-era airlifts to Georgia during the 2008 crisis, but there is a key difference between the two scenarios. In 2008, Georgia was a sovereign nation undergoing an incredibly complex regional dispute with breakaway provinces, but nevertheless the government there invited American assistance. This is not the case in Syria, where the government has expressed no permission for America to even enter its airspace, an international norm which the American Air Force has been violating for over a year now. In fact, in the wake of the brutal air assault on Deir el-Zour which killed 62 Syrian soldiers, President Assad has been even more strident in making its long-held case that Western powers are working hand-in-glove with ISIS. This proposal more than the other two brings the world dangerously close to a conflict that nobody wants to even entertain, as Rogan recommends escorting these “humanitarian airlifts” with “fighter patrols” who would challenge Russian air superiority. Is laying the groundwork for WWIII benevolent?
Rogan finishes his essay by explaining that the goal of these dangerous pieces of foreign policy advice is to express “that America is unwilling to cede Syria to Russia”, apparently indulging in a fantasy that America ever possessed Syria, and indeed with a staggering sense of authority that the entire nation of Syria is something which can and should be possessed by America.
This is the not the first example of this kind of rhetoric coming from mainstream Western think-tanks and foreign policy journals which are intricately tied into the workings of the US State Department, however it is one of the less varnished ones. There is not even the mask of benevolence present in these proposals; they are dangerous, lawless, and cynical. If Hillary Clinton wins the presidency, she has made clear that this is the course she will take.
In a secret speech to Goldman Sachs which was revealed by Wikileaks, Clinton admitted the following regarding a no-fly zone in Syria:
“They’re getting more sophisticated thanks to Russian imports. To have a no-fly zone you have to take out all of the air defense, many of which are located in populated areas. So our missiles, even if they are standoff missiles so we’re not putting our pilots at risk—you’re going to kill a lot of Syrians”
And yet, even with this understanding, Hillary Clinton maintains support for the institution of a no-fly zone. Donald Trump of course represents the antithesis of such a hazardous foreign policy, abandoning the commitments of neoconservatives and their ideology, in order to focus on the various internal problems that his country faces. Even so we cannot rely on a Trump victory, for by now we are all aware of the Clinton campaign’s ability to martial all of her friends and colleagues in the Orwellian media, as well as stoop to even more subversive means to steal an election result. We must assume the worst, and thus we must assume and anticipate President Clinton and her craven approach to geopolitics. De-constructing the myth of ‘benevolent hegemony’ is an important part of this anticipation, and writers like Rogan help with this effort in their bungling inability to bejewel the ugly reality of the Atlanticist designs upon the Middle East and indeed the wider world.
Dropping the pretense of benevolence, this is just hegemony, and when we look at its consequences not just for the suffering people of Syria, but also Yemen, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Ukraine, etc. then perhaps these outlets ought to be more accurate and deem such projects ‘malevolent hegemony’ instead.
Probably the most influential weekly political magazines in the United Kingdom are The Economist, The Spectator, and The New Statesman. All have published their latest editions in the last couple of days. Here are the results. Putin’s ‘winning in propaganda’ it says at the bottom of The Spectator’s cover. I think not.
An Associated Press story parroted by hundreds of mainstream media outlets today is symbolic of all that is wrong in world news today. Sarah El Deeb paints a heroic portrait of a jihadist stronghold with, calling the embattled city the “Jewel” of Syrian rebellion. With personal touches and misleading nuance, the AP writer condemns Russia and Assad’s Syrian army, while at the same time creating 270,000 holdouts at a modern Alamo. The piece is ludicrous in its clear propaganda speak.
Russia and Syria have been bombing the streets of eastern Aleppo into rubble, as Al Nusra and other extremists congealed against Assad’s legitimate government are holed up with tens of thousands of hostages at gun and knife-point. Ordinary residents held hostage, not even allowed to leave as humanitarian corridors open up, are lumped in with the “head choppers” and snipers, and the suicide bombers Washington and its allies have sponsored.
The writer makes use of an infant born in Aleppo, the child of Ibrahim al-Haj, in order to add credibility to utter contrivance. Mother’s milk, starvation, and an uncertain future from the AP are provocative indeed. Then, there it is again, the “jewel” emblem:
“Families like al-Haj’s across Aleppo’s opposition-held eastern districts are wrestling with how to get by day to day. They’re also weighed down with the fear that all their dreams for the crown jewel of the opposition’s territory are on the verge of collapse.”
In the midst of the most horrific regime change in the last 30 years, Associated Press pounds out a fantasy tale of a “shining city” at peace with the world before the current siege began. El Deeb spins a handsome tale of Aleppo, independent from horrid Assad, and trading with Turkey and the world on its own accord! Reading the fantasy my mind wanders to the uneducated reader in America, and whole people’s wondering why the great hope America has not rode in guns blazing already. Then I snap-to and wonder at how many people Associated Press has gotten killed these last 5 years?
The AP cocktail is a mix of liquid democracy, Operation Inherent Resolve, and soap opera detergent sales turned to TOW Missile request. The relentless Russian air assault, brutal Syrian soldiers feared for their massacring ways, and little Laith the infant make for a powerful propaganda punch. At least, that is, if one knows nothing about what has happened in Syria. The author ends the piece with a domestic note of husband-wife squabbling straight out of NBC afternoons studios. Bickering over there being no bread, unfortunate family featured in this are leveraged like crowbars in order to pry tears and anger from American readers.
There’s no mention in the article about hospitals turned into terrorist triage centers and sniper nests. Sarah El Deeb, whose work also appears in The Times of Israel and Military Times, never goes so far as to tell readers about how Laith and his family cannot leave, even with a ceasefire, for fear of being gunned down by these “rebels”. No, these little children and their parents are Jihadists too, at least in her eyes. The whole of east Aleppo is united as one, like Texans holding out against the evil Mexican President General Antonio López de Santa Anna. The former ARD German Radio producer is not the only biased reporter on the Aleppo beat though. From the BBC to the Boston Herald everybody has the same story. Unfortunately the story is not accurate, and because it is not many more people are going to die.
Russia’s Ministry of Defense was blamed not long ago for bombing an aid convoy. Like most such stories, it went away after some scrutiny. Even though the US broke a previous ceasefire and even attacked Assad’s forces, AP fails to carry that side. When the humanitarian corridors opened up this time, the Russian Ministry of Defense was ready, live streaming the checkpoints so there could be no false flag or provocation before the world. Next we heard reports of killings in east Aleppo, and no civilians taking their bombarded children from the militarized zone. Still, the mighty members of the Associated Press corps were silent. The News York Times, the US State Department, and even France’s Francois Hollande scream and scream; “Those barbarian Russians! War crimes, war crimes!”
But the real crime is committed with the mighty pen, at least its digital equivalent. The New York Times picks up an AP report and tells of the mysterious evacuation that isn’t. It’s as if everyone left there is waiting to be tucked under Obama’s or Hillary Clinton’s wing. Maybe they are willing to sacrifice their children to the Jihad, but somehow I doubt it. The Associated Press is culpable, and I hope each and every one of them takes my admonition personally. This is the end of truth in media, the carnage of the pen.
