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 UK special forces and MI6 involved in Yemen bombing, report reveals

    Investigation appears to contradict official UK claims

Richard Norton-Taylor   The Guardian

Monday 11 April 2016 16.03 BST
Last modified on Monday 11 April 2016 16.04 BST

Britain’s MI6 and special forces have played a crucial and sustained role in covert US-led counter terrorism operations in Yemen. Their role has included identifying targets for drone strikes, according to a detailed, in-depth, investigation.

Drone strikes are particularly controversial because they have been responsible for civilian deaths in Yemen.

The disclosures are not entirely surprising. Britain has had a long and close diplomatic and intelligence relationship with Yemen, which borders on Britain’s chief ally in the region, Saud Arabia.

What is significant - and for British parliamentarians and journalists, frustrating - is that the detailed disclosures are the result of report by a US-based current affairs channel, Vice News.

It would have been much more difficult to get British officials to talk here, given the official blanket ban on comments about special forces operations or intelligence matters.

“The British have been in Gulf states for decades. They have a reservoir of knowledge, contacts, and expertise that is very important,” a former senior CIA official, responsible for operations in Yemen, told Vice News. “If you look at what capabilities each side has, that starts to tell you something about precisely where the actionable intelligence is coming from.”
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Once the official secret was outed, some Britons were apparently encouraged to talk. “Our station people were pretty shit-hott”, said one.

British personnel serving in Yemen said the Special Reconnaissance Regiment (a special forces unit), seconded to MI6, were responsible for training Yemen forces fighting al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsular (AQAP).

Secondment also allowed British military personnel to help with the drone strikes, but under the aegis of intelligence operations controlled by the Foreign Office, which is responsible for MI6, according to the Vice News report.

All this made their presence deniable by the UK Ministry of Defence which in 2014 told human rights group Reprieve: “The UK does not provide any military support to the US campaign of Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS) strikes on Yemen.”

Reprieve said the investigation appeared to contradict years of denials by the UK about involvement in US operations in Yemen. “Even more disturbing”, said Jen Gibson, a Reprieve lawyer, “the UK has copied wholesale the US model of outsourcing the military to the intelligence agencies in order to hide their involvement and avoid any accountability.”

The Vice News report appears to contradict David Cameron’s comment in the Commons in January that British “personnel are not involved in carrying out strikes, directing or conducting operations in Yemen or selecting targets and we’re not involved in the Saudi targeting decision-making process.”

Unless, of course, by “are not involved” he, or those drafting his parliamentary answers, meant “not at that very moment” and that the denial referred specifically and only to anti-Houthi operations, not anti-AQAP ones.

On a trip to London in January, the Saudi foreign minister said British and American military officials were in the command and control centre for Saudi air strikes on Yemen, and had access to lists of targets. However, he said they do not play any role in choosing them.

What is clear in all this fog is that British spooks and special forces have been very active in Yemen, without our knowledge.

Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch warned in a report on Monday of the need to maintain human control over weapons systems and ban fully autonomous weapons, known as “killer robots”.
/ Cory Doctorow / 6:17 am Sat Apr 2, 2016 Boing Boing

Four days in, and the BBC hasn't even mentioned the biggest bribery scandal in history

On Wednesday, Fairfax and Huffington Post broke the Unaoil story, revealing that they had been leaked a trove of email from an obscure Monaco family business that had acted as a global fixer in bribery and bid-rigging that looted the treasuries and oil-fields of some of the world's poorest countries, from Iraq to Yemen, acting on behalf of blue-chip companies like Rolls-Royce and Halliburton.

By week's end, police in the UK, US and Australia announced criminal investigations against top executives, and the Monaco police raided Unaoil's HQ.

But the BBC -- a national broadcaster charged with impartially reporting on the news -- has literally never mentioned Unaoil in any of its online news coverage. Many of the companies involved in the scandal are headquartered in the UK, and some, like Rolls-Royce, are practically synonymous with British industry. Meanwhile, the news coverage has described how Unaoil used the City of London as its go-to money laundry.

This is a terrible failing that discredits the Beeb, making it seem like financial corruption -- increasingly the brand identity of UK, plc -- is a no-go zone for its coverage.
Monaco raids Unaoil offices over global oil corruption probe

Reuter April 1st

Authorities in Monaco raided the offices of energy services company Unaoil and the homes of its directors after Britain sought help investigating alleged corruption in the global oil industry.

Monaco's government said in a statement on its website that it acted after receiving an urgent request for international judicial assistance in criminal matters from Britain's Serious Fraud Office (SFO). Unaoil directors were questioned by Monaco police on Tuesday and Wednesday, the government said.

Joint reports by Australia's Fairfax Media and the Huffington Post said that the U.S. Department of Justice and anti-corruption police in Britain and Australia had launched a joint investigation into the activities of Unaoil.

The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation is investigating the allegations against Unaoil, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters. The U.S. Department of Justice declined to comment.

Monaco-based Unaoil provides industrial solutions to the energy sector in the Middle East, Central Asia and Africa, according to its website.

"Due to recent developments it would be inappropriate for the company to comment at this time," a Unaoil spokesman said in an emailed statement.

The chairman of Unaoil Group, Ata Ahsani, could not be reached for comment.

The media reports, citing hundreds of thousands of emails, also link several multinationals to corrupt practices, including claims of bribery and bid rigging to win oil contracts in countries such as Kazakhstan and Iraq.
Italian oil major Eni (ENI.MI), one of the companies mentioned in the report, indicated that it would hold an internal inquiry into the allegations.

"We do not comment on the results of possible internal investigations," a spokesman for ENI said.

The alleged behaviour of some of its employees was to the detriment of the group and clashed with its code of ethics, the spokesman said.

