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1
A Non-aligned Unified Korea is the Best Outcome Washington can Hope for
 Hyun Lee, ZoominKorea 
August 29, 2018
 

 Even after President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un agreed to establish "new US-DPRK relations" in Singapore on June 12, Washington seems in denial that the summit ever took place. The 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), signed into law this month, says the "complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea" is still the "central foreign policy objective of the United States" and affirms U.S. commitment to its extended nuclear deterrence to South Korea. It makes no mention of the "denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula" stated in the Singapore agreement. The latter requires the eventual removal of all things that pose a nuclear threat to the peninsula, including U.S. military exercises that routinely simulate nuclear strikes against North Korea and its nuclear umbrella.

Washington is singularly interested in North Korea's irreversible denuclearization and wants it done now. But let's ask ourselves: does eliminating North Korea's nuclear weapons guarantee peace? What about U.S.' nukes in the region? Even before North Korea went nuclear, Korea was the center of one of the most heavily militarized regions in the world. What about the threat of conventional war, which the Pentagon estimates would result in 20,000 deaths per day in South Korea?

The only way North Korea in its right mind would irreversibly get rid of its nuclear weapons is if the United States were to give a security guarantee that is just as irreversible. That would require a fundamental change in the political relationship between the two countries, which, for the past seventy years, have been hurling insults and threatening to annihilate each other. A change in their relationship won't happen overnight and would need a combination of political, military and diplomatic efforts that could take years.

The most practical approach to the peace process, therefore, is a gradual plan: a step by step process whereby all parties take mutual steps to move towards peace. North Korea has already taken concrete steps: halting its nuclear and missile tests, dismantling its nuclear test site, releasing American prisoners and returning the remains of U.S. servicemen. The United States should now make reciprocal moves.

Instead, the Washington establishment seems determined to undermine the peace process. The NDAA also states that after a denuclearization deal is reached with North Korea, the Secretary of Defense should report to Congress on "the number of nuclear weapons, other weapons of mass destruction, including chemical and biological weapons, and ballistic missiles verifiably dismantled, destroyed, rendered permanently unusable, or transferred out of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea." In other words, not only does Congress assume denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula to be a one-sided process solely focused on disarming North Korea, it also imagines the dismantlement of other weapons of mass destruction, such as chemical and biological weapons.

What Washington doesn't seem to fully understand is that the Singapore statement signed by Trump and Kim Jong-un was a political agreement between two nuclear powers. The United States would never think to demand that China, Russia or even India abandon all their nuclear, chemical and biological weapons without offering commensurate concessions. Why does it assume it can do so with North Korea?

If the peace process started by the Singapore summit succeeds, North Korea will likely allow the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to conduct routine safeguards inspections of its nuclear facility in Yongbyon and verify the dismantlement of key nuclear facilities. But as we saw back in 1993 when North Korea walked away from the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) over U.S.' insistence on "anytime, anywhere inspections," similar demands for verification at undeclared facilities and the inclusion of non-nuclear materials such as chemical and biological weapons, as Congress calls for in the NDAA, is the surest way to shut down any possibility of reaching a nuclear deal with North Korea.

The agreement reached in Singapore outlines a much more productive path. Points one and two of the agreement say the United States and North Korea commit to establishing "new relations" and "building a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula." The statement addresses denuclearization, but its scope is much broader. At its core, what was agreed to in Singapore was a fundamental change in the two countries' relationship to one of cooperation for genuine peace.

Genuine peace means establishing normal relations and creating the conditions for all parties to reduce their troops and weapons of mass destruction so that they can shift their resources to building their economies and improving the lives of their people. For that, we need to first resolve the Korean War and turn the 1953 armistice into a peace treaty.

Harry Harris, the new U.S. ambassador to South Korea, says it's "too early" to end the Korean War. But Koreans have lived with constant threats of the resumption of war for sixty-five years. How much longer should they wait? When is it not "too early" to talk peace?

Trump's "Indo-Pacific" Strategy and the Fate of U.S. Troops in Korea

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared when she advocated the U.S.' "pivot to Asia" in 2011:

Harnessing Asia's growth and dynamism is central to American economic and strategic interests and a key priority for President Obama. Open markets in Asia provide the United States with unprecedented opportunities for investment, trade, and access to cutting-edge technology. Our economic recovery at home will depend on exports and the ability of American firms to tap into the vast and growing consumer base of Asia.

The Pacific has historically been an important theater for the United States, because Asia is of vital strategic interest. Maintaining an upper hand militarily is a key part of U.S.' strategy for securing its economic and political interests in the region. But two factors have posed a challenge to U.S. military power in the Pacific: North Korea's new status as a nuclear power and China's military expansion in the South China Sea.

Just one year ago, when North Korea was still developing an effective nuclear deterrent, its relationships with its neighbors and the United States were at their all-time worst. It was on the brink of war with the United States; inter-Korean dialogue had been shut down for close to a decade, and China was actively endorsing UN resolutions to impose sanctions for its nuclear weapons program.

All that changed, however, when North Korea became a nuclear power by successfully testing the Hwasong 15, an ICBM that can deliver a nuclear weapon to the US continent. Trump sat down with Kim Jong-un to work out a peace deal, and South Korea's Moon Jae-in wants economic cooperation with the North. The relationship between China and North Korea couldn't be better; Xi Jinping will go to Pyongyang next month to celebrate North Korea's seventieth anniversary, and the two countries have declared their alliance as "forged in blood."

In just one year, North Korea has completely altered the geo-political conditions in the region and its relationships with key countries. Perhaps that was North Korea's goal all along: to leverage its status as a nuclear power to change the region's balance of power in its favor.

In the South China Sea, China has been rapidly expanding and militarizing artificial islands to cement its claim to the disputed waters. Wary of China's rapid growth as a regional power, the United States has been conducting what it dubs "freedom of navigation" maneuvers—routine shows of force to contest China's claim to the South China Sea. It has also fanned centuries-old territorial disputes in the sea to align China's neighboring countries against it. Undeterred, the Chinese navy conducted its largest-ever exercise to date in April and announced plans to conduct monthly military exercises in the South China Sea. And U.S.' strategy of pitting smaller countries against China is failing as two key countries that had asserted claims to the contested waters—the Philippines and Vietnam—recently decided to settle their disputes with China bilaterally—perhaps a sign that they also realize the balance of power in the region is tilting towards China's favor.

The United States does not have the capacity to respond to two strategic threats in the region simultaneously, and it's clear that Trump has made a decision to butt heads with China while settling his conflict with North Korea. In its National Security Strategy announced in December 2017, the White House redefined the "Asia Pacific" region as "Indo-Pacific"—indicating its plan to strengthen its alliance with India—as well as Japan and Australia—to contain the rise of China. Then in March of this year, Trump threw down the gauntlet by signing the "Presidential Memorandum Targeting China's Economic Aggression," declaring the U.S.-China trade war that has become the latest expression of the two countries' long-standing competition for hegemony in the Pacific.

To confront China head on, the United States needs to resolve its long-standing conflict with North Korea. Trump, therefore, decided to sit down with Kim Jong-un to work out a deal. He should know by now that at the core of resolving the U.S.-North Korea conflict are ending the Korean War and withdrawing U.S. troops from the Korean Peninsula. The US-ROK alliance was established in accordance with the Mutual Defense Treaty in 1953, and the USFK's ostensible mission was to defend the South from northern aggression. Should all parties come together to end the Korean War and replace the armistice with a peace agreement, the US-ROK alliance loses its raison d'être.

There are, of course, powerful military industrial complex interests vested in maintaining the US-ROK alliance, so Washington drags its feet. The NDAA insists, "The presence of United States Forces on the Korean Peninsula should remain strong and enduring" and prohibits the Defense Department from using any funds to reduce the number of U.S. troops in South Korea below 22,000 unless the Secretary of Defense certifies that a reduction is in the U.S. national security interest and would not significantly undermine the security of U.S. allies in the region.

Trump's signing statement on the NDAA notably objects that the provision on the limitation of use of funds to reduce troops in Korea may intrude upon the "President's exclusive constitutional authorities as Commander in Chief and as the sole representative of the Nation in foreign affairs." In the quickly-changing regional context—where the United States feels its strategic footing slipping— keeping troops in Korea may no longer have the strategic value it once did.

Toward a Non-aligned Unified Korea and Global Nuclear Disarmament

The Singapore declaration between Trump and Kim Jong-un in June affirmed the April 27 Panmunjom Declaration signed between the two Korean leaders, who agreed to actively pursue "during this year that marks the 65th anniversary of the Armistice," a four-party conference including the two Koreas, the United States and China "with a view to declaring an end to the War, turning the armistice into a peace treaty, and establishing a permanent and solid peace regime." This would pave the way for normal and peaceful relations between the United States and North Korea, and between the two Koreas. This, in turn, would create the conditions for the "complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula" as agreed to at the Singapore summit—i.e. getting rid of all things that pose a nuclear threat to the peninsula, including North Korea's nuclear weapons and facilities as well as U.S.' war games and its nuclear umbrella. It would also enable the two Koreas to finally begin the long-overdue process of peaceful unification, starting with linking their railways and reuniting separated families.

A unified Korean Peninsula with no foreign troops on its soil could declare neutrality in the U.S.-China conflict. This, for the United States, is preferable to a strategic China-North Korea alliance that blocks its ability to project power in the region and likely the best outcome it can hope to achieve.

In the long run, North Korea seems to have an even more audacious goal. At its third plenary meeting on April 20, 2018, the Seventh Central Committee of North Korea's Workers' Party passed a resolution on the use of its nuclear weapons that went completely unnoticed in the western media. The central committee resolved to stop all nuclear and inter-continental ballistic missile tests and dismantle the country's nuclear test site "to transparently guarantee the discontinuance of the nuclear test." It also said:

The DPRK will never use nuclear weapons nor transfer nuclear weapons or nuclear technology under any circumstances unless there are nuclear threat and nuclear provocation against the DPRK.

It furthermore resolved:

The discontinuance of the nuclear test is an important process for the worldwide disarmament, and the DPRK will join the international desire and efforts for the total halt to the nuclear test.

As soon as it became a nuclear power, North Korea resolved to support "worldwide disarmament." Having acquired the technology and hardware that assure its status as a member of the exclusive nuclear club, North Korea seems interested not in joining but dismantling it to tear down the world order that has for so long terrorized it and other weaker nations with threats of nuclear annihilation. The corporate media's demonization of North Korea fuels mistrust and contempt for the country, but in time, the world may come to learn that North Korea intends to use its new status as a nuclear power to demand no less than global nuclear disarmament.