On Wednesday, the Guardian released an article titled “U.S. and U.K. reject Russian offer of ‘pause’ in airstrikes on Syria.” Aside from the fact it’s riddled with the outlet’s usual pro-U.S.-U.K. and anti-Russian propaganda, the article sank to the lowest of possible lows in an attempt to present the Russian military as an aggressor in Aleppo in which there are allegedly no terrorist groups — only moderate fighting forces.
How? By citing the leader of a terrorist group.
Al-Farouk Abu Bakr, an Aleppo commander in the “powerful Islamist group” Ahrar al-Sham said, speaking from Aleppo:
“‘When we took up arms at the start of the revolution to defend our abandoned people we promised God that we would not lay them down until the downfall of this criminal regime,’ he said, referring to President Bashar al-Assad’s government.”
“There are no terrorists in Aleppo.” [emphasis added]
There are many issues with the Guardian’s publication of this statement. First, in the Guardian’s latest apparent attempt to see how gullible its readers are, the outlet neglects to explain the ideological leanings of Ahrar al-Sham (which is not surprising when you analyze it). Ahrar al-Sham is heavily affiliated with Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (formerly known as Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaeda’s official Syrian branch) and has conducted numerous operations together with the al-Qaeda affiliate. The group also used to work with ISIS until January 2014 and only parted ways after ISIS killed one of their members — not because the groups shared any noticeable differing ideologies.
The group has at least 20,000 members, and its stated goal is to establish a Sunni Islamic state within Syria (what would happen to all of the sects of Syrian society?). In 2013, Human Rights Watch reported they massacred 190 civilians and seized over 200 civilians simply because the villagers were from an Alawite-dominated part of Latakia.
If they are not a terrorist group, then what are they?
Further, one cannot ignore that these media outlets are so quick to interview or quote fanatical jihadists yet won’t even lend the same respect to Russian, Iranian, or Syrian military officials. The aforementioned are, after all, fighting against the same fanatical jihadists the Western powers have claimed to be fighting for decades.
The most intellectually damaging aspect of this report is that the same article prefaces the above terrorist leader’s statement with the following paragraph, effectively canceling out its own narrative:
“The Russians appear to be trying to work round both Britain and France by attempting to win the support of Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar for a ceasefire that will put pressure on al-Nusra front fighters to leave Aleppo. Estimates of the number of al-Nusra fighters in the city vary between 400 and 900. In Moscow, Shoigu explained Russia is ‘asking the countries wielding influence with the [Syrian] rebels … to persuade their leaders to end fighting and leave the city.’
“Russia has improved its relations with Turkey, and neither Turkey or Saudi Arabia say they want al-Nusra to remain in Aleppo. America has also condemned the al-Nusra presence, saying despite a name change the group remains ideologically affiliated to al-Qaida.” [emphasis added]
So, there are no terrorist groups in Aleppo? But even the Americans have condemned their ‘non-existence?’ Why condemn something that isn’t there?
The Guardian has been the recipient of the British National Newspaper of the Year four times (including as recently as 2013), the Bevins Prize for investigative journalism, and the Best Newspaper category three years running between 2005-2007, among others.
But Bob Dylan just won the Nobel Prize for literature following a career of writing no literature, so maybe this really is great journalism and we are the morons for not being able to understand it.
It has become crystal clear.
For the record, here it is.
She has big ambitions, which she does not spell out for fear of frightening part of the electorate, but which are perfectly understood by her closest aides and biggest donors.
She wants to achieve regime change in Russia.
She enjoys the support of most of the State Department and much of the Pentagon, and Congress is ready to go.
The method: a repeat of the 1979 Brezinski ploy, which consisted of luring Moscow into Afghanistan, in order to get the Russians bogged down in their “Vietnam”. As the Russians are a much more peace-loving people, largely because of what they suffered in two World Wars, the Russian involvement in Afghanistan was very unpopular and can be seen as a cause of the collapse of the Soviet Union.
This led to the temporary reign of the drunken Boris Yeltsin who – as recounted in Strobe Talbott’s memoirs – was putty in the hands of Bill Clinton. Hillary would like to renew that sort of relationship. Putin is an obstacle.
The new version of this old strategy is to use Russia’s totally legal and justifiable efforts to save Syria from destruction in order to cause enough Russian casualties to incite anti-Putin reaction in Russia leading to his overthrow. (Note State Department spokesman John Kirby’s recent warning that Russia will soon be “sending troops home in body bags”.)
That is the prime reason why the United States is doing everything to keep the Syrian war dragging on and on. The joint Syrian-Russian offensive to recapture the rebel-held Eastern sections of Aleppo might lead to an early end of the war. U.S. reaction: a huge propaganda campaign condemning this normal military operation as “criminal”, while driving ISIS forces out of Mosul with attacks from the East, so that they will move westward into Syria, to fight against the Assad government.
Ukraine is another theater for weakening Putin.
Hillary Clinton’s ambition – made explicit by her own and her close aides’ statements about Libya in emails at the time – is to gain her place in history as victorious strategist of “regime change”, using open and covert methods (“smart power”), thus bringing recalcitrant regions under control of the “exceptional, good” nation, the United States.
This ambition is backed by possession of nuclear weapons.
I am by no means saying that this plan will succeed. But it is very clearly the plan.
The electoral circus is a distraction from such crucially serious matters.
Diana Johnstone is the author of Fools’ Crusade: Yugoslavia, NATO, and Western Delusions. Her new book is Queen of Chaos: the Misadventures of Hillary Clinton. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Russophobic rants by some European Union leaders and their willful distortion of events in Syria is a reflection of why the 28-member bloc is careering toward disaster. We are witnessing a crisis of appallingly inept leadership.
German, British and French leaders were among the most hawkish voices at the EU leaders’ summit in Brussels this week, denouncing what they claimed were Russian “war crimes” in Syria and calling for additional economic sanctions on both Moscow and Damascus.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Russian-backed Syrian air strikes were “inhumane and cruel,” while Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May took the “most shrill prize” with her condemnation of Moscow’s “sickening atrocities.”
French President Francois Hollande echoed their calls for the EU to slap more sanctions on Russia – in addition to those the bloc has implemented over the Ukraine conflict.
This came only days after Belgian F-16 fighter jets reportedly killed six civilians in the Aleppo countryside, adding to a catalog of illegal aggression committed in Syria by French, British and American warplanes bombing the country without any legal mandate.
In the end, good sense among certain member states prevailed, and the EU summit concluded without imposing additional punitive measures. As the Financial Times reported: “Italy’s Renzi forces a retreat from new sanctions on Russia… Germany, France and UK rein in demand for fresh EU sanctions over Aleppo bombardment.”
Italy, Spain, Austria, Hungary, Greece, Malta and Cyprus were some of the EU members wary of escalating economic and political problems already incurred from loss of trade with Russia over the Ukraine debacle.
Britain’s premier May gave a particularly asinine speech in Brussels. She called for a “robust and united European stance in the face of Russian aggression.” This from the leader of a government currently embroiled in bitter rows over its divorce from the EU.
So, the British leader wants to bequeath even more tension and economic hardship between the people of Europe and Russia, just before she packs up Britain’s membership.
