Russia has supported a Chinese initiative in the UNSC intended to stabilize the situation on the Korean peninsula. It calls on the North to refrain from missile and nuclear testing, while the US and South Korea should halt military drills in the area.
“Members of the [UN] Security Council have unanimously called upon DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] to stop missile and nuclear tests and to fulfill UNSC resolutions,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Saturday following a United Nations Security Council (UNSC) session held in New York earlier on Friday.
The UNSC called for a political and diplomatic solution to the nuclear crisis on the Korean Peninsula, the ministry added.
“In this context, the Russian Federation supported a Chinese proposal for a ‘double suspension’ (Pyongyang is to stop missile and nuclear tests and the US and South Korean militaries are to halt drills near North Korea) as a starting point for political negotiations.”
However, the council was not able to agree on a common solution, the ministry added.
The UNSC session was joined by Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov, who urged Washington and Seoul to reconsider their decision to station a THAAD anti-missile system on the Korean Peninsula, warning that it will serve as a “destabilizing factor” in the region.
Gatilov said the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) had been deployed “in line with the vicious logic of creating a global missile shield,” while warning that it is also undermining the security and deterrent capacities of adjacent states, such as China, thus threatening “the existing military balance in the region.”
“It is not only we who perceived this step very negatively. We are once again urging both the United States and the Republic of Korea to reconsider its expediency, and other regional states not to yield to the temptation of joining such destabilizing efforts,” the deputy foreign minister said.
Ahead of the UNSC session, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told reporters that a peaceful solution to the Korean crisis is the “only right choice.”
“Peaceful settlement of the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula through dialogue and negotiations represents the only right choice that is practical and viable,” Wang said.
Rex Tillerson, the US Secretary of State, who has this month started to find his feet as the US’s foreign minister, has finally acted to assert his authority over Nikki Haley, the US’s out of control UN ambassador.
It has become increasingly clear over the last few weeks that Nikki Haley, who is a politician with Presidential ambitions not a diplomat, has been abusing her position as the US’s UN ambassador to grandstand in preparation for what I am sure is an intended Presidential bid.
I have previously discussed Nikki Haley’s behaviour and the exaggerated role she has been allowed to carve out for herself
That doubtless also explains the increasingly undisciplined behaviour of Nikki Haley. Not only is she being allowed to wander around the television studios unchecked, firing off comments which she has clearly not coordinated either with the White House or the State Department, but she is gaining a level of prominence which is completely out of proportion to her supposed role as the US’s UN ambassador. At the moment, instead of being obviously subordinate to Tillerson and McMaster, she appears to be their equal.
It is difficult to avoid the impression that Haley, who is a politician not a diplomat, and who was previously governor of South Carolina and was apparently seriously considered by Mitt Romney for his Vice-Presidential running mate, is running what is in effect an election campaign, with her sights ultimately on the White House. Thus the publicity stunts, like the waving of photos of dead children during a UN Security Council session, which annoyed the veteran diplomats present, but which was clearly aimed at the US television audience.
One result of Haley’s undisciplined behaviour is that the administration either finds itself pulled along by her comments, with the result that Haley is in effect making policy for the White House, or officials like McMaster have to find some way of reconciling what she says with the administration’s actual policies, which may be completely different. A perfect example of this was McMaster elaborate explanation during his Fox News interview explaining why despite the obvious differences between the things Haley and Tillerson are saying, on the subject of regime change in Syria they are actually saying the same thing.
WALLACE: The Trump administration seems to be sending mixed signals this weekend. U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley says that getting rid of Assad is a priority. On the other hand, Secretary of State Tillerson says that first, we have to get rid of ISIS, destroy ISIS, Assad can wait.
So, which is it? How does the president see this playing out in Syria?
MCMASTER: Well, both Secretary Tillerson and Ambassador Haley are right about this. What we really need to do, and what everyone who’s involved in this conflict needs to do is to do everything they can to resolve this civil war, to halt this humanitarian catastrophe, this political catastrophe, not only in Syria, but the catastrophe is affecting the greater Middle East, it’s affecting Europe and it’s a threat to the American people as well.
And so, to do that, what’s required is some kind of a political solution to that very complex problem. And what Ambassador Haley pointed out is it’s very difficult to understand how a political solution could result from the continuation of the Assad regime.
Tillerson has now clearly signalled that he has had enough, and his officials have apparently informed Haley, who is technically Tillerson’s subordinate, that she should clear her comments on contentious issues in future with the State Department before she makes them.
This has been confirmed in this article in The New York Times, which reads in part as follows:
The United States ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki R. Haley, has often been the first, most outspoken member of the Trump administration to weigh in on key foreign policy issues, on everything from military strikes on Syria to sanctions against Russia and how to approach human rights.
Much of that has come as a surprise to the State Department, and the Secretary of State, Rex W. Tillerson, has often been far from the limelight.