2
Russia Squelches Trump's New Plan to Invade Syria
 Eruc Zuesse, Stragetigic Culture Foundation 
September 2, 2018


 On Friday, August 31st, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov announced that Russia has handed to the OPCW (Organization for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons), and to the U.N., "proof" that the U.S. Government has been working with Al Qaeda to set up a chemical incident that the U.S. and its allies can then use as a supposed justification for invading Syria as a ‘humanitarian' response to a chemical attack allegedly by Syria's Government, but actually done by U.S.-backed forces, to re-ignite the 7-year-old ‘civil war' between Syria's Government and U.S.-backed ‘rebels', who consist almost exclusively of fundamentalist-Sunni jihadists that are trained and led by Al Qaeda in Syria, with U.S. help and Saudi financing.

On August 29th Global Research headlined "Video: US Creates Strike Force to Attack Syria", and posted an August 28th report from South Front saying:

Reports are appearing that the Syrian Air Defense Forces (SADF) have already started preparing to repel an expected US-led missile strike by deploying additional specialists and air defense systems near the crucial objects of the infrastructure, which they expect may be targeted.

On August 22, US National Security Advisor John Bolton claimed that

"if the Syrian regime uses chemical weapons, we will respond very strongly and they really ought to think about this a long time."

This was only one of a series of threats to the Syrian government issued by the US, the UK and France. While all these threats are clearly exploiting the chemical weapons narrative, their main goal is to prevent the defeat of the terrorists in Idlib by delaying the Syrian Army operation.

On August 25, a source close to the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) told the Kurdish news outlet Bas News that the US-led coalition began deploying radar stations at its bases in the governorates of al-Hasakah and Aleppo as part of a new plan to increase its control of Syrian airspace. The report pointed out the airbases in Kobani and Rmelan as places where the radars were installed.

Also on August 28th, the U.S.-backed Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that:

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights was informed by reliable sources that negotiations are underway between the Turkish intelligence services and between Hayyaat Tahrir al-Sham [Syria's Al Qaeda branch, formerly called "Al Nusra"], The Islamic Turkestani Party, and other jihadi groups, with the aim of reaching agreement and consensus for these factions to resolve themselves, where these endeavors coincide with accelerated preparations by the regime forces and their loyal fighters for the start of the grand battle of Idlib [the place to which the surrendered jihadists in Syria have been sent], through which the regime forces seek to control the province and other areas in its surroundings of Aleppo, Hama, and Latakia provinces, and the continuation of negotiation comes after the conflicted information about reaching consensus on this issue, where Hayyaat Tahrir al-Sham and the rest of the groups continue to experience confusion among their leaders and members, as a section of which has agreed to the demands of the Turkish authorities to resolve themselves, while the larger section rejects this process and refuses to approve any of the Turkish terms within the Negotiations.

[In the] Idlib battle, Hayyaat Tahrir al-Sham controls the largest part of Idlib province, and shares it with other 3 parties: the rebel and Islamic factions, the Islami Turkestani Party, and the regime forces and militiamen loyal to them.

The military operation to be conducted in Idlib province, the regime forces and their allies have been significantly preparing over the past weeks, by bringing in thousands of members of their forces and loyal gunmen as well as hundreds of faction fighters who have recently joined the "reconciliation", and hundreds of vehicles, armored vehicles, ammunition, and machinery.

Hayyaat Tahrir al-Sham is one of the renewed names of al-Nusra Front (al-Qaeda Organization in the Levant).

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitored the regime forces bringing more vehicles, members, materiel and ammunition, to these lines, and in conjunction with these mobilizations by the regime forces, the SOHR monitored on the 21st of August 2018 the leader of Al-Nusra Front (Hayyaat Tahrir al-Sham) Abu Mohammad al-Julani, taking a military tour in the northern mountains of Lattakia, where al-Julani reviewed with a number of the commanders of the first and second rank in Hayyaat Tahrir al-Sham, the members of Tahrir Al-Sham and the front lines.

Like other reports by U.S.-allied organizations, Syria's Government is called "the regime" instead of "the Government," and the jihadists (except for ISIS) are accepted as being the U.S. alliance's boots-on-the-ground in Syria to ‘liberate' the Syrian people from Syria's Government.

So, the U.S. Government can hardly call this allegation of U.S. working in conjunction with Al Qaeda, ‘Russian propaganda'. However, on that very same day, August 28th, RT bannered "US army accuses RT of ‘ridiculous misinformation' over Syria, but not UN or NBC", and reported: "A US Army colonel has accused RT of ‘ridiculous misinformation' for reporting a Russian government suggestion that Islamic State is operating inside a US-controlled zone in Syria, despite the UN and NBC reporting the same."

On August 25th, RT had headlined "Terrorists readying chemical attack to frame Damascus & provide pretext for US strikes – Russian MoD", and reported:

The US and its allies are preparing new airstrikes on Syria, the Russian Defense Ministry said, adding that militants are poised to stage a chemical weapons attack in order to frame Damascus and provide a pretext for the strikes.

The attack would be used as a pretext for US, UK and French airstrikes on Syrian targets, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman, Major General Igor Konashenkov said. USS ‘The Sullivans,' an Arleigh Burke-class Aegis guided missile destroyer, was already deployed to the Persian Gulf a couple of days ago, he added.

The destroyer has 56 cruise missiles on board, according to data from the Russian Defence Ministry. A US Rockwell B-1 Lancer, a supersonic bomber equipped with 24 cruise missiles, has also been deployed at the Qatari Al Udeid Airbase.

On August 24th, RT had headlined "ISIS & Al-Nusra terrorists are hiding in Syrian refugee camp within US-controlled zone – Moscow", and reported that "Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) and the Al-Qaeda proxy group Jabhat al-Nusra found quiet shelter in one of the biggest camps, Rukban, near the Syria-Jordan border. The same refugee camp was listed in a recent UN Security Council's Sanctions Monitoring Team report as one of the sources of IS reemergence. The same document reported that ISIS had been defeated in most of the Syrian Arab Republic during 2017, but ‘rallied in early 2018' due to ‘loss of momentum' by forces fighting in the east of Syria, where the US base is located."

The Wikipedia article on "Rukban" opens by saying that its population is 75,000, and that: "Rukban is an arid remote area near the extreme northeast of Jordan, close to the joint borders with Syria and Iraq. The area contains a refugee camp lying along the demilitarized berm between Jordan and Syria, a no man's land." That would be an ideal place for the U.S. and its allies to be assembling the materials for what will be alleged to be a chemical weapons attack ‘by the Assad regime'. Rukban is located in Jordan, a U.S. ally, and adjoining Syria, of which the U.S. has been an enemy ever since first failing in 1949 to turn Syria into a land controlled by the Saud family, as Obama and now Trump are again trying to do.

I had reported, on August 25th, the history of this sort of operation by the U.S. Government, going back to 1949, and mentioning recent faked ‘chemical attacks' set up by the U.S. Government working in conjuction with Al Qaeda in Syria. So: with that lengthy history as background, there exists very sound reason for Syria and its allies to be expecting now yet another invasion of Syiria by U.S.-and-allied missiles, to be ‘justified' on the basis of lies.

The latest of America's missile-invasions of Syria occurred back on 14 April 2018, allegedly in response to a Syrian Government ‘chemical weapons attack' in the city of Douma, which had allegedly occurred on April 7th. Russia tried to get the U.N. Security Council to announce that no invasion of Syria should occur until after the OPCW would enter Douma and collect samples and testimony to determine whether any such attack had actually occurred; and, if so, who had done it. The U.S. blocked that proposal, and invaded on the 14th. Despite that, the OPCW rushed in, to examine Douma, even after the invasion. On April 18th, America's jihadist allies in Douma shot at OPCW inspectors, who courageously continued their work, despite the U.S. Government's repeated efforts to stop it. The OPCW's findings have been kept secret, so that the public still doesn't know what the evidence about that April 7th matter actually showed. Also on April 18th, Turkey's newspaper Yeni Safak headlined "US to build Arab force in NE Syria as part of new ploy: The US is seeking to amass an Arab force in northeastern Syria comprised of funding and troops from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE." That effort by Trump failed; so, the only path forward for him on Syria now is a U.S. invasion, but this one will have to be much larger than the last one, which was done on April 14th, and in which UK and France also supplied a few of the 100+ missiles. Perhaps, if the U.S. does that, Russia will this time target and maybe destroy some U.S. planes and warships. Then, the question would be whether to go to all-out nuclear war, over the Syrian matter and, of course, over America's other excuses for its aggressions against Russia and its allies, such as America's 2014 conquest of Ukraine and turning that country over to nazis.

Perhaps these are the reasons why Russia is announcing clearly, ahead of time, that it won't simply acquiesce if the U.S. tries this faked accusation against Syria, yet again. Perhaps things won't be so easy, if there is a "next time" on this particular matter.
 

3
For Your Information / Labour Must Not Drop Corbyn's Foreign Policy
« on: September 04, 2018, 06:36:53 PM »
Labour Must Not Drop Corbyn's Foreign Policy

Relinquishing Corbyn's internationalist perspective would ensure foreign policy mistakes were repeated, writes Richard Burgon

Some commentators have recently been suggesting that things would be so much better with a Labour leadership retaining Jeremy Corbyn’s domestic anti-austerity politics but stripped of his internationalist politics.

Such a state of affairs is neither achievable nor desirable.

It’s not achievable because of the international nature of capital and its institutions. For example, tax havens are a key tool that the mega-rich use to protect their privileges. They need to be tackled at the national and international level. A socialist economic strategy requires us to engage with progressives the world over.

And it’s not desirable because socialism is not socialism without the internationalist principles of ending global poverty and exploitation, war and occupation and the financial domination of the IMF and the like.

My interest in politics and socialist politics wasn’t kindled by an international issue but by a domestic issue. Growing up I heard about the 1984-5 miners’ strike and it got me thinking about the unfair and sometimes brutal way society is governed and it also got me thinking about how society could be run in a less unfair and more decent way.

But learning more about the 1984-5 miners’ strike inevitably opened my eyes up to the politics of internationalism.

I heard about the solidarity cheque sent to support striking miners in Britain by the South African National Union of Mineworkers, who were standing up for black workers under the oppression of the apartheid system supported by racists and imperialists in the Conservative Party and the British press.

Britain’s NUM decided to frame the cheque as a symbol of internationalist solidarity rather than cash it. I also heard about the convoys of children’s toys sent over the channel by CGT trade unionists in France in time for Christmas in the British coalfields.

Just as British miners received practical and political support from progressives in other countries, so progressives in other countries also drew inspiration from the miners’ struggle here. Nelson Mandela described Arthur Scargill as “a workers’ hero, respected by progressives of all continents.”

Working-class politics and socialist struggle cannot be divorced from progressive international causes. And this is becoming clearer and clearer to more and more people as the ruinous and exploitative effects of the type of globalisation run by big business and free markets become increasingly apparent.

The first demonstration I attended on an internationalist issue was on February 15 2003, when I caught the coach at the crack of dawn from outside the steps up to Leeds University Library to go down to London to protest against Tony Blair’s plan to back George Bush’s invasion and occupation of Iraq.