In the Russophobic rousing, European Council President Donald Tusk also excelled. Despite the EU summit rejecting the adoption of more sanctions against Russia over Syria, Tusk was later threatening that such measures remained an option. Tusk had regaled the summit with a list of alleged Russian “misdemeanors” including “air-space violations, disinformation campaigns, cyber-attacks, interference in the EU’s political processes and beyond. Hybrid tools in the Balkans, to developments in the MH17 investigation.”
Then he declared: “Given these examples, it is clear that Russia’s strategy is to weaken the EU.”
Please note that Tusk is supposed to be a leading light for the EU as it negotiates a raft of existential problems, from intractable international trade deals, migration and border disputes, anti-EU political parties, and ongoing economic stagnation for 500 million citizens.
But if Tusk and other EU leaders like Merkel and Hollande can come out with such inane views on Russia, what chance has the bloc got in dealing effectively with other challenging issues? No wonder, EU citizens are losing respect and faith in political leaders when they are seen to be so utterly incompetent and detached from reality.
Yet to make matters even worse, Tusk and his Russophobic ilk turn around and blame the imploding EU crisis on alleged Russian plots to “weaken and divide.”
Just ahead of the EU leaders’ summit in Brussels, Merkel and Hollande met Russian President Vladimir Putin in Berlin for a conference on the Ukraine crisis. The Kiev regime’s President Petro Poroshenko was also in attendance.
The Berlin meeting did not result in any progress toward resolving the Ukraine dispute. While the German and French leaders wanted to penalize Russia over alleged violations in Syria, they seemed oblivious to hundreds of attacks by Kiev’s armed forces on civilian centers in breakaway eastern Ukraine. The assassination of a military commander in the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic last week by suspected Kiev agents has heightened fears of a return to all-out war.
Where are Merkel and Hollande’s condemnations and calls for sanctions on the Kiev authorities whom they patronize with billions of dollars in financial aid and NATO military support?
Also, Merkel, Hollande and Britain’s May have little to say about recorded “cruel, inhumane, sickening” massacres in Yemen committed by the Saudi coalition bombing that country. Their silence no doubt is owing to the fact that their governments sell billions of dollars worth of weapons to the Saudi regime even as it slaughters women and children in Yemen.
And, indeed, let’s talk about Syria and the besieged northern city of Aleppo.
The crimes that European leaders allege against Russia and its Syrian ally are based on unverified claims issued by dubious networks evidently under the control of the anti-government militants. The militants besieging east Aleppo are dominated by head-chopping terrorist groups like the internationally proscribed Jabhat Al-Nusra.
When Russia unilaterally implemented a temporary ceasefire this week in Aleppo, an innovative live-streaming broadcast from the appointed humanitarian corridors proved once again the real nature of the violence.
Civilians trapped in the militant-held areas were shown to be held as “human shields” by the insurgents. While buses and other vehicles were waiting to ferry civilians out of the conflict zone, video footage recorded militants shelling and sniping at the humanitarian aid effort.
Those violations corroborated what citizens in east Aleppo have been saying for a long time – that they are being held against their will by the gunmen. Besieged people are even calling on the Syrian and Russian forces to continue in their operations to break the hostage situation and liberate that part of the city.
All across Syria, hundreds of villages and towns have been liberated by the Syrian army and its Russian allies since Putin ordered his air force to intervene in the stricken country at the end of last year.
One of the recent successes was the town of Qudsaya near the capital Damascus. Last week, thousands of residents rallied in the main square cheering President Bashar Assad, the Syrian army and Russia for their “liberation” after the foreign-backed mercenaries were routed from the town.
The foreign backers of the mercenary army that has plunged Syria into horror since March 2011 – with perhaps half a million dead – include the supposedly leading EU members Britain and France. Hollande is on record for admitting that France supplied weapons to insurgents in Syria as far back as 2012, when the siege of Aleppo began, and in breach of a European arms embargo.
What is going on in Syria is a military victory over a foreign-sponsored terrorist war on that country. Russia’s role in the liberation of Syria is principled and commendable.
Those who should be facing prosecution for war crimes include pious, pompous government leaders, past and present, in London and Paris.
If such prominent EU governments can be so wrong and distorting about something so glaringly obvious as Syria and Russia’s support, then no wonder the EU is in free-fall over so many other pressing matters. With criminally incompetent politicians in power, the EU is a bus with its driver slumped at the wheel.
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.
Russia insists two Belgium warplanes flying from an Air Force base in Jordan attacked a village in Syria, citing radar data. Belgium denies conducting any airstrikes.
Brussels’ continued denial of the jets movements in the area is Belgian Defense Minister Steven Vandeput “deliberately deceiving people in Belgium and elsewhere in the world, or his subordinates and the Americans are lying to the leadership of Belgium,” Russian Defense Ministry spokesman General Igor Konashenkov said.
An airstrike on the village of Hassadjek in Aleppo province reportedly killed six civilians on Tuesday. Russia has now reiterated its accusations against Belgium, saying data from Russian and Syrian radar stations confirm it.
The two Belgian F-16 jets accused of the attack flew from the Muwaffaq Salti Airbase in Jordan, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman General Igor Konashenkov said, adding that they were immediately identified.
“Every aircraft type has a unique identifiable signature,” he said.
The Belgian warplanes delivered their strike at the village at 12:35 GMT, about two hours after the take-off, the general said. The attack left six civilians killed and four others injured. The jets were later refueled by a US KC-135 tanker, continued patrolling around the city of Azaz in northwestern Syria and then flew towards Iraq, Konashenkov added.
Belgium earlier denied Russia’s accusations, saying none of its six warplanes contributing to the US-led coalition had flown over the region. The Foreign Ministry summoned the Russian ambassador to Brussels to voice its protest.
White Helmets Phenom
Unknown to most people, the White Helmets brand was conceived and directed by a marketing company named “The Syria Campaign” based in New York. They have managed to fool millions of people. Walt Disney might have made a great movie about this: unarmed volunteers fearlessly rescuing survivors in the midst of war without regard to religion or politics. Like most other “true life” Disney movies, it is 10% reality, 90% fiction.
Due to its success, Western countries are dedicating ever larger amounts of funding. The White Helmets were the 17 October TIME magazine cover story. Nikolas Kristof at the NY Times has gushed over them for years. They recently won a 2016 Right Livelihood Award. Netflix has recently released a special ‘documentary’ movie about the White Helmets. With impeccable timing, the mainstream media acclaim reached a crescendo with both the UK Guardian and The Independent calling on the Nobel Committee to award this year’s Nobel Peace Prize to the White Helmets.
It’s not just establishment that has gushed over the White Helmets. CODEPINK recommended the Netflix movie and DemocracyNow! ran a puff piece interview with the infomercial directors. The Intercept published an uncritical promotion of the White Helmets and their dubious leader. (CODEPINK received a lot of criticism and later issued a correction.)