Now, in an apparent attempt to foster greater coherence in American foreign policy, State Department officials are urging her aides to ensure her public remarks are cleared by Washington first.
An email drafted by State Department diplomats urged Ms. Haley’s office to rely on “building blocks” written by the department to prepare her remarks.
Her comments should be “re-cleared with Washington if they are substantively different from the building blocks, or if they are on a high-profile issue such as Syria, Iran, Israel-Palestine, or the D.P.R.K.,” added the email, the text of which was seen by The Times. D.P.R.K. refers to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, or North Korea.
In a further sign that Haley is being brought to heel, Tillerson has signalled that he will personally attend and lead the US delegation at the UN Security Council session at which the North Korean issue will be discussed.
There is a widespread tendency to treat Nikki Haley as a reincarnation of her predecessor, Barack Obama’s UN ambassador Samantha Power. As someone who has given himself the tedious task of following and comparing the comments of both, I have to say that I disagree.
Samantha Power is in my opinion an ideological fanatic who sincerely believes that the US has a ‘duty’ to intervene all over the world as part of some great liberal crusade to spread ‘democracy’ (as she defines it) everywhere. Nikki Haley by contrast comes across to me as simply a politician on the make.
Regardless of that, Tillerson – one presumes with the President’s agreement – is finally acting to bring to bring Nikki Haley to heel. Not before time I might add.
The refusal of the United Nations to qualify the recent US airstrike against Syria as an act of aggression makes the Organization irrelevant – something Russia has been trying to prevent. It has become vulnerable to scathing criticism after demonstrating its impotence and inability to act. The continued paralysis is an eloquent example of the UN’s disengagement and lack of political will to fulfill its duty. The Organization’s image has suffered great damage. It still has a chance to rectify it by launching an investigation into what really happened in Syria.
Article One of the UN Charter states that one of the purposes is «To maintain international peace and security, and to that end: to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace». It also mentions «adjustment or settlement of international disputes or situations which might lead to a breach of the peace».
The April 7 attack on Syria is no doubt an act of aggression against a sovereign state. There is nothing to support the US accusations against the Syrian government. No evidence to go upon has been presented. If it were, it would still be no reason to use force. Neither the UN Charter nor any other international document envisages the right of US president to strike other countries at his discretion, even if they are suspected of possessing and using chemical weapons (CW).
The US has a long record of trampling on international law under the pretext of conducting military operations for «humanitarian reasons» or to protect «democracy».
The UK and several other Western countries rushed to support the action. No wonder! If they had the capability, they would have done the same thing. The prospects for being left without the US «nuclear umbrella» made them really scared after Donald Trump was elected. Now they are happy that the 45th president has failed to keep his promises. Their support for the US action is understandable and was expected. But what about the United Nations?
The Secretariat of the UN has shied away from taking a position. Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General, emphasized that neither the CW attack in Idlib nor the following US airstrikes influenced the UN stance. According to him, «For us, we would reiterate the importance of the process going on in Geneva, which, obviously, one of the issues on the agenda is transition. What is important is that the future leadership of Syria be decided by the Syrian people themselves, as we have said since the beginning of this crisis. And, again, I think we would call on all the parties to recommit themselves to the Geneva process and the political discussions going on in Geneva».
Asked about the statement made by Nikki Haily, the US Ambassador to the UN, about the loss of legitimacy by Syrian President Assad after the chemical attack, he said «the future leadership of the Syrian… of Syria should be decided by the Syrian people themselves». At least, the official admits that it’s the people who should rule the country, not the leaders of other states who order to strike Syria with cruise missiles!
On the other hand, the refusal to condemn the United States for its attack in Syria makes the law a sham. The strongest is always right! The UN turns a blind eye on violations and crimes.
There is another aspect of the problem that is important to draw attention on. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has said Syria has no CW. In 2013, the elimination of CW in Syria was an OPCW-UN joint mission. Is the organization operating under the auspices of the United Nations not trustworthy? If it is, why not wait for its results of its investigation? Thus, the very affirmation that the Syrian government has CW is a severe blow against the OPCW and the UN.
So, the stance taken by the UN Secretariat actually diminishes the UN influence on international affairs. The UN refuses to comply with the provisions of its own Charter!
What’s wrong with Russia’s calls for broader UN role? Moscow says important decisions related to international security must be taken collectively and after detailed consultations in the UN. Should this position be resisted? Is it reprehensible to insist on thorough investigation of CW attack in Idlib before discussing the issue and taking decisions on what to do about it? Is it right to forget the lesson learnt in Iraq when no weapons of mass destruction were found to justify the invasion with terrible repercussions to follow, including the emergence of the IS?
An investigation would meet the interests of all. That’s what UN officials should be talking about instead of repeating the mantra of the Geneva negotiations having a chance to make progress. Turgid words to make a hollow statement.