Jeremy Corbyn was one of the speakers that day.

In relation to the size of that mobilisation, what was significant to me wasn’t just the fact that it was the biggest demonstration in the history of our country but the fact that up to 30 million people around the world were estimated to have taken part in such anti-war demonstrations that day.

The world made clear its opposition to Bush and Blair’s bloody war.

The international solidarity of the 1984-5 miners’ strike and the anti-war mobilisation of February 15 2003 were two hugely formative factors in the development of my socialist politics. And the truth is, virtually all MPs are interested in international affairs.

Some may carp that “international issues” shouldn’t be something MPs really engage with.

As someone who holds nearly 70 advice sessions for my constituents a year — Boris Johnson publicly boasts that doing 16 a year makes him a highly energetic champion for his constituents — I’m a passionate believer in the importance of “bread and butter” issues and local engagement and I put that into practice.

But the reality is that Members of Parliament want to be part of a government which shares, and puts into practice, their principles.

One of the important functions of government is our relations with other countries and the international community. We can’t ignore that and often the pretence that international issues can be side-lined is cover for backing the status quo. As the great Desmond Tutu rightly explained, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”

As with domestic politics, the key question is what your vision for the world is. Some MPs are unwavering and very vocal advocates of bombing, invasion and being a junior partner of each and every US president in each and every foreign war come what may.

Some MPs are intensely relaxed about Britain being a weapons supermarket for the royal family of Saudi Arabia which is inflicting death and misery in Yemen.

Some MPs will defend Netanyahu’s government whatever policies it pursues and whatever human rights it breaches.

Some MPs will revel in the very real hardship caused by the severe economic difficulties in Venezuela because they believe it “proves their point” about socialist movements but have remained studiously silent about the slaughter of trade unionists, human rights lawyers and journalists in Colombia and the murder of progressive students in post-coup Honduras.

Some MPs still believe that British “interventions” in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria are badges of honour — so much so that they’d do the same again elsewhere.

Make no mistake, a socialist Labour leadership relinquishing its internationalist perspective would leave the field clear for all the foreign policy errors of the past, and present, to be repeated again and again, with all the human misery and danger that this entails.

A socialist leadership of the Labour Party dropping its internationalist perspective is not an option. And it’s certainly not an option that someone with Jeremy’s politics would countenance.

A theoretical Labour leadership that jettisoned progressive internationalist politics would be forgoing the chance to play a major and practical role in the push for a world of peace, where poverty is banished to the history books, equality in and between countries and continents is advanced and where almost apocalyptic climate change is avoided.

It would also be forgoing the chance to create a fundamental and irreversible shift in wealth, power and control in favour of working people and their families in this country because both the economic and political forces with whom we must work to achieve this and the economic and political forces who will work against us when we try to achieve this are international.

The truth is that the commentators arguing the Labour leadership drops its internationalist politics are, in reality, in favour of dropping a socialist approach at home and abroad.

Source: MORNING STAR
 

4
South Tyneside Stop the War / A Gangster State
« on: September 03, 2018, 11:08:21 PM »
A Gangster State
Craig Murray, Uncategorized by craig

20 Aug, 2018

   Max Weber defined a key attribute of a state as holding the monopoly on the legitimate exercise of violence within a given territory. For anybody other than the state to use substantive physical force against you or to imprison you is regarded as an extremely serious crime. The state itself may however constrain you, beat you, imprison you and even kill you. That link is on deaths in police custody. I might also quote the state murder of 12 year old British child Jojo Jones, deliberately executed by drone strike by the USA with prior approval from the British government.

That is but one example of the British state's decreasing reticence over the use of extreme violence. The shameless promotion of Cressida Dick to head the Metropolitan Police as reward for orchestrating the cold-blooded murder of an innocent and unresisting Jean Charles de Menezes is another example. So is Savid Javid's positive encouragement of the US to employ the death penalty against British men stripped of citizenship.

There are a class of states where the central government does not have sufficient control over its territories to preserve its monopoly of violence. That may include violence in opposition to the state. But one further aspect of that is state sanctioned violence in pursuit of state aims by non state actors, done with a nod and a wink from the government – death squads and private militias, often CIA supplied, in South America have often acted this way, and so occasionally does the British state, for example in the murder of Pat Finucane. In some instances, a state might properly be described as a gangster state, where violent groups acting for personal gain act in concert with state authorities, with motives of personal financial profit involved on both sides.

It appears to me in this sense it is fair to call Britain a gangster state. It has contracted out the exercise of state violence, including in some instances to the point of death, against prisoners and immigration detainees to companies including G4S, who exercise that violence purely for the making of profit from it. It is a great moral abomination that violence should be exercised against humans for profit – and it should be clear that in even in most "humane" conditions the deprivation of physical liberty of any person is an extreme and chronic exercise of violence against them. I do not deny the necessity of such action on occasion to protect others, but that the state shares out its monopoly of violence, so that business interests with which the political class are closely associated can turn a profit, is a matter of extreme moral repugnance.

Rory Stewart appeared on Sky News this morning and the very first point he saw fit to make was a piece of impassioned shilling on behalf of G4S. That this was the first reaction of the Prisons Minister to a question on the collapse of order at Birmingham Prison due to G4S' abject performance, shows both the Tories' ideological commitment to privatisation in all circumstances, especially where it has demonstrably failed, and shows also the extent to which they are in the pockets of financial interests – and not in the least concerned about the public interest.

I should add to this that Tories here includes Blairites. Blair and Brown were gung-ho for prison privatisation, and even keen to extend the contracting out of state violence for profit to the military sector by the deployment of mercenary soldiers, which New Labour itself consciously rebranded as "private military companies". Iraq was a major exercise in this with British government contracted mercenaries often outnumbering actual British troops.

The reason for the state to have the monopoly of violence in any society is supposed to be in order to ensure that violence is only ever exercised with caution, with regret and in proportion, solely in unavoidable circumstances. It is the most profound duty of a state to ensure that this is so. The contracting out of state violence for private profit ought to be unthinkable to any decent person.

5
For Your Information / NATO: the Unexamined Alliance
« on: August 02, 2018, 02:25:03 PM »
NATO: the Unexamined Alliance
Conn Hallinan, Counterpunch

July 31, 2018


   The outcome of the July11-12 NATO meeting in Brussels got lost amid the media's obsession with President Donald Trump's bombast, but the "Summit Declaration" makes for sober reading. The media reported that the 28-page document "upgraded military readiness," and was "harshly critical of Russia," but there was not much detail beyond that.

But details matter, because that is where the Devil hides.

One such detail is NATO's "Readiness Initiative" that will beef up naval, air and ground forces in "the eastern portion of the Alliance." NATO is moving to base troops in Latvia, Estonia Lithuania, the Czech Republic and Poland. Since Georgia and Ukraine have been invited to join the Alliance, some of those forces could end up deployed on Moscow's western and southern borders.

And that should give us pause.

A recent European Leadership's Network's (ELN) study titled "Envisioning a Russia-NATO Conflict" concludes, "The current Russia-NATO deterrence relationship is unstable and dangerously so." The ELN is an independent think tank of military, diplomatic and political leaders that fosters "collaborative" solutions to defense and security issues.

High on the study's list of dangers is "inadvertent conflict," which ELN concludes "may be the most likely scenario for a breakout" of hostilities. "The close proximity of Russian and NATO forces" is a major concern, argues the study, "but also the fact that Russia and NATO have been adapting their military postures towards early reaction, thus making rapid escalation more likely to happen."

With armed forces nose-to-nose, "a passage from crisis to conflict might be sparked by the actions of regional commanders or military commanders at local levels or come as a consequence of an unexpected incident or accident." According to the European Leadership Council, there have been more than 60 such incidents in the last year.

The NATO document is, indeed, hard on Russia, which it blasts for the "illegal and illegitimate annexation of Crimea," its "provocative military activities, including near NATO borders," and its "significant investments in the modernization of its strategic [nuclear] forces."

Unpacking all that requires a little history, not the media's strong suit.

The story goes back more than three decades to the fall of the Berlin Wall and eventual re-unification of Germany. At the time, the Soviet Union had some 380,000 troops in what was then the German Democratic Republic. Those forces were there as part of the treaty ending World War II, and the Soviets were concerned that removing them could end up threatening the USSR's borders. The Russians have been invaded—at terrible cost—three times in a little more than a century.

So West German Chancellor Helmet Kohl, U.S. Secretary of State James Baker, and Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev cut a deal. The Soviets agreed to withdraw troops from Eastern Europe as long as NATO did not fill the vacuum, or recruit members of the Soviet-dominated Warsaw Pact. Baker promised Gorbachev that NATO would not move "one inch east."

The agreement was never written down, but it was followed in practice. NATO stayed west of the Oder and Neisse rivers, and Soviet troops returned to Russia. The Warsaw Pact was dissolved in 1991.

But President Bill Clinton blew that all up in 1999 when the U.S. and NATO intervened in the civil war between Serbs and Albanians over the Serbian province of Kosovo. Behind the new American doctrine of "responsibility to protect," NATO opened a massive 11-week bombing campaign against Serbia.

From Moscow's point of view the war was unnecessary. The Serbs were willing to withdraw their troops and restore Kosovo's autonomous status. But NATO demanded a large occupation force that would be immune from Serbian law, something the nationalist-minded Serbs would never agree to. It was virtually the same provocative language the Austrian-Hungarian Empire had presented to the Serbs in 1914, language that set off World War I.

In the end, NATO lopped off part of Serbia to create Kosovo and re-drew the post World War II map of Europe, exactly what the Alliance charges that Russia has done with its seizure of the Crimea.

But NATO did not stop there. In 1999 the Alliance recruited former Warsaw Pact members Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic, adding Bulgaria and Romania four years later. By the end of 2004, Moscow was confronted with NATO in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia to the north, Poland to the west, and Bulgaria and Turkey to the south. Since then, the Alliance has added Slovakia, Slovenia, Albania, Croatia, and Montenegro. It has invited Georgia, Ukraine, Macedonia and Bosnia and Herzegovina to apply as well.

When the NATO document chastises Russia for "provocative" military activities near the NATO border, it is referring to maneuvers within its own border or one of its few allies, Belarus.

As author and foreign policy analyst Anatol Lieven points out, "Even a child" can look at a 1988 map of Europe and see "which side has advanced in which direction."

NATO also accuses Russia of "continuing a military buildup in Crimea," without a hint that those actions might be in response to what the Alliance document calls its "substantial increase in NATO's presence and maritime activity in the Black Sea." Russia's largest naval port on the Black Sea is Sevastopol in the Crimea.

One does not expect even-handedness in such a document, but there are disconnects in this one that are worrisome.