The Reality Behind the White Helmet Image
In contrast with the uncritical promotion of the White Helmets, there have been some investigations of their reality during the past 1.5 years. This timeline shows the early investigations. In April 2015 Dissident Voice published an expose of their actual creation and purpose. Since then there have been an increasing number of articles and videos revealing what is behind the ‘feel good’ veneer. Vanessa Beeley has produced numerous articles including documentation of the REAL Syrian Civil Defense which was founded six decades ago. She initiated an online Change.org petition which gathered 3.3 thousand signatures to NOT GIVE THE NOBEL PEACE PRIZE to the WHITE HELMETS. That was twice as many signatures as the petition to GIVE the Nobel Prize to them. Apparently that fact upset someone influential because Change.org removed the petition without explanation. Did it violate “community standards”? You can judge for yourself because the petition is shown here.
Another online petition, also at CHANGE.ORG, is still up and running. It calls on the Right Livelihood Foundation to RETRACT their award to the White Helmets. The petition includes ten reasons they do not deserve the prize and are not what they are presented to be. They stole the name Syria Civil Defense from the real Syrian organization. They appropriated the name “White Helmets” from the Argentinian rescue organization Cascos Blancos/White Helmets. They are not independent; they are funded by governments. They are not apolitical; they actively campaign for a No Fly Zone. They do not work across Syria; they ONLY work in areas controlled by the armed opposition, mostly Nusa/Al Qaeda. They are not unarmed; they sometimes do carry weapons and they also celebrate terrorist victories. They assist in terrorist executions.
In recent weeks, information about the true nature of the White Helmets has been spreading. Max Blumenthal has a two part expose at Alternet: “How the White Helmets became International Heroes while Pushing US Intervention and Regime Change in Syria” and “Inside the Shadowy PR Firm that’s Lobbying for Regime Change in Syria” Scott Ritter has written an article which critically looks at the White Helmets’ “lionization”. Internationally, the Israeli TV station I24 ran a special report with the title “White Helmets: Heroes or Hoax?”, giving equal coverage to supporters and critics. Even The National out of United Arab Emirates has documented the controversy around the White Helmets.
Franklin Lamb Lashes Out at White Helmet Critics
Some supporters of the White Helmets have lashed back. The British military contractor who initially set up the organization has accused his critics of being ‘proxies’ for the Syrian and Russian governments. And in recent days, Franklin Lamb leaped to the defense of the White Helmets with an article titled “Political Defamation Campaign targets Rescue Workers in Syria.”
Lamb’s critique is almost as misleading as the group he defends. It appears he has not read many of the serious criticisms and exposes of the White Helmets. He does not provide references or sources so that a reader can compare his description with what critics actually said.
Lamb accuses critics of waging a “malicious campaign” against the Syrian Arab Red Crescent and International Committee of the Red Cross as well as the White Helmets. That is false. Here is what has been actually said: “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.” The online petition to RETRACT the Right Livelihood Award says “The NATO White Helmets actually undermine and detract from the work of authentic organizations such as the REAL Syria Civil Defense and Syrian Arab Red Crescent.”
Lamb echoes White Helmet propaganda by repeatedly referring to them as volunteers. But they are not. They are all paid — with the White Helmet media managers in Brooklyn New York, Gaziantep Turkey and Beirut Lebanon making sizable salaries. As to the on-the-ground ‘White Helmets’ based Nusra territory in Aleppo and Idlib, they are paid much more than full time Syrian soldiers for their part time real and staged rescue operations.
Lamb laments the fact that MSF (Medicins Sans Frontiers/Doctors without Borders) has been criticized. However, MSF has shown itself to be politically biased. The organization has no staff inside Syria yet continues to issue statements as if they had clear compelling evidence when it seems they do not. Recently MSF claimed that four hospitals in terrorist controlled sectors of East Aleppo had been bombed and two doctors injured. They do not identify the names or locations of the hospitals or the names of the doctors. The report is apparently based on hearsay.
Perhaps MSF does not identify the name or location of the hospitals because when they did report names and locations, such as with Al Quds Hospital in April 2016, it was found that their report was inconsistent and full of contradictions. MSF claimed “According to hospital staff on the ground, the hospital was destroyed by at least one airstrike which directly hit the building, reducing it to rubble.” Photographs from before and after the event showed this assertion to be untrue. The so called “Al Quds Hospital” was an unidentified largely vacant apartment building with sandbags at the ground floors. MSF’s bias is also shown by the fact they refuse to provide any services or support to the 90% of the Syrian population which is in government controlled areas. MSF has not responded to a previous open letter questioning their bias. Nor have they responded to invitations to visit government controlled Aleppo to evaluate the reality versus the claims of their allies in Nusra/Al Qaeda territory.
Lamb says “The White Helmets are being attacked with all sorts of unfounded accusations and conspiracy theories.” On the contrary, the evidence is overwhelming. White Helmets are funded by Western governments which want ‘regime change’. White Helmets pick up bodies after execution. White Helmets carry weapons and celebrate jihadi victories. White Helmets ONLY work in areas dominated by Nusra or an ally. White Helmets actively campaign for a No Fly Zone. These are not “conspiracy theories”; they are facts easily proven in the videos and articles about them.
Lamb says, “White Helmet rescuers are much like Syria’s population in general, including most of the 12 million refugees, who have come to abhor politics.” It is true that nearly all Syrians abhor the war that has been imposed on them. However, the vast majority of Syrians also hate the terrorists while most ‘White Helmets’ are allied with them. Lamb is also wrong on the refugee count. There are about 12 million internally displaced persons but the number of refugees is closer to 4 million. Two thirds of the internally displaced persons are living inside Syria in areas under government control.
The White Helmets were “branded” by a marketing company called The Syria Campaign which itself was “incubated” (their term) by a larger marketing company called Purpose. Along with managing the online and social media promotion of the White Helmets, the Syria Campaign has parallel efforts in support of “regime change” in Syria. One of these efforts has been to criticize United Nations and humanitarian relief organizations which supply aid to displaced persons living in areas protected by the Syrian government. This situation is documented in an editorial here where the author says: “The allegations made by the Syria Campaign and others were written by people who know nothing about the UN and how it must work.” Apparently unaware of the facts about The Syria Campaign, the outraged Franklin Lamb calls this “defamatory nonsense!”
Lamb echoes the White Helmet propaganda that they have saved “65,000 Syrian citizens, many being their neighbors, families and friends.” This is extreme exaggeration. The areas controlled by the terrorists have very few civilians living in them. A medical doctor visiting east Aleppo two years ago described it as a ‘ghost town’. When cat videos were popular on social media, the White Helmet video team produced their own fake cat video. It showed White Helmet members playing with stray cats in empty neighborhoods. They say, “The homeowners abandoned this district and its kittens.” Yes, most of the civilians abandoned it because the terrorists invaded it. In short, this number of rescues is an extreme exaggeration. The real number is probably just a few percent of that.
Lamb believes the critics of the White Helmets are ‘defaming” them. It’s almost laughable except it’s bitterly ironic. The REAL Syrian Civil Defense works on a shoestring budget with REAL volunteers without a video team accompanying and promoting them. Most in the West are unaware they even exist. The situation for the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, which is a genuinely neutral and independent relief organization, is similar although they at least have a good website.
Lamb complains about “the massive use of pejorative language to smear rescue workers.” The reality, of course, is the precise opposite in the case of the “White Helmets.” There has been a flood of uncritical praise for this three year old organization created by the West and for goals of the West. On the contrary, they have not been sufficiently examined and exposed. Lamb’s heartfelt concern about the poor White Helmets being unfairly criticized is bizarre.