A CW attack is a serious crime against humanity. The culprits must face justice. So is the US attack against a UN member state. At least, it must be discussed within the framework of the United Nations. The US could veto any decisions but the world has the right to know.
With all the tensions running high and global security threated, the time is propitious for the UN to start fulfilling its duties and abide by its obligations. The world needs deeds, not empty words.
UNITED NATIONS – Russian Deputy Ambassador to the UN, Vladimir Safronkov, on Friday urged U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley to refrain from insulting Russia and to put collective work at the Security Council on a healthy basis.
“I’d like to ask the speakers here – the U.S. representative and members of other delegations – to refrain from insulting my country,” Safronkov said at an emergency meeting of the Security Council. “No one has the moral right to do it. We never allow ourselves to do such things.”
As the U.S. Ambassador and current President of the UN Security Council, Haley “has a real chance to put collective work at the Council on a healthy footing but this will never happen if the viewpoint of just one nation is passed off for absolute truth.”
Nikki Haley alleged in her speech at the meeting Russia, which “(…) is supposed to be a guarantor of the removal of chemicals weapons from Syria”, had failed to do so, “(…) as innocent Syrians continue to be murdered in chemical attacks.”
“It could be that Russia is knowingly allowing chemical weapons to remain in Syria,” she claimed. “It could be that Russia has been incompetent in its efforts to remove the chemical weapons. Or, it could be that the Assad regime is playing the Russians for fools, telling them that there are no chemical weapons, all the while stockpiling them on their bases.”
“The world is waiting for Russia to reconsider its misplaced alliance with Bashar Assad,” Haley said.
The debate about the Syrian chemical attack yesterday and President Trump’s comments during a news conference with the King of Jordan have led to speculation that the US might be readying an attack on Syria.
The speculation stems from the fact that Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN, said that if the UN Security Council fails to take action over the chemical attack the US might consider taking “unilateral action”, whilst President Trump himself made comments during the news conference that appeared to have the military option open.
Whilst in any international issue the possibility of unilateral military action by the US can never unfortunately be completely ruled out, on balance neither Nikki Haley’s comment nor President Trump’s comment seem to presage military action.
Nikki Haley’s comment was made during a debate in the UN Security Council about the setting up of an investigation to look into the details of the chemical attack. No one questions that such an investigation should take place. The draft Resolution prepared by the Western powers is – as with every Resolution the Western powers have proposed during the Syrian crisis – absurdly unbalanced, effectively blaming the Syrian government for the chemical attack before the investigation takes place. However even this Resolution concedes that an investigation is needed, especially after the relevant UN bodies have said that they cannot themselves say who was responsible for the chemical attack.
The Russians for their part have prepared their own draft Resolution which – far more neutrally – calls for an investigation.
It is difficult to avoid the impression that Nikki Haley’s comment was part of the game of bluff and counter bluff that nowadays regularly takes place in the UN Security Council. Specifically, she appears to have been trying to scare the Russians into agreeing to the Western draft Resolution and to drop their own.
The Russians are most unlikely to be intimidated by this kind of bluff, and having already ruled the West’s draft Resolution out they will almost certainly persist in rejecting it.
As for Donald Trump’s comments, as the entirety of his words during the press conference show, he did not directly threaten unilateral US military action in Syria but made his comments when pressed to say by a journalist whether or not he was considering military action. He declined to give any concrete answer one way or the other, but the clear impression from his comments is that he is not contemplating it.
Overall the impression President Trump’s news conference gave was that Donald Trump’s focus remains overwhelmingly on fighting ISIS – he said far more about that than about the chemical attack in Syria – and that though he does not want to give more ammunition to his domestic opponents by denying the Syrian government’s responsibility for the chemical attack, he tried to shift ultimate responsibility for the likely lack of a US reaction away from himself onto President Obama.
Ultimately the same factors that deterred a US military attack to lift the Syrian army’s siege of eastern Aleppo last autumn remain in place today. The Russian air defence system which was installed in Syria with its S400 and S300 missiles is still there. The US military in the autumn made absolutely clear their deep reluctance to engage this system, and nothing since has happened to change their views.
President Trump more than any other President in recent years looks to the US military for political support. It is even less credible that he will go against their advice than President Obama did.
In light of all this a unilateral US attack on the Syrian military on anything like the necessary scale to affect the course of the Syrian war is extremely unlikely.
Attempts by some members of the Brussels conference on Syria to redraw the agenda and focus on allegations of the Syrian government’s complicity in the suspected chemical attack in Idlib have failed, Russia’s deputy foreign minister has said.
“In what concerns this conference, of course, some tried to redirect it in order to focus attention on the incident that has occurred [in Idlib]. I must say that they failed to achieve that,” said Gennady Gatilov, Russia’s representative at the UN-sponsored international donor conference that was held on April 4-5 in Brussels.