Yes, the Russians are modernizing their nuclear forces, but the Obama administration was first out of that gate in 2009 with its $1.5 trillion program to upgrade the U.S.'s nuclear weapons systems. Both programs are a bad idea.

Some of the document's language about Russia is aimed at loosening purse strings at home. NATO members agreed to cough up more money, but that decision preceded Trump's Brussels tantrum on spending.

There is some wishful thinking on Afghanistan—"Our Resolute Support Mission is achieving success"—when in fact things have seldom been worse. There are vague references to the Middle East and North Africa, nothing specific, but a reminder that NATO is no longer confining its mission to what it was supposedly set up to do: Keep the Americans in, the Russians out, and the Germans down.

The Americans are still in—one should take Trump's threat of withdrawal with a boulder size piece of salt—there is no serious evidence the Russians ever planned to come in, and the Germans have been up since they joined NATO in 1955. Indeed, it was the addition of Germany that sparked the formation of the Warsaw Pact.

While Moscow is depicted as an aggressive adversary, NATO surrounds Russia on three sides, has deployed anti-missile systems in Poland, Romania, Spain, Turkey, and the Black Sea, and has a 12 to 1 advantage in military spending. With opposing forces now toe-to-toe, it would not take much to set off a chain reaction that could end in a nuclear exchange.

Yet instead of inviting a dialogue, the document boasts that the Alliance has "suspended all practical civilian and military cooperation between NATO and Russia."

The solution seems obvious. First, a return to the 1998 military deployment. While it is unlikely that former members of the Warsaw Pact would drop their NATO membership, a withdrawal of non-national troops from NATO members that border Russia would cool things off. Second, the removal of anti-missile systems that should never have been deployed in the first place. In turn, Russia could remove the middle range Iskander missiles NATO is complaining about and agree to talks aimed at reducing nuclear stockpiles.

But long range, it is finally time to re-think alliances. NATO was a child of the Cold War, when the West believed that the Soviets were a threat. But Russia today is not the Soviet Union, and there is no way Moscow would be stupid enough to attack a superior military force. It is time NATO went the way of the Warsaw Pact and recognize that the old ways of thinking are not only outdated but also dangerous.

6

   Islamic State Drone Program Study Reveals NATO Ratlines
Ulson Gunnar, New Eastern Outlook

July 29


   Despite attempts by the US and European media to depict the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS) in cartoon villain terms, it was always clear to serious analysis that the terrorist organization's fighters, weapons, supplies and money were entering Syria and the result of extensive outside support.

A look at any map of the Syrian conflict, regardless of its source over the past 7 years shows IS and other militant groups maintaining territory with corridors leading directly to the borders of Syria's neighbors, particularly NATO-member Turkey and US allies Israel and Jordan.

There have been direct admissions from the US itself that it played a role in IS' creation. A 2013 leaked US Defense Intelligence Agency memo (.pdf) would explicitly note that the US and its allies sought the creation of what it then called a "Salafist principality" in eastern Syria, precisely where IS would later establish itself.

There have also been direct admissions that US allies were funneling weapons and cash to IS and other designated foreign terrorist organizations. In a leaked e-mail sent by former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to lobbyist John Podesta, she would explicitly claim:

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 [IS] and other radical Sunni groups in the region.

There have also been more indirect admissions, in which the US and European media have claimed that large amounts of US-provided arms and cash were "accidentally" falling into the hands of IS via supposedly "moderate rebels," including when large numbers of these so-called moderate rebels would defect to IS.

A 2014 article in the Telegraph titled, "‘Moderate' Syrian rebels defecting to ISIS, blaming lack of U.S. support and weapons," would admit:

Western-backed "moderate" rebels fighting jihadists in Syria are refusing to do battle and even defecting for lack of weapons and other promised support, leaders said.

With them, they took US weapons including US-made TOW anti-tank missiles which eventually turned up in large numbers among IS terrorists. An earlier Telegraph article from 2012 would indirectly admit US weapons and cash were falling into Al Qaeda's Al Nusra Front's hands through similar "defections."

Islamic State Drone Program Supplied via Turkey

When IS began employing drones for surveillance, forward observation missions and even to deliver ordnance to targets, questions began being asked just how such a program could be developed by an organization ordinarily depicted by the US and European media as having simply sprung from Syrian and Iraqi sand dunes.

Among those asking these questions, and finding the answers, was the US Army's Combating Terrorism Center at West Point. In its 2018 report titled, "The Islamic State and Drones: Supply, Scale, and Future Threats" (.pdf), it would note just how drones and other parts and equipment made it to the terrorist organization in Syria.

The report would note:

In October 2014 and December 2014, months after the Islamic State declared the creation of their caliphate in late June of that same year, Sujan – using the alias Peter Soren – purchased four antennas used for drones from Company 3 and a micro-turbine used in radio-controlled planes from Company 4. At Sujan's request, these two companies shipped these items direct to Sanliurfa, Turkey – a town located an hour's drive from the Syrian border town of Tal Abyad, which the Islamic State controlled, and around a two-and-half hour drive to the group's headquarters in Raqqa, Syria.

The report would note that tens of thousands of dollars of drone parts were ordered and to be shipped to Sanliurfa, Turkey before being brought over the border into Syria and onward to IS territory.

It was through this process that IS was able to develop its drone program which the CTC report quotes one US general as claiming included up to as many as 70 drones in the air on certain days. The program would lead directly to several dozen deaths by weaponized drones and indirectly led to many more through their use as forward observers in guiding indirect weapon fire and guiding vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIED) toward targets.

While the report notes that some shipments were intercepted by the Turkish government, clearly many more made it through. While Western security agencies eventually liquidated those involved in the program in Syria and Iraq and overseas, this was done in late 2015, after Russia's military intervention and when America's "Salafist principality" finally faced real exposure and defeat.

The CTC report is another piece in a puzzle revealing who really drives global terrorism and why. That those behind the IS drone program procured components and entire drones through companies and fronts they operated directly at the heart of the Western surveillance state for an entire year before being stopped calls into question either the efficacy of US-European counter-terrorism measures, or the sincerity behind executing them.

Some may be tempted to chalk the creation of IS' drone program up to incompetence on the part of Western security agencies. The fact remains nonetheless that once again US-European states provided procurement opportunities for IS programs while NATO-member Turkey served as a permissive logistical hub to deliver these supplies and weapons to neighboring Syria. Considering the nature of IS' original inception and longevity, particularly in areas the US itself claims to be fighting it, it is difficult not to at least consider conspiracy, if not conclude as much.

Ulson Gunnar, a New York-based geopolitical analyst and writer especially for the online magazine "New Eastern Outlook".





7
Exclusive Emails Show How The White Helmets Tried To Recruit Roger Waters With Saudi Money
The Gray Zone Project

April 19, 2018


   During a Barcelona concert on April 13, Roger Waters denounced the Syrian White Helmets as "a fake organization that exists only to create propaganda for jihadists and terrorists." Warning that the groups' unverified claims about chemical weapons attacks across insurgent-held territory were aimed at triggering Western military intervention, Waters cautioned his audience, "If we were to listen to the propaganda of the White Helmets and others, we would encourage our governments to start dropping bombs on people in Syria. This would be a mistake of monumental proportions for us as human beings."

In fact, Waters had first hand experience with the powerful pro-war PR operation behind the White Helmets. Back in October 2016, a public relations firm representing the White Helmets called The Syria Campaign attempted to recruit Waters by inviting him to a lavish dinner organized by a Saudi-British billionaire, Hani Farsi. The rock legend and renowned activist was told that by signing on to the organization's mission, he could help "elevate the voices of Syria's peaceful heroes"

Just days before his recent concert in Barcelona, Waters was lobbied again to support the White Helmets, this time by an eccentric French photojournalist affiliated with what he described as a "very powerfull [sic] syrian network." The activist demanded to join Waters on stage and deliver a message for the "children of syria."

Waters did not respond to either request.

These emailed solicitations from White Helmets representatives and activists were provided by Waters to the Grayzone Project, and are published in full at the bottom of this article. The documents demonstrate how the organization's well-funded public relations apparatus has targeted celebrities as the key to the hearts and minds of the broader Western public.

Unlike many other A-listers, however, Waters took time to research the White Helmets and investigate its ulterior agenda.

"I was quite suspicious after I was invited to that [White Helmets] dinner," Waters told the Grayzone Project. "And now my worst suspicions have been confirmed."

The Syria Campaign's initial approach

The October 2016 dinner invite was delivered to Waters by a representative for the Corniche Group, an international holding company belonging to the family of the London-based Saudi billionaire Hani Farsi. Farsi was seeking Waters' presence at a fundraising dinner he had organized on behalf of The Syria Campaign.

The Syria Campaign is a well-funded public relations front established to promote The White Helmets as a group of heroic rescuers who require the protection of Western militaries. Through series of petitions and public demonstrations, The Syria Campaign has unsuccessfully pushed for a No Fly Zone in Syria that would have likely resulted in the kind of Western military intervention that toppled Libyan President Moammar Qaddafi and destabilized Libya.

The slick PR firm has also resorted to astroturfed public stunts like a pro-White Helmets flash mob and orchestral performance at New York City's Grand Central Station where participants were paid up to $600 each.

Farsi's relationship to the The Syria Campaign had been kept private until now. A Syrian-British oil tycoon named Ayman Asfari has taken a much more vocal role with the PR group, providing it with seed money to advance his mission to stimulate US and UK support for regime change in Syria. Waters was informed that Asfari's wife, Sawsan, would be on hand for the 2016 White Helmets fundraising dinner.

Over the past two years, The Syria Campaign has secured endorsements of the White Helmets' work from actors including George Clooney, Aziz Ansari, Ben Affleck, and pop stars like Coldplay and Justin Timberlake. The Syria Campaign also helped orchestrate the production of an Oscar-winning Netflix documentary about the White Helmets in 2017. In the email to Waters, a Corniche Group staffer urged the singer to watch that film and provided him with a link to its trailer.

"I would encourage the celebrities who've signed to endorse the White Helmets to stop supporting them because we know what they are," Waters told the Grayzone Project. "I don't blame them for having bought in to it. On the face of it, it felt plausible that the White Helmets were just good people doing good things. But now we know they're trying to encourage the West to drops bombs and missiles illegally in Syria."

Waters said he also concluded that The Syria Campaign — the PR firm behind the White Helmets — was not simply the humanitarian voice it purported to be, but a corporate outfit that represented much more prosaic interests.

The Syria Campaign's top funder, Asfari, was described by the UK Independent as one of the "super rich" Syrian exiles poised to oversee the rebuilding of the country if Assad were removed, and to presumably reap lucrative contracts in the process.