Franklin Lamb claims to have filed his article from Aleppo University Hospital. This is located in government protected Aleppo. Why does he make no reference to the victims of terrorist bombings, sniping and attacks who fill the Aleppo University Hospital? Why does he make no reference to the REAL Syrian Civil Defense which brought to the hospital many injured victims? In his closing, Franklin invites anyone interested to visit the White Helmets with him. Is he serious? Very few journalists or Western ‘observers’ have been in terrorist controlled Aleppo for years. Two of the last batch were James Foley and Stephen Sotloff, subsequently murdered by ISIS. Franklin needs to provide some evidence that he actually was in East Aleppo with the Nusra and the White Helmets. Otherwise one might question whether his conversations with White Helmet ‘volunteers’ were actually in Gaziantep Turkey.
The Controversy Continues
As the Syrian government and allies try to finally crush or expel the terrorists from Aleppo, the White Helmets have become a major tool in the West’s propaganda tool chest. The image of the White Helmets deflects attention from the sectarian violent and unpopular nature of Nusra and other armed opposition groups. This is used in parallel with accusations that Syrian and Russian attacks are primarily hitting civilians. Western media gives an image that there are only civilians and White Helmets under attack in east Aleppo; the terrorists have been whited out of the picture.
White Helmets have gone from being talked about to the ones doing the talking. News stories increasingly use White Helmet witnesses as their theme or source. One day CNN says a White Helmet aid center has been hit. Another day it is claimed that White Helmet individuals are being “hunted.” A White Helmet performs the role of journalist not first responder as he claims to be “eye witness” to Syrian barrel bombs destroying the humanitarian convoy and warehouse on September 19 in Orem al Kubra.
There are reasons to be suspicious. For example, in the case of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) convoy that was attacked in Orem al Kubra:
* This is the same town where the documentary “Saving Syria’s Children” was filmed. A detailed investigation has shown that sequences in that BBC movie were largely if not entirely staged.
* This town is controlled by the infamous Nour al Din al Zinki terrorist group which recently filmed itself beheading a young Palestinian Syrian boy.
* It is illogical that Syrian or Russian planes would attack a SARC convoy. They could have stopped the convoy when it was in government held territory. The Syrian government works together with SARC. Why would they attack the convoy?
* The one to ‘benefit’ from the atrocity is the US Coalition and those supporting the regime change project. The attack took attention away from the US killing of 70+ Syrian soldiers on September 17 and facilitated the resumption of accusations against Syria and Russia. More contradictions and inconsistencies regarding the White Helmet witness are pointed out in this incisive analysis.
* The Russian and Syrian governments called for an independent investigation of the attack site but this has not been done, presumably because the terrorists controlling the area have not allowed it.
With massive publicity, there is now greatly increased public awareness of the three year old White Helmets. Ironically SARC, which works with neutrality, have been largely ignored. And the original 60+ year old Syrian Civil Defense continues to work with absolutely no recognition in the West.
Are the White Helmets heroes or a politically motivated hoax? The time to investigate is now. It does little good to uncover falsehoods and manipulations years later. This is especially true because the people who created and uncritically promoted previous hoaxes such as Nayirah and the Kuwaiti incubators, Curveball and the Iraqi WMD have gone without penalty or punishment despite the enormous cost in lives and resources. The White Helmets should be seriously investigated lest they be used to promote more war in Syria.
Rick Sterling is a retired aerospace engineer who now does research/writing on international issues. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Note how differently The New York Times prepares the American public for civilian casualties from the new U.S.-backed Iraqi government assault on the city of Mosul to free it from the Islamic State, compared to the unrelenting condemnation of the Russian-backed Syrian government assault on neighborhoods of east Aleppo held by Al Qaeda.
In the case of Mosul, the million-plus residents are not portrayed as likely victims of American airstrikes and Iraqi government ground assaults, though surely many will die during the offensive. Instead, the civilians are said to be eagerly awaiting liberation from the Islamic State terrorists and their head-chopping brutality.
“Mosul’s residents are hoarding food and furtively scrawling resistance slogans on walls,” writes Times’ veteran war correspondent Rod Nordland about this week’s launch of the U.S.-backed government offensive. “Those forces will fight to enter a city where for weeks the harsh authoritarian rule of the Islamic State … has sought to crack down on a population eager to either escape or rebel, according to interviews with roughly three dozen people from Mosul. …
“Just getting out of Mosul had become difficult and dangerous: Those who were caught faced million-dinar fines, unless they were former members of the Iraqi Army or police, in which case the punishment was beheading. … Graffiti and other displays of dissidence against the Islamic State were more common in recent weeks, as were executions when the vandals were caught.”
The Times article continues: “Mosul residents chafed under social codes banning smoking and calling for splashing acid on body tattoos, summary executions of perceived opponents, whippings of those who missed prayers or trimmed their beards, and destroying ‘un-Islamic’ historical monuments.”
So, the message is clear: if the inevitable happens and the U.S.-backed offensive kills a number of Mosul’s civilians, including children, The New York Times’ readers have been hardened to accept this “collateral damage” as necessary to free the city from blood-thirsty extremists. The fight to crush these crazies is worth it, even if there are significant numbers of civilians killed in the “cross-fire.”
And we’ve seen similar mainstream media treatment of other U.S.-organized assaults on urban areas, such as the devastation of the Iraqi city, Fallujah, in 2004 when U.S. Marines routed Iraqi insurgents from the city while leveling or severely damaging most of the city’s buildings and killing hundreds of civilians. But those victims were portrayed in the Western press as “human shields,” shifting the blame for their deaths onto the Iraqi insurgents.
Despite the fact that U.S. forces invaded Iraq in defiance of international law – and thus all the thousands of civilian deaths across Iraq from the “shock and awe” U.S. firepower should be considered war crimes – there was virtually no such analysis allowed into the pages of The New York Times or the other mainstream U.S. media. Such talk was forced to the political fringes, as it continues to be today. War-crimes tribunals are only for the other guys.
Lust to Kill Children
By contrast, the Times routinely portrays the battle for east Aleppo as simply a case of barbaric Russian and Syrian leaders bombing innocent neighborhoods with no regard for the human cost, operating out of an apparent lust to kill children.
Rather than focusing on Al Qaeda’s harsh rule of east Aleppo, the Times told its readers in late September how to perceive the Russian-Syrian offensive to drive out Al Qaeda and its allies. A Sept. 25 article by Anne Barnard and Somini Sengupta, entitled “Syria and Russia Appear Ready to Scorch Aleppo,” began:
“Make life intolerable and death likely. Open an escape route, or offer a deal to those who leave or surrender. Let people trickle out. Kill whoever stays. Repeat until a deserted cityscape is yours. It is a strategy that both the Syrian government and its Russian allies have long embraced to subdue Syrian rebels, largely by crushing the civilian populations that support them.
“But in the past few days, as hopes for a revived cease-fire have disintegrated at the United Nations, the Syrians and Russians seem to be mobilizing to apply this kill-all-who-resist strategy to the most ambitious target yet: the rebel-held sections of the divided metropolis of Aleppo.”