Moscow hopes that the incident will not lead to the derailment of intra-Syrian talks as that would play into hands of those who strive to obstruct the peace process.
“Anything can affect the talks. But we would not like for such incidents to be used by opponents of the negotiation process to disrupt it,” the Russian diplomat said, stressing that it is necessary for the negotiations to be inclusive.
Despite the apparent discord at the conference, its participants were largely united in that there is no alternative to political settlement to the protracted military conflict.
“I would like to note that all spoke in favor of political solution, the majority agreed that there is no military solution,” Gatilov said, as cited by TASS. He added that “practically all hailed” the negotiations in Astana made possible by the mediation of Russia, Turkey and Iran and commended them as “great help” for the Geneva process.
No breakthrough has yet been achieved in the talks, Gatilov said, referring to the latest round of intra-Syrian negotiations that took place in Geneva last week.
“Regrettably, so far it has yielded no practical results but it is not the reason to say that the round failed. Obviously, it is going to be a long process and we had been saying this all the time,” Gatilov said.
The slow progress is due to major differences between the take of the Syrian government and rebels on an array of key issues, he said. The major point of disagreement between the sides is what topic should be given a priority in the talks. While opposition argues that the talks should pave way for a transitional government, the Syrian authorities insist on the preeminence of the fight against terrorism.
On Tuesday, a suspected chemical attack on the hospital in the town of Khan Sheikhoun in rebel-held Idlib province claimed the lives of dozens of people, including children. Rebel groups accused the Syrian government of mounting the attack, the claims which the Syrian authorities flatly denied.
Russia has demanded a thorough investigation into the incident, saying it should be led by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said. The OPCW will be entrusted with collecting evidence of the attack within the fact-finding mission. The composition of the mission should be subject to approval by the UN Security Council.
In the aftermath of the attack, Russia’s Defense Ministry issued a statement, saying that the Syrian Air Force on Tuesday bombed a warehouse housing chemical weapons bound for Iraq. The storage facility, which was used to produce and store munitions containing toxic gas, was managed by the rebels. Defense Ministry spokesman Major-General Igor Konashenkov noted that the symptoms displayed by the victims of the attack in Khan Sheikhoun are similar to those shown by civilians who suffered in the Aleppo chemical attack, perpetrated by the militants.
The death of civilians has sparked an international outcry, with some of the Western governments, including the US, backing the allegations put forward by the rebels.
Commenting on the attack, US President Donald Trump said that it was “unacceptable” went “beyond the red line” and made him to rethink his stance on the Syrian government and President Bashar Assad.
In his turn, Vice President Mike Pence blamed the attack on a “failure of the past administration to both confront the mindless violence of the Assad regime and also hold Russia and Syria to account for the promises to destroy chemical weapons,” in an interview to Fox News on Wednesday.
Responding to a question, if Washington sees Moscow also responsible for the attack, Pence stated that Russian must ensure the implementation of the pledge by the Syrian government to destroy all chemical stockpiles, saying that “the time come has come for them [Russia] to keep the word that they made, to see the elimination of the chemical weapons so that they no longer threaten the people in that country.”
“We were told that there were an agreement between Russians and Assad to destroy chemical weapons and that the threat to civilians from a chemical attack had been eliminated, it was not,” Pence claimed.
Russia has tabled a UN Security Council resolution calling for a through investigation of the chemical weapons incident in Idlib Governorate.
Vladimir Safronkov, Russia’s acting Ambassador to the UN who has stepped in to fill the position of the late Vitaly Churkin has said,
“… we submitted our short draft resolution, drawn up in a business manner and aimed at conducting a true investigation rather than to appoint the guilty ones until the facts are established”.
The Russian draft resolution proposes to,
“… fully investigate the reports about the incident on the ground under the mandatory condition that the list of investigators will be submitted to the UN for approval and will be geographically balanced as well”
This is in sharp contrast to the US-UK-France co-sponsored resolution which automatically assigned blame to the Syrian government in spite of clear evidence to the contrary. That resolution was vetoed by Russia.
The Russian resolution calls for the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the group which helped the Syrian government to remove the remains of its chemical weapons stockpiles in 2013, to explore this incident.
It also demands that illegal terrorist groups cooperate with investigations, something which may not be possible.
This response is similar to Russia’s reaction to the use of chemical weapons in Donbass by forces loyal to the Kiev regime. At that time Russia called for an investigation rather than a war.
UN rapporteurs have urged Saudi Arabia to immediately halt a planned demolition of an entire 400-year-old neighborhood inhabited by the kingdom’s Shia Muslim minority.
The UN experts warned that the so-called development plan for the historic neighborhood of al-Masora in the village of Awamia in the eastern province of Qatif threatens the historical and cultural heritage of the area with irreparable harm.