In its invite to Waters, The Syria Campaign presented him with links to articles that read like press releases for the White Helmets: one from Time Magazine and another by The Guardian urging the Nobel Prize committee to honor the organization with its highest award. The Syrian Campaign appeared to be taking credit for generating both pieces. Government funding, violent extremist activity

The reality of the White Helmets is much more disturbing than its hired PR guns have cared to admit. Not only have the White Helmets operated exclusively alongside Islamist extremist insurgents, including the local Al Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra and ISIS, its members have participated in several documented public executions, and helped extremists dispose of beheaded corpses of those they've killed.

Unable to discount the documented facts about the White Helmets' ties to jihadist insurgents, The Syria Campaign published a lengthy report last year dismissing all critical reporting about the organization as the result of a vast Kremlin-directed conspiracy.

In its email to Waters, The Syria Campaign took credit for having "helped these rescue workers attract more than $15 million in government funding and turned them into household names."

In fact, since the White Helmets were founded in Turkey by a former British MI5 officer named James Le Mesurier, the group has received at least $55 million from the British Foreign Office, $23 million or more from the United States Agency for International Development's Office of Transition Initiatives — the State Department's de facto regime change arm — and untold millions from the Kingdom of Qatar, which has also backed an assortment of extremist groups in Syria including Al Qaeda.

The White Helmets are routinely relied upon by the governments that fund them as a primary source on alleged chemical attacks, including the most recent incident in Douma. When Defense Secretary James Mattis cited "social media" in place of scientific evidence of a chemical attack in Douma, he was referring to video shot by members of the White Helmets. Similarly, when State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert sought to explain why the US bombed Syria before inspectors from the OPCW could produce a report from the ground, she claimed, "We have our own intelligence." With little else to offer, she was likely referring to social media material published by members of the White Helmets. A final appeal from an eccentric activist

In the days leading up to Waters' April 13 concert in Barcelona, an assistant received an email from a French photojournalist named Pascal Hanrion who described himself as "a militant with the syrian white helmets to denounce crimes against humanity in syria," and part of a "very powerfull [sic] syrian network." Unlike the corporate PR professionals of The Syria Campaign, Hanrion appeared to be a freelance activist.

Back in July, 2016, Hanrion ran a marathon-style race through the Swiss Alps wearing a white helmet presented to him as a gift by rescue workers from the town of Jisr al-Shugour, which is located in the Al Qaeda-controlled Syrian providence of Idlib. According to journalist Jenan Moussa, the homes of original Jisr al-Shugour residents have been handed over by Al Qaeda's local affiliate to Chinese Uighur jihadists and their families.

In his email, Hanrion requested to join Waters on stage so he could send a message to the "children of Syria" reminding them, "you are not forgotten!"

Instead of allowing the eccentric activist on stage, Waters delivered a message of his own, urging his audience to deconstruct the wall of pro-war narratives brick-by-brick.

"What we should do is go and persuade our governments not to go and drop bombs on people," Waters implored the crowd, inspiring gales of applause. "And certainly not until we have done all the research that is necessary so that we would have a clear idea of what is really going on. Because we live in the world where propaganda seems to be more important than the reality."

Waters' speech and the emails to him from The Syria Campaign and Hanrion are below:

White Helmets Emails to Roger Waters by Max Blumenthal on Scribd

8
Are We Set Up to Relieve the Mind-Numbing Chernobyl and Fukushima Experience?
Grete Mautner, New Eastern Outlook

July 28


   There's a visible pattern amid the European media voicing ever increasing concern over malfunctions and all sorts of emergencies occurring lately at nuclear power plants.

A very real possibility of a second Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster occurring in Europe has recently been reported by Italian news service Gli Occhi Della Guerra. In particular, it reported that the authorities of Germany and the Netherlands made a decision to hand out to the population iodine tablets capable of reducing the effects of radiation poisoning in an the event of a grave nuclear emergency. This panic-provoking move was made by Berlin and Amsterdam reflecting their severe concern over the condition of two nuclear power plants: the Doel Nuclear Power Station and the Tihange Nuclear Power Station, which are technically located on the the territory of Belgium, but are really close the borders of the two above mentioned nations. The last time there was a major malfunction at the third reactor of Belgium's most powerful nuclear power plant, Tihange, it was announced a couple of days ago by Le Soir. However, Doel is no less troublesome, as those two nuclear power stations were built back in the 70s and have been a major headache for nuclear scientists operating them ever since. It is no coincidence, therefore, that the decision to distribute anti-radiation pills in Aachen and The Hague came on the back of a number of scientific publications shedding light on the security conditions at the two of Belgium's nuclear power stations. Basically speaking, both environmental groups and scientists tend to agree that they represent a time bomb ticking right in the heart of Europe.

However, this is hardly the only source of concern for the EU, as analysts from the British magazine Energy Research & Social Science say that Europe is about to face a nuclear incident much more devastating than the Chernobyl disaster, as on top of the poor state of the two Belgian nuclear power stations, there's an 80% probability of a nuclear disaster occurring at one of Ukraine's nuclear power plants before 2020. In the event of such a nuclear disaster, the European Union will be dealing with both the unimaginable environmental damage, but due to the introduction of a visa-free regime between the EU and Ukraine, a mass exodus from the contaminated region of Ukrainians to Western Europe.

Today, Ukraine has four nuclear power plants: Zaporizhzhya (the largest in Europe, with six reactors and a total electricity generation output of 6,000 MW), Rivne (four reactors with a total electricity generation output of 2,880 MW), Khmelnitskaya (two reactors with a total capacity of 2000 MW) and the South-Ukraine (three reactors and a total electricity generation output of 3000 MW). The fifth one, the infamous Chernobyl nuclear power station with four reactors was sealed off completely back in 2000.

Out of the 15 operational nuclear reactors in Ukraine, a total of 12 were introduced into service before 1990, with all of them sharing a maximum operational service life of 30 years. The fact that a total of 10 of these reactors have already exceeded their lifespans sends cold shivers down one's spine. However, those reactors have been used to produce an ever increasing amount of electricity to meet Ukraine's growing demand caused by a sharp decline in the number of operational thermal power plants that have no access to the coal produced in Donbass. This breakaway region has been on the defense ever since Kiev authorities launched military operations against its Russian-speaking population. Now those Soviet age reactors are being run into the ground so that they fulfill more than 60% of Ukraine's total electricity needs, which leads to nuclear scientists operating them being forced to to the limits of these thoroughly worn-out nuclear facilities.

The situation is aggravated by political pressure applied by Washington on the current Kiev government, demanding them to find a quick substitute to the nuclear fuel produced by the Russian company TVEL. Therefore, time and time again reactors are loaded with fuel produced by the American-Japanese corporation Westinghouse Electric Company. It seems that Kiev and Washington are too willing to ignore the traumatizing experience of the Soviet era Czech Temelín Nuclear Power Station, which signed a deal with Westinghouse on the supply of its fuel as early as 1996. But the use of American fuel led to a series of major failures at the power station eventually resulting in severe structural damaged being inflicted upon its reactors. Nuclear scientists operating the Temelín station failed to address the problem, which led to the decision to break the deal with Westinghouse Electric Company after yet another major incident in 2007. Finally, the Czech Republic refused to purchase any other form of fuel other than fuel produced in Russia, resulting in the Temelín Nuclear Power Station being fueled by Russia once again since 2010.

However, Kiev's authorities have gone so far in their Russophobic that they continue playing with fire, testing all sorts of substitutes to Russian fuel formulas produced in America since 2005. One can remember how a series of malfunctions at the South-Ukraine Nuclear Power Station back in 2013 resulted in a number of Ukrainian inspection organizations introducing a complete ban on the use of any form of American-produced nuclear fuel in Ukraine.

However the American sponsored coup d'etat in Kiev reopened the door for the use of American fuel in Ukraine, which has already resulted in a number of failures and emergency reactor shutdowns at various Ukrainian nuclear power plants.

To be more specific, since the 2014 coup, Zaporizhzhya NPP has already experienced a dozen emergency shutdowns. At South-Ukraine NPP, extensive use of American-produced fuel resulted in a 24 hours shutdown of the whole station back in 2016. As a result, only two out of six reactors at Zaporizhzhya NPP remain fully operational. The total amount of nuclear emergencies across Ukraine has increased by 400% since 2010. The Energy Research & Social Science report has repeatedly stressed that an abnormal level of emergency nuclear situations in Ukraine has been deliberately omitted in official international reports for a number of years, even though local media report them on a regular basis.

However, nobody seems to be concerned in Kiev. Last May, the official website of Ukraine's Energoatom reported that a total of four reactors of the Zaporizhzhya NPP in Ukraine will only be fueled by products of Westinghouse Electric Company, with only two remaining reactors still being operated on Russian fuel. In addition to the use of sub-quality fuel, there's yet another reason for the mounting incidents and risk at Ukrainian power plants and that is chronic under-funding of this sector, since there's been not a single Euro invested in the sector since the collapse of the USSR.

Meanwhile, reactors that have worked longer than the planned 30-year service life must either be decommissioned or be modified for their service life to be extended. Both of these options are rather expensive for debt-ridden Kiev, yet the second option looks more favorable from its point of view. Ideally, these reactors have to undergo a major overhaul and modernization, but the estimated cost of such operations is estimated to reach as much as 150 million euros. But neither the state-run Energoatom nor Kiev itself has the resources to go down that route, so Kiev is arbitrarily prolonging the service life of all operational reactors.

Upon doing this it sends reports to neighboring countries and international organizations operating in the field of environmental protection. However, such actions simultaneously violate a total of two UN Conventions that require its signatories to obtain bilateral and international approvals before service life of a reactor is prolonged, but not the other way around. Those are the Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment and the Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters.

As it's been announced by Ukrainian PM Viktoriya Voytsitskaya, as the nuclear industry collapses in Ukraine, nuclear scientists are being laid off or quit work voluntarily to seek employment in other countries. Additionally, the total number of emergency situations at Ukrainian nuclear power plants in 2017 reached a total of 17 cases against 12 cases a year earlier.

All these facts show that Ukraine's remaining nuclear power plants represent a real threat to the security of Europe, but against the backdrop of the current economic situation and political instability in Ukraine, there is no chance to reverse this negative trend. The question of how to address this situation effectively must be a topic of urgent negotiations between Ukraine and the authorities of leading EU states.

Grete Mautner is an independent researcher and journalist from Germany, exclusively for the online magazine "New Eastern Outlook."

9
Western States Salvage Terror Assets in Syria
Strategic Culture

July 24, 2018

   Western states made a dramatic intervention in the Syrian war earlier this week to extricate hundreds of terrorist militants. The militants are to be fast-tracked for resettlement in Europe and Canada.

But in saving their terror assets, Western governments are risking future public safety as well as sowing seeds for increasing multicultural strife.

In a stunning revelation of the foreign links to the extremists in Syria, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered his military forces to evacuate up to 800 militants belonging to the so-called White Helmets. They are the propaganda merchants for Nusra Front and other al-Qaeda-linked terror organizations.

Netanyahu announced that the blatant intervention to rescue the jihadists in southwest Syria was made at the personal request of US President Donald Trump and the Canadian premier Justin Trudeau, "among others".