"None of the people mentioned in the articles are currently employed by Eni," the spokesman said in an emailed response to Reuters about the report.
The media reports said U.S. construction giant KBR Inc (KBR.N), which until 2007 was owned by oilfield services provider Halliburton Co (HAL.N), paid Unaoil millions of dollars from 2004 until at least 2009.

KBR said it does not tolerate illegal or unethical practices and is committed to complying with all applicable laws.

"We take any allegations of corruption and unethical business practices seriously," KBR said in a statement.

Halliburton declined to comment.
A spokesman for Britain's SFO said it was "aware of the allegations," but would not comment further.

Agencies in Australia were aware of allegations of the involvement of a number of Australian companies in foreign bribery matters, the Australian Federal Police (AFP) said in a statement emailed to Reuters.

The AFP said it was conducting ongoing investigations into a number of allegations, but declined to comment specifically on the focus of its probes.

WorleyParsons (WOR.AX) and Primary Health Care (PRY.AX), both named in the media reports, denied any relationship with Unaoil.

Australia's opposition party leader Bill Shorten said he will push for a senate inquiry into global bribery when parliament resumes this month. He said the "revelations" were "deeply disturbing."

(Reporting by Byron Kaye, Jane Wardell and James Regan in Sydney; additional reporting by Julia Harte in Washington, Mica Rosenberg in New York and Terry Wade in Houston,; Rachel Armstrong in London and Stephen Jewkes and Oleg Vukmanovic in Milan; editing by Susan Fenton, G Crosse and Chizu Nomiyama)
Tyrannical aggression’: 1,000s protest Saudi-led airstrikes in Yemen 1 year on


Published time: 27 Mar, 2016 00:47

Yemenis hold placards bearing portraits of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh during a protest against the Saudi-led coalition, on March 26, 2016, in the Yemeni capital Sanaa. © Mohammed Huwais

Yemenis hold placards bearing portraits of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh during a protest against the Saudi-led coalition, on March 26, 2016, in the Yemeni capital Sanaa. © Mohammed Huwais / AFP

Thousands of people took to the streets of Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, to denounce the Saudi-led coalition, which launched a military operation in the country on this day a year ago.

The demonstrators were waving Yemeni nation flags and carrying banners, the largest of which read: “Together Against Tyrannical Saudi aggression,” as the coalition’s warplanes flew above the crowd on Sanaa’s Sabaeen Square at supersonic speeds, in what AFP called “an apparent show of force.” 

Saudi Arabia and its allies launched an intervention in Yemen on March 26, 2016, in an attempt to reinstate President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi to power after he was ousted by Houthi rebels, who still control Sanaa and vast parts of the country.

A man shouts for help to salvage his furniture after his house was destroyed by a Saudi-led air strike in Yemen's capital Sanaa, February 25, 2016. © Mohamed al-Sayaghi'Unlawful civilian deaths in Yemen': HRW urges US, UK, France to suspend arms sales to Saudi Arabia
As many as 6,300 people have been killed since the coalition began carrying out airstrikes in Yemen, more than half of whom were civilians, according to the UN.

The rally in the capital was organized by the party of Ali Abdullah Saleh, who was Yemen’s president from 1990 to 2012, and is a present ally of the Houthis.

Speaking at the gathering, Saleh reiterated his call for direct talks to be held with Saudi Arabia, but not Hadi’s exiled government.

There was also a large anti-Saudi protest in the northern part of Sanaa, which was organized by the Houthi administration.

READ MORE: Saudi airstrike on Yemeni market had no apparent military reason – UN

On Friday, rebel leader Abdulmalik al-Houthi gave an address on national TV dedicated to the first anniversary of the Saudi-led campaign.

“One year on, we look at the outcome of this aggression... It was said to be aimed at helping and serving the Yemeni people. [But] this help came in the form of criminal killings and genocide,” al-Houthi said.

He expressed hope that efforts to end the Saudi-led intervention will be “successful,” but warned that if they fail, “we are ready to make is important to confront aggression if it continues.”

‘Missiles’ delivered to Downing Street in protest at British arms used in Yemen war (VIDEO)
UN envoy Ismail Ould Cheik announced earlier this week that the Houthis and forces loyal to Hadi have agreed to a cessation in hostilities beginning at midnight on April 10, which is to be followed by peace talks in Kuwait starting April 18.

The Shia Muslim Houthis, who are claimed to be backed by Iran, captured the capital city of Sanaa in September of 2014, and went on to take large parts of the country, but fighting still remains fierce in many of Yemen’s regions.

Since intervening in its neighbor’s conflict, the Saudi-led coalition has been slammed by various human right groups for causing civilian casualties.

Earlier this week, Human Rights Watch (HRW) urged the US, France, and the UK to suspend all weapons sales to Saudi Arabia until it ends its airstrikes and investigates bombings resulting in unlawful civilian deaths.

HRW says it has documented 36 illegal airstrikes conducted by the Saudi-led forces in Yemen, some of which may amount to war crimes.

The coalition’s air campaign has targeted schools, hospitals, and homes, with “no evidence they were being used for military purposes,” killing at least 550 civilians.

Even Riyadh’s allies in Washington have voiced concerns over civilian deaths amid the Saudi-led operation.
Statement of RCPBML on aggression of Britain and NATO on Yugoslavia March 24 1999


Statement of the Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist) April 11, 1999
Our Party, RCPB(ML), condemns the continuing criminal aggression launched against Yugoslavia by the aggressive NATO military alliance under Operation Allied Force. RCPB(ML) particularly condemns Tony Blair's government for its front-line role in involving Britain in NATO's military intervention and in the so-called Contact Group. Britain's forces should be immediately withdrawn and involvement of Britain in the "Contact Group" ended, Britain should get out of NATO and NATO should be dismantled.