They said such a move would lead to forced eviction of 2,000 to 3,000 people from their businesses and residences.
“The area is of importance not only to local people and the entire cultural landscape of Awamia, but also has national significance for the history and cultural heritage of Saudi Arabia,” said the UN Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights, Karima Bennoune.
“The planned demolition would erase this unique regional heritage in an irreversible manner,” she pointed out.
Masora is considered a historical model of a walled village, including mosques, farms and farmers markets, places of worship for Shia Muslims, ‘Hussainiyats’, and businesses. It has been of great interest for researchers and experts in the fields of heritage and archaeology.
The imminent demolition of the entire neighborhood is part of a so-called development plan aimed at transforming Masora from a mainly residential neighborhood to a commercial and service zone.
Local residents are concerned that the plan will exacerbate the existing housing crisis and lead to a rise in real estate prices, as the plan does not include the construction of residential buildings.
“Residents have been pressured in many ways, including through power cuts, to vacate their homes and businesses without adequate alternative resettlement options, leaving them at best with insufficient compensation and at worst, with nowhere to go,” said the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing, Leilani Farha.
“Demolitions must never lead to homelessness of the evicted persons, so the authorities have to ensure the provision of adequate alternative housing facilities, resettlement and compensation for lost property,” she added.
The UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty, Philip Alston, warned about the ramifications of the demolition on the standard of living of Masora residents.
“If implemented, the plan will remove people from the areas where they live and work, resulting in loss of livelihood and difficulty in securing housing,” he said.
The experts also raised concerns over the lack of “any meaningful consultation” with the residents, and the absence of less damaging alternatives, like restoration.
“The Saudi authorities must take all necessary steps to guarantee cultural rights, including the right to the enjoyment of and access to cultural heritage, and the right to an adequate standard of living, including housing, in accordance with international human rights laws and standards,” the UN experts said in a statement.
“They must halt all ongoing demolition works that do not meet these standards and cancel any planned in the future,” the statement said.
Citizens of Qatif and other oil-rich regions of eastern Saudi Arabia have for long lamented about discrimination against them. International rights campaigners have also called on Riyadh to stop the persecution of members of the Shia community, saying they should enjoy more freedom in expressing their religious beliefs.
The alleged chemical attack, reported yesterday, is the latest in a series of atrocities notionally carried out by the Syrian government (“The Regime”, in the partisan parlance of the press). There has not been time, as yet, to fully examine and analyse all the evidence – the claims and counter claims, the photographs and videos – but it would be a massive mistake to view it in a vacuum.
First, the situation on the ground needs to be considered. The Syrian government – with assistance from Iran and the Russian Air Force, have been making steady progress for months. Aleppo has fallen. Palmyra was retaken. The rebels are losing. So cui bono? What good does dropping chemical weapons on children do Assad, at this point? It is both strategically pointless, and a crushing blow to his international image. It would serve no purpose, unless he’s a comic-book style villain intent on being cruel for cruelty’s sake – and they don’t exist outside of cinema or the American press. Conversely, it would make all the sense in the world for cornered zealots and mercs to try to disrupt the upcoming talks (from which they are excluded).
Second, the timing. Much like a previous “chemical attack” (and subsequent BBC Panorama documentary) came on the eve of a commons vote on military intervention in Syria, this attack comes at a key moment. In two days there is a meeting in Brussels on the Syria peace process, and the future of the country. This attack will allow Western leaders – especially the European voices, increasingly separate from the US on this issue – to ride an artificial high-horse into those proceedings. Deals can be scuppered and progress refused in the wake of such “atrocities”.
Third, we have seen this all before. There was the chemical attack in Ghouta, initially pinned on the government (and still unquestioningly attributed to them in the MSM), that was revealed to be carried out by rebels. there was also the aforementioned napalm/chemical attack on a school – thoroughly debunked by Robert Stuart. We have seen the same girl rescued three different times by the White Helmets, and seen people in Egypt arrested for faking footage of bombings. The “last hospital in Aleppo” was knocked down everyday for a month, and the last doctors slaughtered bi-weekly. There is no reason, as yet, to think this is not just more of the same.
This is in fine tradition of media manipulation – from filming people on the outside of a fence and pretending they’re inside, to moving bodies for a better photograph, to deliberately removing an image’s context, and lying about it. Events are ignored, twisted, exaggerated and outright fabricated in order to push an agenda. Accordance with reality is immaterial to the process, and coincidental when it occurs.
Real or not, false flag or not – No one can deny convenience of the timing. Given the conflict the UK/EU find themselves in with the new US administration re: Syria. During the campaign Trump, unlike Clinton, totally refused to countenance the idea of no-fly zones or any kind of American/NATO backed military action against Syria and their Russian/Iranian allies. The last few weeks have seen even a softening of America’s “Assad must go” mantra. Rex Tillerson, speaking in Turkey last week, said:
I think the… longer term status of president Assad will be decided by the Syrian people,”
And the American ambassador to the UN added:
You pick and choose your battles and when we’re looking at this, it’s about changing up priorities and our priority is no longer to sit there and focus on getting Assad out.”