Separately, there were reports of four senior jihadist commanders being given safe passage by Israeli forces out of Syria as the Syrian army closed in on the last-remaining militant strongholds around the southwest city of Daraa and Quneitra province.

Nor was it coincidental that the evacuation operations were accompanied by Israeli air strikes on Syrian government facilities in Hama province.

Damascus condemned the extraction of hundreds of jihadists by Israel and its Western allies as a "criminal operation" and further proof of the foreign sponsoring that has fomented the nearly eight-year war.

Of course, Netanyahu, Western governments and news media sought to portray the evacuation of the "White Helmets" as a "humanitarian gesture". This was at the same time that Israeli warplanes and snipers were stepping up the killing medics and civilians in Gaza.

Britain's newly appointed foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt described the Israeli "rescue" of "White Helmets" as "fantastic news", saying that the militants were the "bravest of the brave".

We won't delay too much here on this fraud. The so-called first responders of the "White Helmets" are a CIA, MI6-backed propaganda outfit working hand-in-hand with the terrorist militia. Their fake videos of chemical weapons attacks and air strikes have been a key propaganda device aided and abetted by the Western news media to demonize the Syrian armed forces and its Russian ally.

The fictitious propaganda stunt alleging a chemical weapon attack in Douma on April 7 this year resulted in a barrage of air strikes by the US, Britain and France.

Created in 2013 by a British MI6 agent and former British army officer James Le Mesurier, the so-called White Helmets have been funded with hundreds of millions of dollars by the governments of the US, Britain and other NATO states.

There is abundant video evidence showing members of this fake rescue group participating in gruesome executions by the al Qaeda-aligned militants with whom they associate. One such video shows an execution of a Syrian army soldier in Daraa, the city from where the latest evacuation of jihadists by Israel took place. Daraa is also, by the way, mendaciously referred to in the Western media as the "cradle of the revolution" or the "birthplace of the uprising" against President Assad's government back in March 2011. The only thing that Daraa was a birthplace of was the US-led foreign covert war for regime change in Syria.

Now here's a curious thing about the latest salvaging of terror assets in Syria. The United States and Israel are not taking any of the 800 militants for resettlement. Independent investigative journalist Vanessa Beeley, who has done much to expose the real macabre nature of the White Helmets and their terror links, says that both the US and Israeli no doubt realize that by taking in such "war refugees" they are inviting terrorists into their own societies.

Which makes you wonder why Britain, Germany and Canada are stepping up to the plate to offer the 800 White Helmets a home?

The case of Germany is particularly odd. Interior minister Horst Seehofer has personally authorized the resettlement of White Helmets spirited out of Syria by Israel. This is the same Seehofer who has mounted such a strong challenge to Chancellor Angela Merkel's "open door" policy towards immigrants.

What we are witnessing is a suicidal ignorance by Western governments to take in these cadres of White Helmets. Perhaps Seehofer and other government ministers like Britain's Jeremy Hunt are simply woefully misinformed. But surely the state security agencies of their respective countries know all too well the criminal, psychotic nature of the people whom they are allowing into their societies.

Such a callous disregard for public safety is not unprecedented. In his well-researched book, My Fight For Syrian Freedom, Irish peace activist Dr Declan Hayes details numerous cases of how jihadist assets were knowingly cultivated by British and French state security services for the purpose of waging the covert war for regime change in Syria and Libya. These assets have been allowed to return to Britain and France under the cover of being "refugees", with the security services turning a blind eye to their true identity.

The nefarious relationship has resulted in these terror assets committing atrocities in Europe. For example, as Hayes points out, the Manchester concert bomb attack that killed 22 people in May last year was carried out by operatives belonging to a Libyan jihad cell that MI5 and MI6 had previously overseen for their objective of prosecuting the regime-change war in Libya against Muammar Gaddafi.

Similar murky connections between jihadists "blooded in Syria" and state secret services have been have uncovered in terror attacks in France and Belgium. It is not clear if these terror assets go rogue or whether they are being used by British, French and other military intelligence as a deliberate provocation in order to promote tighter national security laws and greater surveillance powers over their citizens.

Declan Hayes reckons that the problem of Western-sponsored terrorists returning to Britain and other European countries under the cover of claiming to be "war refugees" is much greater than Western governments or their media are admitting.

Hayes says that in his experience of visiting Syria many times during the war, most families loyal to the government were adamantly defiant about staying in the country and defending their communities. He reckons that there is a legitimate concern that many of the refugees fleeing from formerly militant-held cities like Aleppo and Daraa are jihadists and their families.

This view supports the right of some European governments to be wary about taking in large numbers of refugees from Syria and other war-torn countries. There is a case for rigorous vetting, but such a case is often emotionally blackmailed by naive media commentary as being "heartless" or "racist".

There is no doubt that Western government agencies have fomented terrorist groups in Syria and elsewhere to do their dirty work for destabilizing target governments.

Now that the war in Syria is all but over with the Syrian army, backed by Russia, Iran and Hezbollah, rooting out the last jihadist remnants, we are seeing Western states taking in their terror assets. Maybe as a desperate intervention to stop them from revealing the dirty secrets of Western government collusion.

The repatriation of the White Helmets terrorist propagandists to the UK, Germany and Canada is a classic illustration.

Western authorities are playing with fire. Not only are they running the risk of public safety from future terrorist incidents. They are also stoking the flames of xenophobia, racism and culture wars against many innocent refugees who have been given shelter in Western countries.





10
For Your Information / A New World Order: That Possible Dream
« on: July 30, 2018, 11:19:23 AM »
A New World Order: That Possible Dream
Christopher Black

July 24


   Well, my friends, I started to write an essay about the Brussels Declaration issued by NATO at the end of the American shakedown meeting with its allies on July 11, that, beneath the platitudes about "democracy" and "shared values" "defensive alliance," respect for international law" and layer upon layer of lies about "Russian aggression," is nothing less than a declaration of war. For that is what that document amounts to. Those interested can go to the NATO website and read it for themselves as paragraph after paragraph of fantasy and distortions are set out in that smug tone the war crowd likes to use to fool the rest of us. But be prepared for your mind to be polluted with every word.

So I stopped writing that piece, tore it up, and I stopped because how often can any reasonable person write about the same thing, the same war propaganda dished out with breakfast, lunch and dinner on every TV channel, every radio channel, every newspaper, time after time, without being numbed by it all.

I started to write another piece about the Skripal affair but then news came that the British police claim to have identified two "suspects" in the original incident, and let it be leaked that, of course, they are Russians, no doubt named Boris and Natasha from the Bullwinkle cartoon, though the British government, to draw more attention to the leak, cautioned that the news may not be confirmed. But you can bet it soon will be, maybe by the time you read this. It's difficult to keep up with the propaganda the forces for war are putting out on a daily basis.

I started to write another about the Trump-Putin meeting but once again, only succeeded in making myself depressed as I watched the US news media, from the so called "left" to the right, accusing Trump of treason for talking to president Putin about peace and cooperation instead of war and destruction. All the mass media of the western world, that tragic array of countries led by charlatans, fools, gangsters and crooks that are the real face of capitalism, joined in with their fake gasps of consternation at the antics of the American president, all calling for the head of Vladimir Putin to be put on a spike next to Donald Trump's.

Not since the days of the assassination of President Kennedy have we witnessed such malice and hatred against an American president. Not since the witch hunts of the McCarthy period when American society turned itself inside out has this level of hysteria been generated by the people that control the media and the government machinery. Turn on the news, read a journal, and what you will see is not news but the ravings of secret service officials, interviewed by criminals with the morality of Julius Streicher, the Nazi propagandist hanged at Nuremberg, telling us they are the voice of truth and the rest of us better just shut up and take it. I even heard one of them make the laughable statement that Putin's gift of a soccer ball to Trump at their joint press conference, a mere souvenir of the World Cup, and a reminder to Trump that the Russians presented the best World Cup experience ever, is proof positive that Putin is "playing Trump". I kid you not, and yes, they are that idiotic and that dangerous.

And yet, this same US president, who claims to want to resolve things with Russia, is the same man who bullied the NATO gang members to cough up more money for war preparations against Russia, who supports the on going Neo-Nazi regime in Ukraine slaughtering the people of the Donbass, who increases the build up of NATO forces on Russia's borders, who supports the coup attempt against the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, against Maduro in Venezuela, who has slapped the Palestinians in the face, arranged for the White Helmet terrorists to be rescued from Syrian justice by Israel, and now Canada, who is harassing China with his navy and is intent on beggaring the world with a trade war so "America can be great, again." One has to wonder whether Trump is a willing dupe in the anti-Russian hysteria contrived by the war fanatics and willingly plays the foil so the hysteria can be raised to a crisis point. Trying to make sense of it all is a maddening affair, unless one goes back to basic principles of how the world works.

In his First Address of the General Council of the International Working Men's Association on the Franco-Prussian War Marx wrote:

"If the emancipation of the working classes requires their fraternal concurrence, how are they to fulfil that great mission with a foreign policy in pursuit of criminal designs, playing upon national prejudices, and squandering in piratical wars the people's blood and treasure? We defined the foreign policy aimed at by the International in these words: vindicate the simple laws of morals and justice, which ought to govern the relation of private individuals, as the laws paramount of the intercourse of nations."

Yet, where does that exist now? Even president Xi of China recently wrote a letter to Paul Kagame, the mass murderer installed in power in Rwanda by the west, praising him and ignoring the millions of African dead that Kagame, among others, is responsible for. Morality is impaled on expediency and cynical opportunism. The great powers make international agreements and create institutions that temporarily establish how their competition for world plunder will be regulated and the rest of us be damned.

They did it after the First World War. In twenty years that word order resulted in a bigger, more destructive, war. At the end of the Second World War, another world order was established in which the US tried to destroy the socialist movements of the world while the Soviet Union and Red China resisted in war after war after war; until the counter-revolution in the USSR produced the weaker successor state of Russia, China began the slide back towards the rule of capital and the US declared a New World Order in which it planned to dominate and exploit the people of the world. It then attacked Iraq, Rwanda, Somalia, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq again, Libya, Syria and on and on. But their attempt to create this new order has met resistance in every region of the world and as the situation of the people deteriorates, especially in the USA, the reaction becomes more and more irrational and desperate and dangerous to our survival. Even as our industrial civilization brings us all to the edge of extinction, they bang the drums of war.

These successive world orders are continually upset by the very conditions and circumstances they produce as capital searches for ways to increase its exploitation of resources, including human beings who are seen as just another resource to be used and destroyed, for new ways to secure more profit. And so at each new historical phase, a new balance of world forces is established by fresh military conflict, followed by a fresh set of agreements, followed by new conflicts ad infinitum as the dialectic requires in a logic that only a socialist world order can stop.