The leaders of the big powers, from Bill Clinton to Tony Blair, claim that they are acting in defence of humanity and human rights. It is crucial that the working class and people see this as the Hitlerite lie that it is. The assertion that military intervention in the region is justified to "avert a human catastrophe" and "defend human rights" is nothing but a pretext to launch an all out war and justify the unjustifiable. These same big powers have been arming, financing and inciting the various forces one against another to further their interests of controlling this strategic region of Europe. It is a tragedy that once more the peoples of the Balkans are being hurled against one another and that they are further being made to suffer by being forced to flee and be bombed by NATO. It was such a struggle by the big powers for control over the Balkans that led to the outbreak of the first world war. Now it is the US which is seeking to establish its hegemony over all of Europe in contention with Britain, Germany and other European powers. It is a very dangerous situation which is once again seriously endangering world peace, besides being itself a crime against humanity.

It is unprecedented that with this criminal aggression under NATO's auspices a sovereign country is under military attack from this aggressive military alliance. The US, as well as Britain, are demonstrating that for such powers the principles of international law are only there to be flouted. Even the UN Charter and the UN Security Council for them are only obstacles to be trampled over. This is a further dangerous development for the world's people. Any catastrophe and slaughter of the people according to the likes of Clinton and Blair is now to be justified because they have a so-called "moral imperative" to intervene wheresoever they decree under the banner of high ideals.

This "moral imperative" rests on a big lie. It is that the peoples of the world are incapable of controlling their own affairs, that their leaders who do not toe the imperialist line should be taught a lesson, that peoples left to sort out their own problems will resort to internecine conflict. The exact opposite is the case. It is the interference and dictate of the big powers which is behind the suffering of the peoples of the Balkans, just as they are behind conflicts and slaughter throughout the globe. A precondition for peace in the Balkans is that the big powers stop all intervention and withdraw from the region.

It is the people of the Balkans, like the people everywhere, who are decisive in establishing peace and they must be allowed to solve their problems themselves without outside interference. Peace will only come to the Balkans when all imperialist forces are thrown out. The working and progressive people of Britain must not remain passive in this situation and must demonstrate their opposition to NATO aggression in the Balkans. They must condemn the Labour government's role in this aggression and demand that Britain ends its policy of intervention in the internal affairs of other countries, that it withdraws from NATO and adopts a policy of democratisation of international affairs based on the principle of equality of all sovereign states and the norms of international relations. 

 Serbia marks anniversary of start of NATO bombing (LINK FOR PHOTOS) 
Mar 24

17 years ago today NATO forces began their air campaign against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SRJ), at the time consisting of Serbia and Montenegro.

The bombing, which lasted 78 days, severely damaged infrastructure, commercial buildings, schools, health institutions, media houses and cultural monuments.

The attacks on Serbia started and were carried out without the approval of the UN Security Council, which was a precedent.

The order was given to U.S. General Wesley Clark, who at the time commanded allied forces, by NATO Secretary General Javier Solana.

Clark later wrote in his book entitled "Modern Warfare" that the planning of the war was already under way in mid-June in 1998 and was completed in August of that year.

The country was attacked as the alleged culprit for the humanitarian catastrophe in Kosovo and Metohija (the immediate cause were the events in Racak) and the failure of negotiations on the future status of the province that were conducted in Rambouillet near Paris.

After the Serbian Assembly confirmed the decision not to accept foreign troops on its territory and suggested that UN forces should oversee a peaceful solution to the Kosovo conflict, NATO on March 24, 1999 at 19:45 CET began itsair strikes, using cruise missiles and aviation, attacking several locations in Serbia and Montenegro.

19 countries of the western military alliance started their campaign from the ships in the Adriatic and four air bases in Italy.

According to the estimates of the government of Serbia, at least 2,500 people, of whom 89 children, were killed during the attacks (according to some sources, the total death toll was nearly 4,000), while more than 12,500 people were wounded and injured.

The total damage done to the country's economy and infrastructure was estimated at the time at USD 100 billion. NATO's war losses in manpower and equipment have never been made public.

The authorities in Belgrade claimed that dozens of aircraft were shot down, which has never been confirmed. The Russian agency APN said that NATO lost over 400 soldiers and more than 60 aircraft, while then U.S. President Bill Clinton said in a speech on June 10 1999 that NATO suffered "no casualties."

The Museum of Aviation in Belgrade has the remains of the destroyed F-117 and F-16 aircraft, UAVs, and cruise missiles.

Almost every town in Serbia had been targeted during the 11 weeks of the air strikes.

The bombing destroyed and damaged 25,000 housing units, 470 km of roads and 595 kilometers of railways.

The attacks also damaged 14 airports, 19 hospitals, 20 health centers, 18 kindergartens, 69 schools, 176 cultural monuments and 44 bridges, while 38 were destroyed.

During the aggression NATO carried out a total of 2,300 airs trikes on 995 facilities across the country, while 1,150 combat aircraft launched nearly 420,000 missiles.

NATO also launched 1,300 cruise missiles, dropped over 37,000 cluster bombs, which killed some 200 people and wounded hundreds, and used prohibited ammunition with depleted uranium.

A third of the electrical power capacity of the country was destroyed, two oil refineries, in Pancevo and Novi Sad bombed, while NATO forces used the opportunity to for the first time deployed the so-called graphite bombs to disable the power system.

After several attempts to end the war by diplomatic means, the bombing ended with the signing of the Military Technical Agreement in Kumanovo on June 9, 1999, after which the Yugoslav Army (VJ) and Serbian police (MUP) started withdrawing from Kosovo and Metohija.

That day, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1244, sending 37,200 KFOR soldiers from 36 countries to the province, with the task of keeping the peace, security, and ensuring the return of refugees until a broad autonomous status has been defined for Kosovo.

US, NATO Lie to Justify Genocide and Destruction in Yugoslavia (MAP)
 Vijoleta Gordeljevic, 
Mar 23

 Seventeen years ago today, on March 24, 1999, NATO began a 78-day deadly and devastating U.S.-backed intervention of Yugoslavia. It was the first time in history that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization decided they would attack a country without the approval of the U.N. Security Council. The day U.S. and their NATO allies turned night into day by bombing Yugoslavia.