Though she did later clarify these remarks, after being named-and-shamed in the media.
John McCain called Tillerson’s words “one of the more unusual statements I have ever heard”, stating it would be ridiculous to let Syrians decide the fate of Syrian government (probably because they would choose wrong).
The press, of course, have not referenced any of this. They continue to cite the partisan White Helmets and completely discredited “Syrian observatory for Human Rights” as if they are reliable sources. They continue to assert gossip and rumor as if it were fact. They continue to lie, but give themselves just enough room to manoeuvre should their lies be exposed.
The Guardian view on…, one of the Guardian’s anonymous editorials (that definitely don’t come straight from GCHQ, you cynics), is a classic example. The headline reads:
The Guardian view on Syria: Assad knows he acts with impunity
A sharp, hard-edged, statement of absolute certitude… and the only sentence of conviction in the whole piece. The rest is littered with uncertain, selective language. Weasel-words and guesses. I have added the emphasis:
Tuesday’s attack in rebel-held Idlib province has forced a reaction: it is one of the worst suspected chemical attacks in the six-year war
the symptoms suggest the use of a nerve agent, probably sarin
ascertaining the agents used, by whom, is always difficult – particularly given the problems experts will face in accessing the site.
The suspicion is that Tuesday’s strike, like another suspected sarin attack which killed 93 people in eastern Hama in December,
Some have already drawn a link between what seems to be the use of a more deadly agent and the US shift on Syria
That’s an awful lot of “seems” and “suspecteds” to cram into 700 words. It’s a suspected attack, that seems like it might be similar to other suspected attacks, which might have happened. As of right now, it appears, we don’t who attacked, how they attacked, what they attacked with or – indeed – if anyone attacked anything at all.
Nevertheless, the nameless and completely non-partisan and objective author reassures us that:
Nonetheless, the evidence so far points in one direction,
… he just neglects to mention exactly what that evidence is, or tell us where we can find it.
Just hours later we are treated to a longer variation on the exact-same theme, this time the author doesn’t feel ashamed to put his name to it… he probably should be. But years of writing about the Guardian teaches you that Jonathan Freedland is never ashamed of putting his name to anything.
Let’s not even condemn these attacks any more – because our condemnations ring so hollow.
… he says, before condemning the attacks – at interminable length and in trite manipulative language. That these condemnations “ring hollow” might be the only honest words in the article. The level of selective blindness, historical dishonesty, and flat-out hypocrisy is astounding. Even for him,
Assad has himself broken international law, indeed broken a set of precious, century-old conventions and agreements that ban chemical weapons.
… he says, as if a) It was a proven fact and b) It was the only example. No mention of American use of depleted Uranium, Agent Orange or napalm is made. No mention of Israeli White Phosphorus or of the cluster bombs we used in Iraq, and sold to Saudi Arabia to be used on Yemeni civilians. The use of any and all of those substances is illegal under International law. America and Israel cannot be charged with a breach of The Geneva Convention, of course, because they have never ratified protocols I and II, outlawing the targeting of civilians and infrastructure and banning certain weapons.
We are all too aware of the costs of action. But the dead of Khan Sheikhoun force us to make another calculation. They force us to see that inaction too can exact a terrible price.
This could be a straight copy-and-paste job from his many articles on Libya. He made the same arguments back then, and must take partial responsibility for post-apocalyptic wasteland that he (and his colleagues in the media) helped to create. Libya is destroyed, he knows this, and if he could excuse or downplay his role in that destruction… he would do so. To ignore it, and employ the same reasoning to encourage the same fate to yet another Middle-Eastern country, displays a callousness and vanity that belies is saccharine concern for “values”.
However, no amount of faux-moral agonising and dishonesty will ever trump this:
For more than a decade, we have rightly weighed the grave consequences of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, counting the toll in human suffering.
The tone mirrors the same tone ever-taken by members of the Western press when it comes to Iraq. “Our consciences are agony”, they scream at us. As if Iraq was all a tragic accident, fuelled by the fervor of our best intentions and naivety of our governments. They will never address the truth of it – that it was a cynical and brutal war of conquest, cheered on a by braying, controlled media, with more regard for their appearance of virtue, and their bank balances, than any idea of objective truth.
Now, the lame self-flagellation is one thing, but that it should appear alongside this:
Assad’s impunity is, at this very moment, being noted and filed away by the world’s most brutal regimes: the precedent is being set. This is what you can get away with.