International relations are a reflection of the contradictions existing in a world economy of competing national state and the class divisions within those states. The economy is global in character and so the struggle for the appropriation of global profit has become acute among the major economic powers with the United States facing a crisis that seems to be so deep that even world war is actively considered as a way out. Capital has problems the world over, proved by the continuous push to squeeze the workers until we are just dry husks the world over. US capital has even bigger problems as its economy and influence weaken. So it is following the logic of war. If the system doesn't favour you and you have the power to change it, change it to your benefit. That's what they are doing, but in the doing they don't care about life, or morality, or us.

Little the war crowd care about the working classes. They are capital. They are the dictatorship. We are the helots who they spit upon with every false word out of their mouths, who steal our money and who steal our lives so they can gorge themselves until they vomit and then gorge themselves the more. So I did not succeed in writing what I intended but you have to forgive me because I'm beyond fed up with that dictatorship, with that system and their gorging while we starve and suffer their wars and decadence. I'm sure you are too. For there is only one world order that I can accept, that can lead us, the working people of the world, out of the cul de sac we find ourselves in, a new world order founded upon morality and justice than can only come with the great emancipation of the working classes of the world, that possible dream, that only struggle can realise.

Christopher Black is an international criminal lawyer based in Toronto. He is known for a number of high-profile war crimes cases and recently published his novel "Beneath the Clouds. He writes essays on international law, politics and world events, especially for the online magazine "New Eastern Outlook."


11
Will Morrow, World Socialist Web Site reprinted in Global Research

April 19, 2018

On Monday, the US and British intelligence agencies released a joint report charging Moscow with unspecified "cyber warfare" against the West. The American media was filled with hysterical warnings that Russia may have hacked "millions" of personal devices as well as critical infrastructure.

The tenor of the media coverage was epitomized by the New York Times, which labelled the intelligence agencies' report a "computer-age version of a Cold War air raid drill, but asking citizens to upgrade their password rather than duck and cover."

The coordinated campaign comes amid the unravelling of the official pretext for Friday night's illegal US-British-French bombing of Russia's ally Syria—the claim that the Assad government carried out a chemical weapons attack in eastern Ghouta on April 7.

On Sunday, the Independent published an on-the-spot report by well-known veteran journalist Robert Fisk, an expert on Middle East policy, who visited Douma, the town in Ghouta where a gas attack supposedly occurred.

Fisk spoke with Dr. Assim Rahaibani, who works at the medical clinic where the widely publicized videos were filmed showing children being hosed down with water, ostensibly to relieve poison gas inhalation. He quotes Rahaibani as follows:

"I was with my family in the basement of my home three hundred metres from here on the night, but all the doctors know what happened. There was a lot of [government] shelling and aircraft were always over Douma at night—but on this night, there was wind and huge dust clouds began to come into the basements and cellars where people lived.

"People began to arrive here suffering from hypoxia, oxygen loss. Then someone at the door, a ‘White Helmet,' shouted ‘Gas!,' and a panic began. People started throwing water over each other. Yes, the video was filmed here, it is genuine, but what you see are people suffering from hypoxia, not gas poisoning."

This account is in line with statements by Russian authorities, who have charged that the White Helmets, the anti-Assad "rebel" organization funded by Britain, staged the gas attack under orders from UK intelligence to provide its Western sponsors with a pretext for intervention. Fisk notes that by the time he arrived in Douma, the White Helmets had already left to join fighters of the Islamic fundamentalist group Jaysh-al Islam, who fled Douma for Idlib under an agreement brokered with Russia.

Fisk's report is a devastating exposure of the lies of the governments of France, Britain and the US, which have provided no evidence to substantiate their charges against the Assad regime. The imperialist governments' narrative was immediately disseminated by a corrupt media that functions shamelessly as a propaganda arm of the state.

As the World Socialist Web Site insisted from the outset, the incident was a CIA-organized provocation to provide a pretext for imperialist intervention, continuing the seven-year-long US regime-change operation against Russia's ally Assad, during which time Washington has armed and funded right-wing Islamist proxies.

Fisk's report is at the same time a damning indictment of the corporate media, along with various pseudo-left organizations, such as the International Socialist Organization, which regurgitated all of the governments' lying pretexts and made no effort to investigate them. The media has responded to Fisk's report by burying it. In the 24 hours since its publication, neither the Washington Post nor the New York Times, which in 2005 called Fisk "probably the most famous foreign correspondent in Britain," has reported on Fisk's on-the-spot story.

The US government responds to each exposure of its lies by concocting new ones. The chemical weapons charge followed directly after the collapse of the unsubstantiated British and US claims that Russia carried out the attempted assassination on British soil of its former agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia, using a nerve agent. Both Yulia and Sergei are now on their way to a full recovery despite having supposedly been poisoned with the most fatal military-grade agent in existence.

Yesterday's report by the FBI and the UK's National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), "Advisory: Russian State-Sponsored Cyber Actors Targeting Network Infrastructure Devices," is no more credible. Like previous charges levelled by the intelligence agencies against Moscow, there is not a single piece of evidence contained in the document to back them up.

Out of its 21 pages, approximately 15 provide generic information about computer network security flaws commonly exploited by what the report refers to as "cyber actors." They give generic advice for users and network administrators to improve digital security. These include not using "the same password across multiple devices," avoiding unencrypted communication protocols, and replacing outdated hardware and security software.

The first six pages include the only references to Russia, but provide no details, much less evidence, of any specific activities. Every one of the charges against Moscow begin with phrases such as: "FBI and NCSC have high confidence that"; "the US and UK governments assess that"; they "have received information from multiple sources that ," etc.

None of this has prevented the media in both the US and UK from dutifully amplifying the latest charges. A front-page article published by the New York Times, "US-UK Warning on Cyberattacks Includes Private Homes," cites the comments of Rob Joyce, a special assistant to the president and cybersecurity coordinator for the National Security Council, declaring that Russians are "seeking to exploit the increasing popularity of Internet-connected devices" that "you and I have in our homes."

Revealing more than it intended, the article states that the government document "had been in the works for a long period" and was "not a response to any recent events." In other words, the intelligence agencies were awaiting the opportune moment to publish it. Its release serves several purposes.

First, to create a mood of panic in the population so as to facilitate a major escalation of the confrontation with Russia. Second, to counter the popular distrust in the media and disbelief of what is widely seen as the latest pretext for yet another war against a Middle Eastern nation, and, third, to suppress anti-war sentiment and legitimize the crackdown on democratic rights and censorship of the Internet, under the banner of combating Russian cyber warfare and "fake news."

The connection between the drive to war and Internet censorship was made clear by the statements of Pentagon officials following the attack on Syria. US Defence Secretary James Mattis warned Friday that there would be a rise in Russian "disinformation" in response to the US and allied strikes. Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White stated that Russian claims that Syrian air defence missiles had shot down 71 of the 105 missiles fired on Syria were part of a disinformation campaign "that has already begun." She said there had been a "2,000 percent increase in Russian trolls" over 24 hours.

These claims are aimed at identifying any statements that contradict the official narrative of the US government and military as foreign "disinformation" and essentially treasonous.

The FBI report is no doubt also aimed at fuelling the ongoing campaign by the intelligence agencies and the Democratic Party demanding that Trump further escalate the confrontation with Russia. The Times and the other Democratic Party-aligned media denounced the Trump administration's announcement yesterday that the US will not at this time impose further sanctions on Russia, contradicting the statements of Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the United Nations, over the weekend.

The Times quoted Democrat Eliot Engel of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, who said,

"I am outraged that President Trump pulled back sanctions on Russia for its support of the Assad regime."

Times columnist Nikolas Kristof, who has made his career promoting imperialist wars in the name of "human rights," praised the arch-reactionary Haley against Trump in an appearance on MSNBC, declaring that she was "much better regarded than almost any other member of the administration in foreign policy."



12
Syria 'chemical attack' staged to provoke US airstrike, London pushed perpetrators – Russian MoD
RT

The Russian Defense Ministry has presented what it says is proof that the reported chemical weapons attack in Syria was staged. It also accused the British government of pressuring the perpetrators to speed up the “provocation.”


During a briefing on Friday, the ministry showed interviews with two people, who, it said, are medical professionals working in the only hospital operating in Douma, a town near the Syrian capital, Damascus.


In the interviews released to the media, the two men reported how footage was shot of people dousing each other with water and treating children, which was claimed to show the aftermath of the April 7 chemical weapons attack. The patients shown in the video suffered from smoke poisoning and the water was poured on them by their relatives after a false claim that chemical weapons were used, the ministry said.

“Please, notice. These people do not hide their names. These are not some faceless claims on the social media by anonymous activists. They took part in taking that footage,” said ministry spokesman Major-General Igor Konashenkov.

“The Russian Defense Ministry also has evidence that Britain had a direct involvement in arranging this provocation in Eastern Ghouta,” the general added, referring to the neighborhood of which Douma is part. “We know for certain that between April 3 and April 6 the so-called White Helmets were seriously pressured from London to speed up the provocation that they were preparing.”

According to Konashenkov, the group, which was a primary source of photos and footage of the purported chemical attack, was informed of a large-scale artillery attack on Damascus planned by the Islamist group Army of Islam, which controlled Douma at the time. The White Helmets were ordered to arrange the provocation after retaliatory strikes by the Syrian government forces, which the shelling was certain to lead to, he said.

The UK rejected the accusations, with British UN Ambassador Karen Pierce calling them “grotesque,” “a blatant lie” and “the worst piece of fake news we've yet seen from the Russian propaganda machine.”

One of the interviews published by the ministry showed a man who said his name was Halil Ajij, and who said he was a medical student working at Douma’s only operational hospital. This is how he described the origin of the footage:

“On April 8, a bomb hit a building. The upper floors were damaged and a fire broke at the lower floors. Victims of that bombing were brought to us. People from the upper floors had smoke poisoning. We treated them, based on their suffocation."

Ajij said that a man unknown to him came and said there was a chemical attack and panic ensued. “Relatives of the victims started dousing each other with water. Other people, who didn’t seem to have medical training, started administering anti-asthma medicine to children. We didn’t see any patient with symptoms of a chemical weapons poisoning,” he said.


Read more

Douma, the suburb of Damascus recently recaptured from anti-government forces.‘They can go anywhere they want in Douma’: OPCW team arrives in Syria to investigate alleged attack
The first photos claiming to show the aftermath of the alleged chemical attack on April 7 were published online on the same day, and featured the bodies of many people, including children, some with foam around their mouths and noses. Footage from the hospital was released on Sunday, with the sources behind it claiming that it had been shot on Saturday.

Konashenkov said Russia hoped that international monitors from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which is due to investigate the circumstances of the incident, will help establish the truth. He added Eastern Ghouta is currently trying to return to peaceful life after being liberated from militant groups by Syrian government forces. He called on other nations and international organizations to provide humanitarian aid, which is badly needed in the area. Russia is already supplying food, medicine, building materials and other essential supplies to the neighborhood, he said.