Again, note how the “rebels” are portrayed as local heroes, rather than a collection of jihadists from both inside and outside Syria fighting under the operational command of Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front, which recently underwent a name change to the Syria Conquest Front. But the name change and the pretense about “moderate” rebels are just more deceptions.
As journalist/historian Gareth Porter has written:
“Information from a wide range of sources, including some of those the United States has been explicitly supporting, makes it clear that every armed anti-Assad organization unit in those provinces [of Idlib and Aleppo] is engaged in a military structure controlled by Nusra militants. All of these rebel groups fight alongside the Nusra Front and coordinate their military activities with it. …
“At least since 2014 the Obama administration has armed a number of Syrian rebel groups even though it knew the groups were coordinating closely with the Nusra Front, which was simultaneously getting arms from Turkey and Qatar. The strategy called for supplying TOW anti-tank missiles to the ‘Syrian Revolutionaries Front’ (SRF) as the core of a client Syrian army that would be independent of the Nusra Front.
“However, when a combined force of Nusra and non-jihadist brigades including the SRF captured the Syrian army base at Wadi al-Deif in December 2014, the truth began to emerge. The SRF and other groups to which the United States had supplied TOW missiles had fought under Nusra’s command to capture the base.”
Arming Al Qaeda
This reality – the fact that the U.S. government is indirectly supplying sophisticated weaponry to Al Qaeda – is rarely mentioned in the mainstream U.S. news media, though one might think it would make for a newsworthy story. But it would undercut the desired propaganda narrative of “good guy” rebels fighting “bad guy” government backed by “ultra-bad guy” Russians.
What if Americans understood that their tax money and U.S. weaponry were going to aid the terrorist group that perpetrated the 9/11 attacks? What if they understood the larger historical context that Washington helped midwife the modern jihadist movement – and Al Qaeda – through the U.S./Saudi support for the Afghan mujahedeen in the 1980s?
And what if Americans understood that Washington’s supposed regional “allies,” including Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and Israel, have sided with Al Qaeda in Syria because of their intense hatred of Shiite-ruled Iran, an ally of Syria’s secular government?
These Al Qaeda sympathies have been known for several years but never get reported in the mainstream U.S. press. In September 2013, Israel’s Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren, then a close adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, told the Jerusalem Post that Israel favored Syria’s Sunni extremists over President Bashar al-Assad.
“The greatest danger to Israel is by the strategic arc that extends from Tehran, to Damascus to Beirut. And we saw the Assad regime as the keystone in that arc,” Oren told the Jerusalem Post in an interview. “We always wanted Bashar Assad to go, we always preferred the bad guys who weren’t backed by Iran to the bad guys who were backed by Iran.” He said this was the case even if the “bad guys” were affiliated with Al Qaeda.
And, in June 2014, speaking as a former ambassador at an Aspen Institute conference, Oren expanded on his position, saying Israel would even prefer a victory by the brutal Islamic State over continuation of the Iranian-backed Assad in Syria. “From Israel’s perspective, if there’s got to be an evil that’s got to prevail, let the Sunni evil prevail,” Oren said.
But such cynical – and dangerous – realpolitik is kept from the American people. Instead, the Syrian conflict is presented as all about the children.
There is also little said about how Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front and its allied jihadists keep the civilian population in east Aleppo essentially as “human shields.” When “humanitarian corridors” have been opened to allow civilians to escape, they had been fired on by the jihadists determined to keep as many people under their control as possible.
By forcing the civilians to stay, Al Qaeda and its allies can exploit the injuries and deaths of civilians, especially the children, for propaganda advantages.
Going along with Al Qaeda’s propaganda strategy, the Times and other mainstream U.S. news outlets have kept the focus on the children. A Times dispatch on Sept. 27 begins:
“They cannot play, sleep or attend school. Increasingly, they cannot eat. Injury or illness could be fatal. Many just huddle with their parents in windowless underground shelters — which offer no protection from the powerful bombs that have turned east Aleppo into a kill zone.
“Among the roughly 250,000 people trapped in the insurgent redoubt of the divided northern Syrian city are 100,000 children, the most vulnerable victims of intensified bombings by Syrian forces and their Russian allies. Though the world is jolted periodically by the suffering of children in the Syria conflict — the photographs of Alan Kurdi’s drowned body and Omran Daqneesh’s bloodied face are prime examples — dead and traumatized children are increasingly common.”
This propagandistic narrative has bled into the U.S. presidential campaign with Martha Raddatz, a moderator of the second presidential debate, incorporating much of the evil-Russians theme into a question that went so far as to liken the human suffering in Aleppo to the Holocaust, the Nazi extermination campaign against Jews and other minorities.
That prompted former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to repeat her call for an expanded U.S. military intervention in Syria, including a “no-fly zone,” which U.S. military commanders say would require a massive operation that would kill many Syrians, both soldiers and civilians, to eliminate Syria’s sophisticated air-defense systems and its air force.
Based on the recent Wikileaks publication of Clinton’s speeches to investment bankers and other special interests, we also know that she recognizes the high human cost from this strategy. In one June 2013 speech, she said, “To have a no-fly zone you have to take out all of the air defense, many of which are located in populated areas. So our missiles, even if they are standoff missiles so we’re not putting our pilots at risk — you’re going to kill a lot of Syrians. So all of a sudden this intervention that people talk about so glibly becomes an American and NATO involvement where you take a lot of civilians.”
Yet, during the campaign, Clinton has spoken glibly about her own proposal to impose a “no-fly zone” over Syria, which has become even more dangerous since 2015 when the Russians agreed to directly assist the Syrian government in fighting Al Qaeda and the Islamic State.
Also, left unsaid about such a U.S. intervention is that it could open the way for Al Qaeda and/or its spinoff Islamic State to defeat the Syrian army and gain control of Damascus, creating the potential for even a worse bloodbath against Christians, Shiites, Alawites, secular Sunnis and other “heretics.” Not to mention the fact that a U.S.-imposed “no-fly zone” would be a clear violation of international law.
Over the next few weeks, we are sure hear much about the Islamic State using the people of Mosul as “human shields” and thus excusing U.S. bombs when they strike civilians targets and kill children. It will all be the terrorists’ fault, except that an opposite set of “journalistic” rules will apply to Aleppo.
Putin: Moscow to keep counter sanctions, Clinton chose aggressive stance on Russia to distract from domestic problems
Russian President Vladimir Putin attending BRICS summit in Goa, India © Mihail Metzel / Sputnik
While meeting the media in Goa, southwest India, the Russian president was asked to comment on hot issues such as the US elections, the situation in Ukraine and Syria, and his refusal to visit France, rather than Moscow’s relations with its BRICS partners.
Deteriorating Russia-US relations: ‘It all started from Yugoslavia’
Relations between Moscow and Washington did not deteriorate because of or during the Syrian conflict, Putin said in a remark to a journalist, adding: “Just remember what was going on about Yugoslavia, it all started from there.” The Russian leader said that it’s not about any third side in particular, but relations worsen because “one country” wants to impose its policy and decisions upon the rest of the world.
“We are not against this country, but we oppose that decisions are made on a unilateral basis and are not thought through considering historic, cultural and religious peculiarities of one country or another,” even if there is a conflict within the affected nation, Putin said.