… is quite another. The world is VERY aware “what you can get away with” in international law…and it’s not 70 dead in what “seems” like a gas attack. What you can “get away with” is walling up millions of people in a giant ghetto, and cutting off their water and power supply. It’s dropping carcinogens on villages, that give babies tumors 50 years later. It’s illegal sanctions that kill 500,000 children but are “worth it”.
“what you can get away with”, as the author so po-facedly admits, is the invasion of Iraq. An illegal war, a million dead, an ancient seat of civilisation reduced to a glass crater. Was anyone fired? Did anyone resign in disgrace? Has anyone faced charges in the Hague. No, the perpetrators walk free. They collect paychecks from the boards of the most powerful companies in the world, and are given column inches in the Guardian when ever they want them.
In terms of making an actual argument, he hits the exact same talking points as The Guardian view, uses the exact same phrases… and produces the exact same amount of evidence:
… we almost certainly know who did it. Every sign points to the regime of Bashar al-Assad.
He doesn’t say what these “signs” are. Or link to where we can see them.
We know that the poison spread after warplanes dropped bombs
We “know” no such thing. That’s just what the White Helmets said. The White Helmets are paid by the governments of several countries… including the US and UK. They are completely discredited as a source. But this article isn’t about making an evidence-based case, it is about harnessing created public outrage in order to further a specific political agenda.
So, what is the agenda? Well, it won’t be full-blown war in Syria. Number 10 was very quick to – shall we say – shoot-down that idea. It won’t be any kind of overt NATO or American backed intervention… if the PTB had wanted that, they would have pushed harder for a Clinton victory. And Freedland’s reference to Anne-Marie Slaughter’s suggestion is laughable:
Anne-Marie Slaughter, formerly of the Obama administration, suggests a single strike that would crater, say, a runway used by Assad’s warplanes – not an invasion, not a full-scale military operation, but some way of punishing Syria for what it has done.
No, the agenda being pushed here is two-fold, firstly an attack on the UN and its apparent impotence, and secondly a pre-emptive defense of the status quo.
To deal with the first point, the article launches a sidelong attack on the UN Security Council, most specifically the veto power:
In February, the UN security council considered imposing sanctions over the use of chemical weapons. Russia vetoed it, of course: it would never want to stay the hand of its murderous chum. But China vetoed it too.
This is not new material for the Guardian, they have been attacking the UN veto for years now – as have other liberal papers and news outlets. You don’t need to be a genius to understand the drive to undermine the only regulatory body that can put a hold on neo-liberal imperialism. But for the UNSC, Iraq would have been so much easier and Syria would have been levelled by now.
The second point is more subtle. For years the CIA et al have been seeking to remove Assad from government, most openly through supplying arms and money to the “moderate opposition” in order to wage a proxy war. Trump’s election, and his public undermining of the intelligence agencies, poses a threat to this on-going plan.
Now that this chemical attack has happened, of course, Trump’s administration can be condemned for being “soft”. Now, we can call on Trump and his cabinet to “act”… and when they refuse to change their policy, rightfully fearful of a conflict with Russia, they will be further derided and undermined in the press as “Russian agents” who are “easy on tyrants”.
All the while, the covert operations carried out by American and European alphabet agencies all over Syria will continue.
When the State Dept., the CIA and all their co-members of America’s (totally imaginary) “deep state” completely disregard the orders of their Commander-in-Chief, and continue to pursue their own agenda – continue to supply arms and funding to their mercenaries and proxies – they will be applauded in the press for their “bravery” and “resolution”.
We will be encouraged to be “thankful” that the mechanics of democracy and freedom cannot be impeded by the election of an autocratic buffoon. We will be told, with a bright smile, that our choice of leadership means literally nothing as it pertains to foreign policy.
It will be thrown in our faces that our elected officials have no real power, and we will be told to applaud the death of democracy… in the name of freedom.
Russia and China have teamed up once again in the U.N. Security Council — and this time they called a rather embarrassing bluff.
On Friday, Moscow and Beijing proposed that a United Nations panel investigating chemical weapons use in Syria be extended to Iraq, a proposal that was immediately rejected by the U.K.
This came as a bit of a shock, because earlier the Security Council had expressed “unanimous concern” about Islamic State’s use of chemical weapons in Iraq.
As AFP reports:
Security Council members expressed “unanimous concern” about the latest information concerning IS’s use of chemical weapons, according to British Ambassador Matthew Rycroft, who chaired the talks.
Russia and China then presented a draft resolution that “seeks to expand the work of the Joint Investigative Mechanism to Iraq,” Rycroft said, adding that Britain opposes the measure.
“The UK pointed out that there were many differences between the situation in Iraq and Syria,” he said.
Rycroft claims that the reason the U.K. opposed the measure is because the Iraqi government is “fully cooperating” with the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
That’s odd logic. If the Iraqi government is fully cooperating with the U.N., then surely they would be open to investigating chemical weapon attacks by Islamic State?