Residents of the neighborhood, who previously fled violence, are returning to their homes now that the area is relatively safe, the Russian official said. The latest reports from the ground say about 63,000 people have returned, which is over half of the displaced residents, he added.

The reported chemical weapons attack escalated tensions over Syria, just as Damascus was about to seize full control of Eastern Ghouta. The US and allies such as the UK and France threatened military action in response to what they claim is an atrocity committed by the Syrian government. Russia insists the incident was staged and said it reserves the right to counter any attack on Syria.

RT spoke about the Russian claims with Lord Alan West, a retired officer of the British Royal Navy. He said he had strong reservations about taking allegations against Damascus at face value, because it didn’t make much military sense.

“It seems to be utterly ludicrous for the military that is in the process of taking over an area to go and do something with chemical weapons, which will draw the wrath of the larger enemy down upon them,” he said. “If I was advising the opponents of [Syrian President Bashar] Assad, I would be delighted to kill a few people there. Let’s face it, [the insurgents] don’t care if they kill women and children.”

“I am not willing to accept tweets. We need to see incontrovertible truth about what has happened there and make a decision on that basis,” he added.

13
‘Attack on Syria would be attack on entire UN system’ – Bolivia’s UN envoy

The threat by the US to use force in Syria undermines international law and the entire United Nations system, Bolivian Ambassador to the UN Sacha Llorenti, who called a Security Council meeting over the issue, told RT.

By threatening to act against Damascus with or without the UN’s blessing, Washington is putting itself above all other nations, flaunting international law, the UN Charter, and the UN system as a whole, Llorenti said.

“The problem is that the United States believes and it acts as if it’s above any law. They believe they have their own rules and it’s not the case,” the ambassador said.

READ MORE: 'We're exceptional, Russia is not': Pompeo takes hard line in Senate pitch

On Wednesday, Llorenti asked the UN Security Council (UNSC), of which Bolivia is a non-permanent member, to convene on Thursday to discuss the “escalation of rhetoric regarding Syria and these threats of unilateral military action.”

This follows Monday’s threat by US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley that Washington might go to war in Syria alone if it can’t secure approval in the UN due to what she called “obstructionism” from Russia. “Either way, the United States will respond,” Haley said.

Llorenti argued that while the UNSC faces many problems of its own and is in need of reform, its main priority for now should be “to unite and to create an independent mechanism in order to investigate the alleged chemical attacks.”


Even if countries can’t agree on a mechanism, this does not mean the US is allowed to do whatever it wants in Syria, Llorenti said, and at this point, “there is no conclusive investigation on the chemical attack.”

“So, whatever happens, if the United States takes unilateral action, it will be a violation of international law and the UN system should, of course, not accept that,” Llorenti stressed, noting that a potential military strike “will not be an attack against Syria, but an attack against the whole United Nations System.”

Llorenti echoed an earlier statement by the Russian ambassador to the UN, Vasily Nebenzia, who said that with its threats against Syria, the US is already violating the UN Charter, which prohibits threats to international peace and security. The Russian ambassador also said that the “immediate priority” of the UN should be finding a way to avoid a war.

14
Al-Jaafari: Western threats to attack Syria will not dissuade it from confronting any aggression regardless of its source
 SANA 
April 11, 2018
 
 Syria's Permanent Representative to the UN Dr. Bashar al-Jaafari stressed that the threats by Western states to launch an aggression on Syria and their maneuvers, misdirection, lies, and terrorism will not dissuade Syria from preserving its sovereignty and territorial integrity and from confronting any aggression regardless of its source, adding that Syria will not allow any of the permanent or non-permanent member states to do in Syria what they have done in Iraq or Libya.

Speaking during a session of the Security Council on the situation in Syria on Tuesday, al-Jaafari said "The US representative said that there is a single monster today which stands in the face of the whole world, and it is a monster which has armed and financed terrorists for more than seven years in Syria, and I say that this monster is the US, Britain, and France who sponsored terrorism in Syria and before it in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya."

He clarified that in a response to the campaign of allegations launched by some Western states against the Syrian Arab Republic regarding the alleged chemical attack in Douma city, the Foreign and Expatriates Ministry on Tuesday sent a formal invitation to the OPCW to send a team from the fact-finding mission to visit Douma and to investigate the alleged accident.

Al-Jaafari added that Syria welcomes the visit of a fact-finding team and it asserts its commitment to cooperate fully and its readiness to provide all the required help to allow this mission to do its work and to guarantee the safety of its members, stressing that Syria hopes the mission will perform its work with transparency and professionalism based on credible evidence.

He reiterated that those who proposed the US draft resolution are not seeking to uncover the truth, because the truth will prove that they are guilty along with their terrorist pawns on the ground.

"I affirm that the reality that the US, Britain, and France are the ones who caused the failure of what was called the Joint Investigative Mechanism due to their insistence on politicizing its work and exerting pressure on its leaders," al-Jaafari said, stressing that what is happening in the Council during this session is similar to what happened a year ago when the US used false and fabricated excuses about the use of chemical weapons in Khan Sheikhoun to attack al-Shairat Airbase.

He called on the Security Council's member states to shoulder their responsibilities in supporting the international legitimacy and in protecting international peace and security from the terrorism which is being used by the aforementioned three permanent member states who seek to undermine the stability of the states and to decide the fate of their peoples.

Al-Jaafari reiterated that the Syrian Arab Republic strongly condemns any use of chemical weapons by anyone and under any circumstances, and that it is fully committed to cooperating with the OPCW to uncover the reality of the allegations.

He concluded by saying that the threats of some Western parties to launch an aggression and their maneuvers, misdirection, lies, and terrorism will not dissuade Syria from preserving its sovereignty and territorial integrity and from confronting any aggression regardless of its source.

In a phone call with the Syrian TV al-Jaafari described what took place at the Security Council as "being similar to a play," indicating that the West has suffered successive failures at the Security Council and it can't achieve any progress neither there nor with exploiting terrorism.

He noted that the Western states don't want the OPCW fact-finding mission to reach Douma because they don't want it to reveal the falseness of their allegations.
 

15
US to Launch a Sustained Operation in Syria
 Arkady Savitsky, Strategic Culture Foundation 
April 11, 2018

 The events in Syria are likely to escalate into a regional conflict. USS Donald Cook already deployed in the Mediterranean can deliver a limited missile attack against Syria but a large-scale operation is unlikely to be launched until USS Harry S. Truman carrier strike group (CSG) arrives in roughly 10-14 days. The CSG left the home base in Norfolk on April 11. The land strike-capable USS Porter can reach the Syria's shore pretty soon. USS Laboon and USS Carney, two more Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, as well as USS Georgia and USS John Warner submarines, are in close proximity to add more punch if an order to strike is given.

The composition of the carrier group includes at least five warships (one cruiser and 4 destroyers) capable of cruise missile attacks against land targets. Each US destroyer or cruiser can carry over 50 land attack missiles. It could be more, depending on the mission. USS Georgia is an Ohio class submarine (SSGN) to carry 154 land attack missiles. USS John Warner is a Virginia-class submarine to carry 12 Tomahawks. The USS Iwo Jima amphibious strike group can deploy to Syria in a few days from the Arabian Sea.

The UK, France, perhaps some other NATO and Middle East allies, including Israel, will join a US-led operation in Syria. The British Air Force can operate from Cyprus. A RAF KC2 air tanker is already there. The talks between the US, the UK and France are underway. Syrian armed forces are taking precautionary measures expecting strikes any time now.

US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Hailey, sounds like if a sustained operation, not a one-off strike, is a done deal. The envoy says America will strike with or without a UN resolution. The voices are heard calling for striking Syrian command and control sites as well as "regime's political centers", despite the fact that where Russian advisers could be there. That's something the US military has not done before.

A proposal to invoke Article 5 of the Washington Treaty to contain Moscow without military actions has been floated. No actual war, but Russia will be considered an enemy. John Bolton's warnings that an Islamic State ouster would allow Syrian President Assad to remain in power, with Iranian influence intact in Iraq are remembered to bolster the calls for action. In 2015, the newly appointed national security adviser called for carving out an independent Sunni Muslim state in northeastern Syria and western Iraq. He has his chance now.

A US-led multinational operation in Syria has become a predominant idea in Washington. On April 10, President Trump postponed his visit to Latin America because of the events in Syria. One can assume that the provocation in Douma was staged to make President Trump reconsider the decision to pull forces out in favor of confronting Russia, Syria and Iran. Those who did it hoped the US president would bite it. And bite he did.

There is no way to get rid of Assad but launch an international invasion. Washington's global standing has received a strong blow after the unimpressive operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. A US-led intervention could boost it if it were a success. America would present itself as a defender of Syrians suffering from the "atrocities of Assad's dictatorship". Heading an international coalition would help restore America's image as the world leader. This is the way to make Washington a friend of Sunni Muslims who allegedly need protection from Tehran.

Invading Syria is the way to weaken Iran's influence in Iraq. Such an operation would meet the goals of the Russia containment policy. An intervention could bring the US-led force and Turkey together in their desire to oust Assad. That would distance Ankara from Moscow, which will not leave its Syrian ally in lurch. From Washington's view, these are the pros to bolster the plan to invade.

And now about the cons. After the failures in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, you name it, the US would once again get tied up in the messy situation in the region. It may need to go beyond the Syria's borders. For instance, the US-led coalition would have to strike Hezbollah in Lebanon. There is a big chance the US and its allies would get involved in another protracted bloody war with no final victory in sight.

Suppose, the intervention ends up as a quick, victorious operation in purely military terms, what about the prospects of winning war to lose peace, like in Iraq? Washington will be responsible for the outcome of nation building in a country divided along religious and ethnical lines. The US will be rebuked for failure and accused of depriving Syria of the chance provided by the Astana peace process. Invading Syria means fighting Iranians. The Washington's goal is to incite them to rebellion. An invasion of Syria could backlash to make all Iranian people united behind the ayatollahs' regime.

Finally, invading Syria is a great risk as Russia would not stand idly if the lives of its servicemen were threatened there. The possibility of clash will grow immensely. But if the US-coalition applies de-confliction efforts, there will be no containment. To the contrary, the world will see that Moscow cannot be ignored. It isn't now. Despite all the tensions souring, Russia's Chief of General Staff will meet the NATO Supreme Commander in a few days. No doubt, they will discuss Syria.

If Iran gets united and stronger, Russia remains to be an actor to reckon with, nation building fails and Assad keeps on fighting back to make the coalition suffer casualties, then there will be only cons with no pros. And that will take place against the background of failures in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Risks are too great to ask the question – why should the US get involved in the faraway Syria's conflict at all? By no stretch of imagination could such an operation be considered a move to enhance US and West's security and meet the goals of "America First" policy.
 

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