 Nineteen countries took part in the aggression led by the United States that was supposed to stop the repressive activities of the Slobodan Milosevic government and to establish a framework for its Southern province, Kosovo, under international law. Milosevic was president of Serbia from 1989 to 1997, and of Yugoslavia from 1997 to 2000.

 The attack was carried out under the former U.S. President Bill Clinton's administration and the rationale that it would prevent a "humanitarian disaster in Kosovo," a "genocide of Kosovar Albanians" caused by Milosevic and "comparable to Nazi atrocities in the Second World War."

 It was not the first, nor the last time, in subsequent years in different parts of the globe that U.S.-backed interventions would be initiated under the premise of a "preventive war."

 Map outlining the states of former Yugoslavia, including Kosovo. | Photo: International Criminal Tribunal

 In the case of Yugoslavia, various parties later agreed that the alleged "genocide" never happened and that instead it was just another excuse to dismantle the socialists as well as federal dimensions of a unitary Yugoslav state and to break the country into ever-smaller pieces by bombing its people into submission.

 OPINION: NATO War Crimes in Afghanistan: A Never Ending Story

 This way, NATO's bombing caused a much larger catastrophe than it averted.

 The illegal bombing destroyed and damaged 25,000 homes, 300 miles of roads and close to 400 miles of railways. Many public buildings were damaged, including 14 airports, 19 hospitals, 18 kindergartens, 69 schools, 176 cultural monuments and 44 bridges.

 The attacks killed at least 5,000 people (some sources claim it was closer to 18,000), injured 12,500, and left the area contaminated with depleted uranium, a chemical element internationally banned which to date is still causing childhood cancer rates to spike all over the Balkans.

 The bombing of Yugoslavia was made possible by a number of public lies which were spread in an attempt to justify intervention into an internal conflict, which was eventually exploited by foreign powers to advance policy goals.

 Myth 1: US-NATO Attacked After Milosevic Refused Talks

 In 1999, Kosovo was a region of Yugoslavia where ethnic Albanians were the majority. And because Kosovo was part of Yugoslavia, the U.S.-backed NATO campaign violated international law.

 While the U.S. government claimed that negotiations on Kosovo with Milosevic had failed and that the ongoing discrimination against Kosovo Albanians represented genocide, later statements by then Secretary of State Madeleine Albright proved that there were no negotiations.

 The U.S. gave Milosevic an ultimatum, telling him, firstly, to grant autonomy to Kosovo. Secondly, to allow NATO to station 30,000 ground troops in Yugoslavia and, lastly, to allow a NATO-conducted referendum for Kosovo's independence from Yugoslavia.

 Milosevic made it clear that he would not allow a foreign-occupying army in Yugoslavia because it would be a gross violation of the country's sovereignty and their independence.

 NATO began bombing the country without further negotiation attempts.

 Myth 2: Milosevic, a Danger that Needed to Be Stopped

 It was well understood by NATO leadership that the bombing was not a response to the huge crimes in Kosovo, but rather their cause.

 At the time bombing started, there were two potential diplomatic options for discussion, which included two proposals. One by NATO and another by the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

 As Noam Chomsky once explained, "After 78 days of bombing, a compromise was reached between them, suggesting that a peaceful settlement might have been possible, avoiding the terrible crimes that were the anticipated reaction to the NATO bombing."

 The Bill Clinton administration was also wildly inconsistent in its practice of humanitarian interventions. The U.S. launched two military campaigns against Serbia while ignoring more widespread slaughter in Rwanda or justifying the Russian assault on Chechnya during the same period of time.

 Myth 3: US-NATO Wanted to Protect Human Rights

 A United Nations court has ruled that Serbian troops did not carry out genocide against ethnic Albanians during Slobodan Milosevic's campaign of aggression in Kosovo from 1998 to 1999.

 John Norris, who was Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott's communications director during the Clinton Administration wrote a book in which he explains the real purpose of the war from his point of view. Norris explains that the bombing had nothing to do with concern for Kosovar Albanians.

 The U.S. decided to bomb because Serbia, the last corner of Europe which had not subordinated itself to the U.S.-run neoliberal programs, and which was not carrying out the required social and economic reforms.

 Myth 4: KLA, a Genuine Liberation Army

 The Kosovo Liberation Army was an ethnic-Albanian "paramilitary organization" that sought the separation of Kosovo from Yugoslavia.

 Before the bombing there had been killings on both sides which were distributed between the KLA attacking from Albania and the Yugoslavian security forces.

 In 1998, the KLA was considered a terrorist organization by the U.S., but one year later the CIA financed them, while Albright offered them training in the U.S. "in order to get the Albanians' ... acceptance (of the peace plan)," and in hope to transform the KLA "from a guerrilla group into a police force or a political entity, much like the African National Congress did in South Africa."

 A building in central Belgrade hasn't been rebuilt after missiles hit in April 1999 during NATO's bombing | Photo: Reuters

 NATO's illegal intervention revealed the dangers of "humanitarian imperialism" and how the criteria permitting such interventions has become more self-serving both in Yugoslavia and in Afghanistan and Iraq.
History as Propaganda: Why the USSR Did Not ‘Win’ World War II (I)

Michael Jabara Carley,

The title of this article is intended to be ironic because of course the Red Army did play the predominant role in destroying Nazi Germany during World War II. You would not know it, however, reading the western Mainstream Media (MSM), or watching television, or going to the cinema in the west where the Soviet role in the war has almost entirely disappeared.