The proposal was suggested during a Security Council discussion “about the battle of Mosul, where Iraqi forces are fighting Daesh group jihadists”.
Reading between the lines, it seems like there’s really only two good reasons why the U.K. would block this proposal:
1. For whatever odd reason, the U.K. does not want investigators to be snooping around the ongoing carnage in Mosul
2. “Unanimous concern” is a meaningless baloney phrase used to feign outrage about atrocities in non-western countries
We suppose a third possibility is that “someone else” has been using chemical weapons in Mosul.
At any rate, Russia and China just caught the West in a big, embarrassing and shameful lie — and anyone who’s paying attention can see the double-standards and hypocrisy.
This is just the latest diplomatic team victory for Beijing and Moscow. Expect many more.
Iran’s ambassador to the UN Gholamali Khoshroo
Iran’s ambassador to the UN Gholamali Khoshroo has called for the total eradication of nuclear weapons.
Khoshroo reiterated Iran’s call during a UN conference aimed at creating a nuclear weapons ban treaty in New York on Tuesday.
“Iran, as a victim of chemical weapons, strongly feels the danger posed by the existence of weapons of mass destruction and is determined to engage actively in international diplomatic efforts to save humanity from the menace of nuclear weapons,” he said.
Khoshroo stressed that Iran is committed to its Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) obligations, which include negotiations based on effective nuclear disarmament measures.
He added that several countries continue to ignore international calls and treaties for nuclear disarmament and even continue to increase their nuclear stockpiles. “They do not have political determination to abandon doctrines of nuclear deterrence and nuclear terror,” he went on to say.
Iran’s UN ambassador noted that boycotting the talks by many countries, including the US, shows that the world’s nuclear powers are by no means committed to the eradication of nuclear arms. Britain and France were also among the some 40 countries that did not join the talks.
“We note that prohibition of nuclear weapons must be accompanied by the elimination of such weapons. There can be no doubt that without complete abolition of nuclear weapons, there will be no absolute guarantee against the danger of nuclear war and the use of such weapons,” Khoshroo added.
The US won’t allow a Palestinian to secure “one of the highest positions” at the UN, US ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said, explaining why the US had blocked a former Palestinian prime minister’s appointment to lead the UN’s Libya mission.
“So when they decided to try and put a Palestinian [former Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad] in one of the highest positions that had ever been given at the UN, we said no and we had him booted out,” Haley said at the annual Policy Conference of the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) on Monday.
“That doesn’t mean he wasn’t a nice man,” she continued, adding “that doesn’t mean he wasn’t good to America.”
Haley added that, until Palestine “comes to the table, until the UN responds the way they’re supposed to, there are no freebies for the Palestinian Authority anymore.”
Haley added that when the UN passed a resolution demanding an end to Israeli settlement building on occupied Palestinian land, “the entire country felt a kick in the gut.”
“Never do we not have the backs of our friends. We don’t have a greater friend than Israel. And to see that happen was not only embarrassing, it was hurtful,” she said.
Haley also criticized a UN report released in March, in which author Richard Falk, a Princeton professor emeritus, describes Israel as an “apartheid state.”
“And a ridiculous report, the Falk Report, came out. I don’t know who the guy is or what he’s about, but he’s got serious problems. Goes and compares Israel to an apartheid state. So the first thing we do is we call the secretary general and say, this is absolutely ridiculous,” she said.
According to the US ambassador to the UN, the days of “Israel-bashing” are over.
“I wear heels. It’s not for a fashion statement,” she said, explaining “it’s because if I see something wrong, we’re going to kick them every single time. So how are we kicking? We’re kicking by… putting everybody on notice, saying that if you have our back – we’re going to have the backs of our friends, but our friends need to have our back too.”
The US blocked Fayyad’s appointment to lead the UN’s political mission in Libya in February, accusing the United Nations of being “unfairly biased” towards the Palestinian Authority.
Fayyad served as a Palestinian prime minister between 2007 and 2013.
Haley also noted that the Trump administration “was disappointed” by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ intention to appoint Fayyad as the UN’s next special representative to Libya, which was announced in a letter to the Security Council.
“For too long, the UN has been unfairly biased in favor of the Palestinian Authority to the detriment of our allies in Israel,” Haley said.
Her statement was praised by Israel’s UN ambassador, Danny Danon, who stated that “this is the beginning of a new era at the UN, an era where the US stands firmly behind Israel against any and all attempts to harm the Jewish State.”
Palestine is a non-member observer state at the United Nations, and its independence has been recognized by 137 of the 193 UN member nations so far. Back in February, Haley noted that US doesn’t recognize a Palestinian state “or support the signal” that Fayyad’s appointment would have sent within the United Nations.
In 2011, UNESCO voted to admit Palestine as a full member, noting that the decision had been made as “a mark of respect and confidence.”