‘Sanctions aim to suppress Russia’s strength’
The US does not accept compromises, which is necessary to solve issues in world politics. Rather, it chooses a “counterproductive” policy of sanctions, Putin said. “Apparently, they don’t want to compromise, they only want to dictate. Such a style has formed over the past 15-20 years in the US, and they still can’t deviate from it,” Putin said, adding that restrictive measures never achieve the aims that those who impose them hope for.
“Regarding sanctions against Russia, whatever they are said to be linked to, be it events in Ukraine or Syria, I assure you, the aims of those who formulate such a policy [of restrictions] do not solve any concrete problem,” Putin told the media. Saying that “sanctions are aimed not at solving anything, but at suppressing Russia’s strengthening” as a robust participant in international affairs, the president said that such intentions against Russia would never be fulfilled.
Moscow, in turn, does not plan to ease its retaliatory measures, caused by western policies, the Russian leader told the journalists in Goa. “No way, they can get lost,” he said.
‘US officials snoop and eavesdrop on everyone’
Russia’s president was not surprised with US Vice President Joe Biden’s recent threats towards Moscow, and said that it’s not the first time Russian-American relations have been “sacrificed” for the sake of a US presidential campaign. “One can expect anything from our American friends. What has he revealed that is new? Don’t we already know that US officials snoop and eavesdrop on everyone,” Putin said, adding that Washington “spends billions of dollars” on its secret services “spying not only on its potential opponents, but on its closest allies as well.”
Russia portrayed as US enemy to divert voters’ attention from domestic problems
Meanwhile, Russia is not going to meddle in the American presidential elections in any way, the president told reporters, adding that Moscow has no idea what could happen after a new US leader is elected. So far Hillary Clinton has chosen “an aggressive stance on Russia,” and Donald Trump has called for cooperation, “at least in fighting terrorism,” but “no one knows what it will be like after the elections,” according to Putin, who said that both candidates might change their rhetoric.
Creating an enemy out of Russia is a means by which to distract attention from domestic problems during election campaign season, according to Putin. “There are many problems [in the US], and in these circumstances, many choose to resort to the tried and tested system of diverting voters’ attention from their own problems. That’s what we are currently witnessing, I think.”
“Portraying Iran and the Iranian nuclear threat as an enemy didn’t work. [Portraying] Russia [as an enemy] seems more interesting. In my opinion, this particular card is now being actively played,” Putin said.
It will be hard to settle the conflict in southeastern Ukraine with President Poroshenko’s propensity to avoid political commitments adhering to the Minsk peace deal, Putin once again warned. Recently, the Ukrainian leader has said that Kiev would not proceed with a political process in the region, as the issue of security has not been solved in the troubled part of the country.
“I think it’s only a pretext to not do anything in the political sphere,” the Russian president said, recalling Kiev’s obligations to amend Ukraine’s constitution, as mentioned in the peace deal. “If it’s not done, it means that the current government are not ready to solve the problem once and for all,” Putin said.
Commenting on future meetings with European partners to discuss the situation in Ukraine, the Russian president said that he had agreed with his French and German counterparts that it would be “viable” to meet only if the leaders’ aides manage to make progress in preparing some preliminary agreements.
On canceled Paris visit: ‘French side refused to take part in joint events’
Moscow is “always ready to talk with anyone,” but attending meetings on issues that have been originally out of the agenda is “senseless,” Putin said, answering a journalist’s question as of why he canceled his Paris visit recently.
“The main reason for my planned visit to France was the opening of our religious and cultural center, and visiting an exhibition of Russian artists. So the main aim of the visit was joint participation [with the French president] in these events. But because of the known Syrian issues the French side decided not to join the events,” Putin said, adding that “if the main reason for the visit dropped out,” there was no reason to go.
“People don’t trust Hillary Clinton, and no one can agree on why,” begins a sympathetic piece on the Democratic Party presidential candidate in Fast Company last July.
In a CNN poll that same month, only 30 percent of Americans believed Clinton to be “honest and trustworthy.”
If voters don’t know what to make of Clinton or how to read her, the blame may lie directly with the candidate herself. In an April 2013 speech made public by WikiLeaks last week, Clinton confided:
Politics is like sausage being made. It is unsavory, and it always has been that way, but we usually end up where we need to be. But if everybody’s watching, you know, all of the back room discussions and the deals, you know, then people get a little nervous, to say the least. So, you need both a public and a private position.
That last “public vs. private” comment quickly made the media rounds, and confirmed – for her critics – Clinton’s deliberate duplicity on a number of policy positions.
WikiLeaks has provided an opportunity to delve into some of these, so let’s take a look at one very prominent feature of Clinton’s foreign policy agenda: Syria, a country that stands at the center of a potential global confrontation today.
Not a Syrian uprising; a regime change plan
A 2012 email released by WikiLeaks last year shows that, behind the scenes, Clinton’s State Department was calculating its Syria policy using entirely different metrics than its publicly-stated narrative of supporting reforms and rejecting violence:
It is the strategic relationship between Iran and the regime of Bashar Assad in Syria that makes it possible for Iran to undermine Israel’s security — not through a direct attack, which in the thirty years of hostility between Iran and Israel has never occurred, but through its proxies in Lebanon, like Hezbollah, that are sustained, armed and trained by Iran via Syria. The end of the Assad regime would end this dangerous alliance. Israel’s leadership understands well why defeating Assad is now in its interests.
The email, written by an unidentified person and included within the WikiLeaks ‘Clinton archive,’ lays out a plan:
Washington should start by expressing its willingness to work with regional allies like Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar to organize, train and arm Syrian rebel forces. The announcement of such a decision would, by itself, likely cause substantial defections from the Syrian military. Then, using territory in Turkey and possibly Jordan, US diplomats and Pentagon officials can start strengthening the opposition… Arming the Syrian rebels and using Western air power to ground Syrian helicopters and airplanes is a low-cost high payoff approach.
Arming a Syrian rebellion from outside the country was already a consideration “from the very beginning,” according to a recent WikiLeaks release of a June 2013 speech by Clinton:
So, the problem for the US and the Europeans has been from the very beginning: What is it you – who is it you are going to try to arm. And you probably read in the papers my view was we should try to find some of the groups that were there that we thought we could build relationships with and develop some covert connections that might then at least give us some insight into what is going on inside Syria.
Certainly, we know that by early 2012, the Obama and Erdogan administrations had struck a deal to establish a rat-line transporting weapons and ammunition from Libya to Syria – via the CIA and MI6, and funded by Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
The attack on the US consulate in Benghazi which killed US Ambassador Christopher Stevens was only a temporary setback. Weapons and financial assistance to militants in Syria, however, continued to flow from America’s regional allies without any US push-back, even though Washington clearly knew arms were being siphoned to extremists.
A declassified DIA document from August 2012 circulated to Clinton’s State Department states plainly that “the Salafist, Muslim Brotherhood and AQI (Al-Qaeda in Iraq) are the major forces driving the insurgency in Syria” and that “the West, Gulf countries and Turkey support the opposition.”