If in the West the Red Army is largely absent from World War II, the Soviet Union’s responsibility for igniting the war is omnipresent. The MSM and western politicians tend to regard the Nazi invasion of the USSR in June 1941 as the Soviet Union’s just reward for the 1939 Nazi-Soviet non-aggression pact. As British Prime Minister Winston Churchill put it, the USSR «brought their own fate upon themselves when by their Pact with [Joachim von] Ribbentrop they let Hitler loose on Poland and so started the war…» Operation Barbarossa, the Nazi invasion of the USSR, was Stalin’s fault and therefore an expatiation of sins, so that Soviet resistance should not be viewed as anything more than penitence.

Whereas France and Britain «appeased» Nazi Germany, one MSM commentator recently noted, the USSR «collaborated» with Hitler. You see how western propaganda works, and it’s none too subtle. Just watch for the key words and read between the lines. France and Britain were innocents in the woods, who unwisely «appeased» Hitler in hopes of preserving European peace. On the other hand, the totalitarian Stalin «collaborated» with the totalitarian Hitler to encourage war, not preserve the peace. Stalin not only collaborated with Hitler, the USSR and Nazi Germany were «allies» who carved up Europe. The USSR was «the wolf»; the West was «the lamb». These are not only metaphors of the English-speaking world; France 2 has promoted the same narrative in the much publicised television series, «Apocalypse» (2010) and «Apocalypse Staline» (2015). World War II erupted because of the non-aggression pact, that dirty deal, which marked the beginning of the short-lived «alliance» of the two «totalitarian» states. Hitler and Stalin each had a foot in the same boot.

MSM «journalists» like to underscore Stalin’s duplicity by pointing to the abortive Anglo-Franco-Soviet negotiations in the summer of 1939 to create an anti-Nazi alliance. No wonder they failed, how could the naïve French and British, the lambs, think they could strike a deal with Stalin, the wolf? Even professional historians sometimes take this line: the 1939 negotiations failed because of Soviet «intransigence» and «duplicity».

If ever Pot called Kettle black, this has to be it. And of course the trope of the Pot and the Kettle is a frequent device of western or MSM propaganda to blacken the USSR and, by implication, to blacken Russia and its president Vladimir Putin. There is just one problem with the western approach: the MSM «journalist» or western politician or historian who wants to incriminate Stalin for igniting World War II has one large obstacle in the way, the facts. Not that facts ever bother skilled propagandists, but still, perhaps, the average citizen in the West may yet have an interest in them.

Consider just a few of the facts that the West likes to forget. It was the USSR which first rang the alarm bells in 1933 about the Nazi threat to European peace. Maksim M. Litvinov, the Commissar for Foreign Affairs, became the chief Soviet proponent of «collective security» in Europe.

He warned over and over again of the danger: Nazi Germany is a «mad dog», he said in 1934, «that can’t be trusted with whom no agreements can be made, and whose ambition can only be checked by a ring of determined neighbours». That sounds about right, doesn’t it? Litvinov was the first European statesman to conceive of a grand alliance against Nazi Germany, based on the World War I coalition against Wilhelmine Germany. Soviet would-be allies, France, Britain, the United States, Romania, Yugoslavia, even fascist Italy, all fell away, one after the other, during the mid-1930s. Even Poland, Litvinov hoped, could be attracted to collective security. Unlike the other reluctant powers, Poland never showed the slightest interest in Litvinov’s proposals and sought to undermine collective security right up until the beginning of the war.

Litvinov reminds me of Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov in his thankless dealings with the Russophobic West. During the interwar years, the Russophobia was mixed with Sovietophobia: it was a clash of two worlds between the West and the USSR, the Silent Conflict, Litvinov called it. When things were going badly, Litvinov appears occasionally to have sought consolation in Greek mythology and the story of Sisyphus, the Greek king, doomed by Zeus to push forever a large rock to the top of a mountain, only to see it fall back down each time. Like Sisyphus, Litvinov was condemned to pointless efforts and endless frustration. So too, it seems, is Lavrov. The French philosopher, Albert Camus, imagined that Sisyphus was happy in his struggles, but that’s an existentialist philosopher for you, and Camus never had to deal with that damned rock. Litvinov did, and never could stick it on the mountaintop.

My point is that it was the West, notably the United States, Britain, and France – yes, that’s right, the same old gang – which dismissed Litvinov’s repeated warnings and spurned his efforts to organise a grand alliance against Nazi Germany.

Dominated by conservative elites, often sympathetic to fascism, the French and British governments looked for ways to get on with Nazi Germany, rather than to go all out to prepare their defences against it. Of course, there were «white crows», as one Soviet diplomat called them, who recognised the Nazi threat to European security and wanted to cooperate with the USSR, but they were only a powerless minority. The MSM won’t tell you much about the widespread sympathy for fascism amongst conservative European elites. It’s like the dirty secrets of the family in the big house at the top of the hill.

Poland also played a despicable role in the 1930s, though the MSM won’t tell you about that either. The Polish government signed a non-aggression pact with Germany in 1934, and in subsequent years sabotaged Litvinov’s efforts to build an anti-Nazi alliance. In 1938 it sided with Nazi Germany against Czechoslovakia and participated in the carve-up of that country sanctioned by the Munich accords on 30 September 1938. It’s a day the West likes to forget. Poland was thus a Nazi collaborator and an aggressor state in 1938 before it became a victim of aggression in 1939.

By early 1939, Litvinov had been rolling his rock (let’s call it collective security) up that wretched mountain for more than five years. Stalin, who was no Albert Camus, and not happy about being repeatedly spurned by the West, gave Litvinov one last chance to obtain an alliance with France and Britain. This was in April 1939. The craven French, rotted by fascist sympathies, had forgotten how to identify and protect their national interests, while the British stalled Litvinov, sneering at him behind his back.

So Sisyphus-Litvinov’s rock fell to the bottom of the mountain one last time. Enough, thought Stalin, and he sacked Litvinov and brought in the tougher Vyacheslav M. Molotov.