But if US Special Forces were involved in driving arms and fighters into Syria in early 2012, the groundwork would have had to have begun many, many months before. The US military’s unconventional warfare (UW) strategy requires that target-state population perceptions are first “groomed” into accepting an armed insurrection, using “propaganda and political and psychological efforts to discredit the government”… creating “local and national ‘agitation’”… helping organize “boycotts, strikes and other efforts to suggest public discontent”… before beginning the “infiltration of foreign organizers and advisors and foreign propaganda, material, money, weapons and equipment.”
You get an idea of how this “propaganda” and “grooming” works in a June 2011 email from Clinton’s recently-departed Director of Policy Planning Anne-Marie Slaughter, who openly calls for fabricating sectarian narratives to incite Syrian protestors:
This suggests US should be making much more of the ways in which Syrian regime is simulating violence. Can’t we call for a meeting of the UNSC where we do not call for action but simply present information along the lines of what is recounted below so as to ‘bring it to the attention of the Council’ in a way that then has greater credibility globally? Making the point repeatedly that the regime wants this to look like/turn into sectarian violence? At the very least that can be broadcast back into Syria in various ways that will encourage protestors. There is an information war going on; we can do much more to elevate and legitimate the truth.
This is business as usual for a US State Department well-versed in sowing sectarian discord in the Middle East – all while publicly denouncing sectarian strife. A WikiLeaks email from 2006 shows that this thinking was already well-entrenched in Foggy Bottom, with a focus on “exploiting vulnerabilities” – particularly “sectarian” ones – inside Syria.
Fueling the sectarian Jihad
By late 2011, US intelligence had assessed that Al-Qaeda was operating inside Syria. This information was public, but not widely disseminated. Instead, Clinton’s team focused heavily on flogging the narrative that “Assad must go” because of his government’s widespread human rights violations.
Clinton liberally used the “humanitarian” pretext to advance a regime change agenda – pushing, behind the scenes, for increased assistance to militants and direct US military intervention, while publicly decrying the escalating violence inside Syria.
But did she give a toss about keeping Syrians safe? The evidence suggests otherwise. In this new WikiLeaks release of a speech to the Jewish United Fund in August 2013 – “flagged,” incidentally, by her staffers who worried about its content – Clinton outlines one possible Syria policy option:
One way is a very hands off, step back, we don’t have a dog in this hunt, let them kill themselves until they get exhausted, and then we’ll figure out how to deal with what the remnants are. That’s a position held by people who believe there is no way, not just for the United States but others, to stop the killing before the people doing the killing and the return killing are tired of killing each other. So it’s a very hands off approach.
To any observer of the foreign-fueled Syrian war of attrition, it looks very much like Clinton opted for this course of action.
And given that Washington’s allies in the Syrian fight consisted mainly of head-chopping, jihadist foot soldiers, Clinton’s scenario of a killing field to keep all sides “exhausted” may have even been the starting plan.
These fighters came equipped with a militant, sectarian mindset courtesy of Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar – under the supervision, of course, of a CIA that cut its teeth doing the exact same thing with the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan.
A WikiLeaks email sent from Hillary Clinton to her now-campaign chief John Podesta in August 2014 shows that the former Secretary of State is fully aware that her allies were partial to supporting terrorists:
While this military/paramilitary operation is moving forward, we need to use our diplomatic and more traditional intelligence assets to bring pressure on the governments of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which are providing clandestine financial and logistic support to ISIL and other radical Sunni groups in the region.
Qatar and Saudi Arabia are, of course, two staunch US allies in the region that host American military bases and, apparently, also support ISIL.
Another October 2013 Clinton speech “flagged” by her campaign staff, and released by WikiLeaks this week, has her saying:
The Saudis and others are shipping large amounts of weapons – and pretty indiscriminately – not at all targeted toward the people that we think would be the more moderate, least likely, to cause problems in the future.
The State Department knows all too well that both fighters and weapons are fungible in the Syrian militant marketplace. It is a key reason the US has always resisted naming those groups it considers “moderate” rebels. Arms and supplies to US-backed groups have often found their way to ISIL and Al-Qaeda, with photo evidence aplenty making the social media rounds.
Despite these loaded disclosures, Clinton and other US policymakers still flog outdated narratives about an “evil Syrian regime killing innocent civilians” while ignoring the narrative they know to be true: bloodthirsty jihadists armed to the teeth by ideologically-aligned US allies.
This Syrian conflict – privately, at least – is about regime change at all costs for the hawkish side of the policy establishment which includes the CIA, Pentagon brass and Clinton. Publicly, however, it’s still about “crimes against humanity” – whatever that means today.
Earlier this month, Clinton began to publicly reveal that truth in advance of the November presidential election. Reuters reports Clinton as saying “removing President Bashar al-Assad is the top priority in Syria.”
She is also once again touting a “no-fly zone” over Syria – much as she did with Libya. In yet another speech ‘flagged’ by her campaign and released by WikiLeaks – this one delivered to Goldman Sachs at their CEO conference in June 2013 – Clinton explains:
To have a no-fly zone you have to take out all of the air defense, many of which are located in populated areas. So our missiles, even if they are standoff missiles so we’re not putting our pilots at risk – you’re going to kill a lot of Syrians. So all of a sudden this intervention that people talk about so glibly becomes an American and NATO involvement where you take a lot of civilians.
So Clinton is advocating for a no-fly zone despite the fact that she recognizes she’s “going to kill a lot of Syrians.” Which then puts that other speech of hers about letting Syrians “kill themselves until they get exhausted” into context.
Her only regional allies in this endeavor will be the Saudis and Qataris, who we now know support ISIL and other terrorists inside Syria. We also know that Clinton will continue to ignore this indiscretion – not because of what she says, but because of what she does.
Her public-versus-private position on the Saudis, after all, has been bandied about since the 2010 WikiLeaks State Department cables were released.
In 2009, a secret WikiLeaks cable signed off by then- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reads, in part:
Donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide… Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, LeT (Laskhar-e Taiba), and other terrorist groups… It has been an ongoing challenge to persuade Saudi officials to treat terrorist financing emanating from Saudi Arabia as a strategic priority.
Yet by 2011, Clinton was ushering through the biggest weapons sale to Saudi Arabia in US history – a massive $67 Billion arms dump into the epicenter of global terror.
Clinton is not averse to cashing in on Saudi riches for her and her family’s foundation either. The Clinton Foundation has received millions of dollars from Saudi, Qatari and other Gulf sources, despite the role their governments have played in funding global Jihad. And her campaign manager’s brother, Tony Podesta, just signed on to furnish the Saudi government with very expensive public relations services earlier this year.
There is something schizophrenic about Hillary Clinton’s compartmentalization of issues that speaks to the very competence of her judgment. Her whole private-versus-public-positions shtick is antithetical to the transparency, process and accountability demanded by democracy.
She speaks of her Iraq “mistake,” yet we have still not heard what lessons she has learned. And it grates, because we can see she has repeated them again and again, in Libya and in Syria.
The “public” Hillary Clinton supports self-determination, freedom and human rights for Syrians. The “private” Hillary Clinton supports the wholesale massacre of Syrians by a closely allied network of depraved sectarian terrorists – in order to weaken Iran and strengthen Israel.
If you’re one of those Americans who don’t trust her, you have good reason. At this point it is hard to ascertain if Clinton herself knows what her truth is anymore.