Still, for a few more months, Molotov tried to stick the rock on the mountaintop, and still it fell back again. In May 1939 Molotov even offered support to Poland, quickly rejected by Warsaw. Had the Poles lost their senses; did they ever have any? When British and French delegations arrived in Moscow in August to discuss an anti-Nazi alliance, you might think they would have been serious about getting down to business. War was expected to break out at any time. But no, not even then: British instructions were to «go very slowly». The delegations did too. It took them five days to get to Russia in an old, chartered merchantman, making a top speed of 13 knots. The British head of delegation did not have written powers giving him authority to conclude an agreement with his Soviet «partners». For Stalin, that must have been the camel breaking straw. The Nazi-Soviet non-aggression pact was signed on 23 August 1939. The failure of the negotiations with the British and French led to the non-aggression pact, rather than the other way around.

Sauve qui peut motivated Soviet policy, never a good idea in the face of danger, but far from the MSM’s narrative explaining the origins of World War II. Good old Perfidious Albion acted duplicitously to the very end. During the summer of 1939 British government officials still negotiated for a deal with German counterparts, as if no one in Moscow would notice. And that was not all, the British prime minister, Neville Chamberlain, boasted privately to one of his sisters about how he would fool Moscow and get around the Soviet insistence on a genuine war-fighting alliance against Nazi Germany. So who betrayed who?

Historians may debate whether Stalin made the right decision or not in concluding the non-aggression pact. But with potential «partners» like France and Britain, one can understand why sauve qui peut looked like the only decent option in August 1939. And this brings us back to Pot calling Kettle black. The West foisted off its own responsibilities in setting off World War II onto Stalin and the Soviet Union.

History as Propaganda: Why the USSR Did Not ‘Win' World War II (II)
 Michael Jabara Carley, 
Mar 20

 See Part I:

While MSM lays the blame on Stalin's «alliance» with Hitler for starting World War II, it takes the opposite tack in the fighting of the war by ignoring the Soviet role in destroying Nazi Germany. The Red Army is practically invisible.

On 22 June 1941, more than 3 million German soldiers invaded the Soviet Union on a front stretching from the Baltic to the Black Seas. The Red Army was caught flat-footed largely because Stalin would not believe his own intelligence reports which accurately warned of the German invasion. Stalin invited one particularly valuable Soviet agent in Berlin to «go f*** his mother» («...Mozhet poslat' ... 'istochnik' ... k *** materi») when he warned that invasion was imminent. It was an open secret in Europe that Hitler would attack the Soviet Union.

Stalin seems to have been the only government leader not to believe it. US and British intelligence reckoned that the Red Army could not hold out for more than three or four weeks. That was the German estimate too.

During the first six months of fighting the Red Army lost three million soldiers; 177 divisions had to be written out of the Soviet order of battle. But instead of quitting after three or four weeks, as expected, the Red Army kept fighting through thick and thin, in spite of unimaginable catastrophes, the worst of which was the fall of Kiev in September 1941. To add to the horrors, the Germans sent in einsatzgruppen, death squads, to kill communists, Jews, Soviet officials, intellectuals, or anyone who got in their way. Women were stripped naked and forced to queue while waiting be to shot. Ukrainian and Baltic collaborators lent a hand. Hundreds of thousands, then millions of Soviet civilians died.

Yet the war was no walk in the park for the Wehrmacht.

It made large territorial gains but at the loss of an estimated 7,000 casualties a day. This was a new experience for the Germans who until then had destroyed every adversary they faced with relatively little loss to themselves. Poland was essentially beaten in four days; France, in six. The British army was run out of Europe, first at Dunkirk, where it left all its arms, and then in Greece and Crete which were fresh British fiascos. There were also others later on in North Africa. The Wehrmacht was finally beaten at the battle of Moscow in December 1941, long after British and US intelligence said the war in the east would be over. It was the first time the Wehrmacht had suffered a strategic defeat.

Blitzkrieg against the USSR had failed.

The British were happy to have a fighting ally who didn't after all surrender in three or four weeks. Churchill broke out cigars and cognac when he got the news of the German invasion and made an inspiring speech on BBC. But in that summer of 1941 the British government hesitated to call the Soviet Union «ally» and Churchill was adamant that BBC would not play the Soviet national anthem, the Internationale, on Sunday evenings with those of other British allies. Churchill only relented on this point after the battle of Moscow.

1942 was another year of sorrow and sacrifice for the Soviet Union. Everyone knew that the Red Army was carrying the main burden of the war against Germany.

In the autumn Soviet forces fought with their backs against the Volga in Stalingrad. Someone said Stalingrad was Hell. «No, no», another replied, «it was ten times worse than Hell». The Red Army won this ferocious battle, and the last German soldiers surrendered on 3 February 1943, fifteen months before the Normandy landings in France. On that date there was not a single US or British division fighting on the ground in Europe, not one. In March 1943 the tally of German and Axis casualties was enormous: 68 German, 19 Romanian, 10 Hungarian and 10 Italian divisions were mauled or destroyed. That represented 43% of Axis forces in the east. Many historians and contemporaries from clerks in the British Foreign Office to President Franklin Roosevelt in Washington thought that Stalingrad marked the turning of the tide of war against Hitler.

You won't read much about all this in MSM, though some historians in the west have gotten the story right. MSM will tell you that the Red Army could not have defeated the Wehrmacht without US Lend Lease worth billions of dollars. What MSM will not say is that most Lend Lease arrived only after Stalingrad where Hitler's fate had been sealed. They won't tell you either that already in 1942 Soviet industry was out-producing Nazi Germany in various categories of armaments, long before Lend Lease supplies began to make a difference. The United States paid the price of war in Studebaker trucks and aluminium, and ogromnoe spasibo, thank you very much, Russians replied, but the Soviet Union paid in rivers of blood and tears.

The British government tried to convince public opinion, which understood the importance of the Red Army fight against Hitler, that it was doing something to contribute to the common cause.

This was the «strategic bombing» of Germany, though it was not very strategic or accurate either. A British study indicated that one bomber out of three came within 8-9 kilometres of hitting its target. So the British and Americans started bombing cities and killing large numbers of civilians. In raids on Hamburg in 1943, for example, they killed 40,000 people. Berlin was also hit with increasing loss to the civilian population.

Well, I guess that was worth something in terms of Red Army morale.

By mid-1943, Red Army morale was just fine. In July the battle of Kursk marked the beginning of a great counter-offensive which led to the liberation of Kiev and further north Smolensk in the autumn of 1943. The Wehrmacht was kaiuk, finished, a year before the Normandy landings. The Red Army became an unstoppable juggernaut. Na zapad!, to the west, was its war cry.

What Stalin really wanted was a second front in France.

The Americans and British made promises which they could not or would not keep. Churchill was schizophrenic about the Soviet Union, sometimes he considered it an ally; at other times, he called the Russians «barbarians» and Bolsheviks who had to be kept out of Eastern and Central Europe. His idea was to invade Italy (September 1943), not France, move quickly north up the Italian boot, then pivot eastward to keep the Red Army out of the Balkans. It seemed like a great idea on paper, but in reality, it was a flop. Allied forces didn't get to Rome until June 1944. Italy proved to be a drag on Allied resources, more than it did on the Wehrmacht. Stalin kept pressing for a real second front in France, the shortest route into the German heartland, and he finally got a real commitment for it at the Teheran conference in the autumn 1943. This was Operation Overlord.

Of course, if you live in the west, the Normandy landings were the crucial event of World War II which sealed Hitler's fate. Everyone in the west has heard of Operation Overlord, but just ask a class of university students, as I do, if they have ever heard of Operation Bagration which started two weeks later. Instead of students' raised hands to signal knowledge of Bagration, I get puzzled looks. While the western Allies were cooped up in the Normandy pocket, the Red Army smashed the centre of German lines in the east and advanced in a matter of weeks some 500 kilometres to the west. German propagandists denied the gravity of the Wehrmacht's defeat, and so to mock them, the Red Army marched 57,000 German POWs, part of the Bagration harvest, through the streets of Moscow in July 1944. It was the only way Germans could see the Soviet capital.

Ken Burns, the skilled American documentary film maker, declared in The War, about the US experience of World War II, that «without American power and without the sacrifice of American lives, the outcome of the struggle in Europe would have been very different». This is true, though perhaps not in the sense that Burns intended. Without «American power», the Red Army would have had the honour of planting its red battle flags on the Normandy beaches, liberating all of Europe with the support of anti-fascist resistance movements. This was just the outcome that Churchill, for one, was determined to avoid.

After Overlord and Bagration, it was only a matter of time before Nazi Germany collapsed, and everyone knew it.

The stronger the certainty of victory over Nazism, the weaker became the Grand Alliance against it. Roosevelt died in April 1945 and within a fortnight US policy began to shift toward anti-Soviet hostility. In London Churchill asked his Russophobic generals for a war plan against the Soviet Union. It was to be American and British forces, stiffened by German divisions presumably without Nazi insignia, which would confront the Red Army. A top secret document was actually drafted, «Operation Unthinkable», the first version of which was circulated a fortnight after VE Day. «The overall or political object», Churchill's generals wrote, «is to impose upon Russia the will of the United States and British Empire». The Russians might «submit to our will» or they might not, but «if they want total war, they are in a position to have it». Oh my, what boasting. The plan was half-baked, unworkable, and utterly reprehensible. Eventually, it was shelved. «Unthinkable» marked the beginning of what would become a public campaign which has continued to this day to transfer the war's origins to Stalin's responsibility and to render imperceptible the Red Army role in destroying the Wehrmacht. Just consult any western poll of who «won» World War II. In the west most people think it was the Americans. This distortion of reality helps to assure the misgivings of some Eastern Europeans who appear to think that the war against Nazi Germany was a horrible mistake. If only Hitler had not been so unreasonable.

In some ways, nothing has changed since 1945: the United States and its loyal amanuensis Britain are still trying to impose their will on Russia. General Buck Turgidson-Breedlove, a contemporary Dr Strangelove and commander of NATO forces in Europe, said only a few weeks ago that NATO was ready «to fight and win» a war against Russia. It sounds like «Unthinkable» all over again. The European parliament and the OSCE are in the forefront of propaganda depicting Stalin as the chief associate of Hitler in setting off World War II. Remember Stalin, forget the Red Army is the West's main strategy for transforming the history of World War II into a Russophobic narrative. You can understand why the West pursues this strategy; the real history of the origins and conduct of World War II does not fit into the fairy story of the western lamb and the Soviet wolf. The victory of the Red Army and Soviet peoples over Nazi Germany is so remarkable and so inspiring that even the multifarious, well-funded efforts of three generations of western propagandists have been unable to efface it. And they never will

South Tyneside Stop the War / Five Years of the Syrian Saga
« Last post by Roger on March 21, 2016, 03:46:26 PM »
Five Years of the Syrian Saga
 Alexander Kuznetzov, 
Mar 21

 March 15 marked the fifth anniversary of the beginning of the spring 2011 unrest in Syria, which snowballed into a civil war and foreign intervention.

On that day, 15 March 2011, police arrested several teenagers in the city of Daraa for painting anti-government slogans on the walls. A few days later, it became known that some of those detained had died as a result of torture in prison. The news galvanised the populations of Daraa and other cities and there were large-scale anti-government demonstrations across the country, intensified by the interference of Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the West in Syria's affairs...

External forces skilfully used the conditions for an internal crisis already present in Syria at the beginning of 2011. These included the liberal economic reforms carried out in the early 2000s by Abdullah Dardari, which caused the country enormous harm. The ‘reforms' increased social inequality and the resulting discontent was compounded by the unlimited power of the Syrian intelligence agencies, of which there were twelve in the country and which began to replace the Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party. The situation was complicated by the fact that between 2004 and 2009, Syria suffered a raging drought that saw nearly three million people move from villages to cities. Once there, they were forced to live in slum settlements on the brink of poverty and this was fertile ground for the dissemination of propaganda by Salafi extremists.

In addition, in comparison with Egypt, Yemen and dozens of other Arabic states, Syria was a prosperous country with a burgeoning economy, completely self-sufficient in food production and actively influencing the situation in the Middle East.

This influence is one of the reasons for the hatred that has been heaped onto the country by Syria's enemies since the start of the crisis. The overwhelming dissatisfaction shown by Washington and its allies in the region, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, led to Syria's inclusion in the Axis of Resistance, a military and political alliance that includes Tehran, Damascus and the Hezbollah movement in Lebanon. Incidentally, it was this coalition that managed to stop the Israeli aggression in Lebanon in 2006.

The Axis of Resistance prevented Washington from carrying out a neo-colonial redivision of the Middle East. Back in July 2011, the US Ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford, visited Hama, where he openly interfered in the country's internal affairs by expressing his support for the opposition groups protesting against the Syrian government.

The regional rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran also played its part. In an effort to weaken the influence of the Islamic Republic, the Saudi royal family decided to overthrow the Syrian regime. In the spring of 2011, during a conversation with the head of former US Vice President Dick Cheney's administration, the Saudi Foreign Affairs Minister Saud Al Faisal expressed confidence that replacing the regime in Syria would be extremely beneficial to Saudi Arabia: «The king», he stated, «knows that other than the collapse of the Islamic Republic itself, nothing would weaken Iran more than losing Syria.»

Turkey's role was particularly treacherous with regard to Syria. It should be recalled that relations between Syria and Turkey had improved significantly during Bashar al-Assad's presidency. A Free Trade Zone agreement was even signed between the two countries.

After the crisis began in Syria, however, Erdogan's government abruptly changed course and set its sights on replacing the regime in Damascus. In November 2011, a training camp for Syrian militants was opened in the Turkish city of ?skenderun.

During the first stage of the conflict (up to the summer of 2013), America left Turkey and Qatar in charge of the ‘Syrian dossier'. In May 2012, a delegation from Qatar visited Damascus and promised to end hostilities against Syria if Bashar al-Assad agreed to give key posts in the country's government to the Muslim Brotherhood, which is supported by Ankara and Doha. So it was openly suggested to Assad that he hand the country over to external control. When he refused, an undeclared war was unleashed against his country.

Very soon after Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and NATO countries began supplying the Syrian opposition with weapons, Jihadi militants from dozens of countries around the world began to arrive in Syria. The first militants, which at that time made up the backbone of the terrorist group known as the Islamic State, arrived in Syria from Iraq in February 2012 with the knowledge of the CIA...

As a result, by the summer of 2013 radical Islamists had pushed aside the moderate opposition represented by the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and had confidently seized the initiative in the civil war.

The Friends of Syria Group often denounces the Syrian government forces' bombing and shelling of cities and residential areas. However, the military and political conflict in the country would never have escalated so far if the West and the monarchies of the Persian Gulf had not regularly poured oil on the flames of the civil war. As a result, the leading forces in the anti-government camp are the radical Islamist organisations Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra, which have pushed aside or absorbed any smaller groups. An exception to this is perhaps the pro-Saudi Army of Islam (Jaysh al-Islam).

Let us not be deceived: if the Friends of Syria had managed to overthrow Bashar al-Assad in 2013-2014, control of the country would still not have been passed to the ‘moderates'. The country would have been divided up between various armed groups that would have immediately started to sort out their differences and Syria would have become like a second Libya – a feral, ungoverned territory of chaos.

Against this background, Russia, along with Iran, has shown itself to be a friend to Syria. You will recall that until 2015, Russia had not interfered in the conflict and had not supplied Bashar al-Assad with weapons. In addition, Moscow was firmly opposed to any attempts by external forces to decide Syria's fate while ignoring the will of the Syrian people. Three times Russia vetoed resolutions at the UN Security Council, thwarting attempts by the West to legalise an intervention in Syrian affairs. It is only thanks to Moscow's position that the United States was unable to repeat the Libyan option in Syria.

Russia's military intervention in the Syrian conflict, which began in September 2015, is fundamentally different from the intervention by the US and its allies. Only Russia and Iran are in Syria at the official request of the legitimate government of the Syrian Arab Republic.

In five and a half months, the Russian Aerospace Forces have managed to do what the Americans could not (or rather did not want to) do in 18 months: stop the further expansion of the Islamic State and undermine the foundations of its existence. For the non-terrorist armed opposition groups, Russia's military operation was an example of ‘peace enforcement', as illustrated by the beginning of the Geneva talks.

The Geneva forum should bring a long-awaited peace to Syria. Naturally, however, the country's political system will not be the same as it was at the start of the conflict. Syria is facing a substantial renewal of its political elite, but these are issues that will now be determined by the Syrian people rather than Western strategists and sheikhs from the shores of the Persian Gulf. 
National Kurdish Movement rejects any divisive or federal project in Syria
 Syrian Arab News Agency 
20 March? 2016

 Damascus, SANA – The National Kurdish Movement for Peaceful Change voiced rejection of any divisive or federal project in Syria, stressing that the one-sided declaration made by those who met at al-Remailan city in Hasaka province is illegal and violates the Syrian constitution.

In a statement issued on Saturday, the Movement said that such a declaration, and particularly at this time, is unwise and irrational, as Syria is still in a state of war against terrorists, and such a declaration strengthens enemies and weakens those who are fighting these enemies.

The Movement called on all Kurdish forces and other forces to never trust promises regardless of the side that makes them, be it the United States or other sides in the West, as such sides only serve their personal interests and the interests of Israel.

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