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   A Syrian Leader Tells His Country's Story: An Interview with SAA General Hassan Hassan
Eva Bartlett, Mint Press News

August 05th, 2019


   For years, international headlines spotlighting Syria have claimed that the Syrian government, army, and its allies were guilty of a variety of atrocities. Yet as time has passed, many of the accusations levied at government and its allies have been shown to have been either falsified, staged (as in the case of allegations of chemical attacks in eastern Ghouta), or actually committed by the myriad terrorist groups operating in the country.

For their part, Syrian leadership has maintained from the start that the demonstrations in their country were not peaceful, from 2011 and on. Media in the West and the Gulf vilified Syria's leadership, featuring story after story of government-imposed violence while ignoring or whitewashing the violence of the burgeoning armed groups flooding into Syria.

From as early as 2011, armed groups were throwing civilians from rooftops and committing beheadings, kidnappings, and massacres. The year 2011 alone saw multiple massacres of civilians and security forces committed by what the media called "unarmed protesters" and later by the "Free Syrian Army." This was the same year that many in the media were insisting that a "peaceful revolution" was underway.

Since that time, those same armed groups, as well as the many iterations they spawned, have starved, tortured, imprisoned, murdered, maimed and even harvested the organs of Syrian civilians, in addition to killing Syrian and allied soldiers and journalists and destroying much of the country's infrastructure.

To give a voice to the often ignored "other side" — those Syrians that have been working to defend their country since 2011 — Eva Bartlett interviewed the Syrian Arab Army's Head of Political Administration, General Hassan Hassan. General Hassan's shelves and large wooden desk are covered with stacks of books, family photos, and various homages to the country he serves — the general holds a Ph.D. in geopolitical studies. The following is a transcript of Bartlett's interview with Hassan following the 74th anniversary of the founding of the Syrian Arab Army.

Eva Bartlett (EB) | I would like to begin by asking you your thoughts on how honest Western and Gulf media's reporting on Syria has been, especially regarding their choice of lexicon — for example, regarding the Syrian Army, the Syrian Government, what they call rebels — and the events in Syria in general.

General Hassan (GH) | Media has been one of the weapons of mass destruction used in this war on Syria. The biased media, in addition to the takfiri [Salafi] fatwas — especially the fatwas — have been the weapons that contributed most to the destruction taking place in Syria, including the destruction of human beings, vegetation, civilization, everything.

President Bashar al-Assad emphasized more than once the necessity of countering the rhetoric used. I can elaborate for two or more hours on the terms used. However, I will limit myself to some examples.

The Free [Syrian] Army is among the lexicons used. What "army" and what "freedom" are they talking about? Every army is known for its discipline, hierarchy, fighting strategies in both defense and attack, and the cause it fights for.

The so-called Free Syrian Army has none of these qualities, except for the ability to kill. The media tried to put into circulation the term Assad's Brigades or Assad's Forces. Our army is the Syrian Arab Army, which includes in each of its formations soldiers from all Syrian governorates, with no exception.

I'll give you an example. Almost three months ago, the militants supported by Turkey targeted a Syrian army position to the north of Latakia. Twelve soldiers were martyred as a result. Each soldier is from a different governorate. This is the Syrian Arab Army.

They used the term "defection." There is no defection in the Syrian Arab Army; defection did not really occur in the Syrian Arab Army but there are some cases of soldiers running away. The term "defection" is used when a brigade or a squad defect from a certain army. Until now, the Syrian Arab Army has not witnessed what might be called defection even within its smallest units.

In order to spread the idea of defection they resorted to unsophisticated lies. In 2012 they said that General Mohammad al-Rifa'i, commander of the Fifth Squad, had defected from the army. This lie was circulated through the media. Yet, Syrian TV interviewed the general, who had retired in 2001, 11 years prior.

Gangs would stop civilian or military vehicles on highways, hold soldiers hostages, film them and force them at gunpoint to declare that they had defected [from the army].

I'll give an example available from the internet of their lies regarding the term the Free Syrian Army. Anyone can check the Free Syrian Army term through Google. We type Abu Saqr al-Asadi — right here, I have typed Abu Saqr al-Souri [the Syrian]. We now find [the result] "face to face with the fighter Abu Saqr al-Asadi who ate the heart of a soldier." (Abu Saqr is also transliterated as Abu Sakkar, as per the BBC article referred to by General Hassan).

That was in 2013 when he was filmed cutting into the chest of the soldier and eating his heart. It is here on Google from the BBC Arabic website. This is not a Syrian media outlet. It is a Western outlet. It is not a pleasant sight to watch him chewing the soldier's heart.

Abu Saqr al-Asadi was a fighter in the Al-Farouq Brigades, which was an armed rebel organization formed by the Free Syrian Army. When he died he was a member of the Nusra Front. So, he was a member of the Free Syrian Army, used to be with the Farouq Brigades, and then joined the Nusra Front.

I could speak for hours about the issue of lexicon. For instance, they talked about what is called the armed opposition. How could opposition be armed?! Opposition is a political term. Opposition is a political party that did not win elections. Such a party plays the role of opposition in the parliament. These militant groups want to govern the country, the people and everything by armed force. Does this sound normal? Never was there a term called "armed opposition," except when they spoke about these terrorist gangs.

EB | So in the article you've just shown, the English version, the BBC did not report it as an act of carnage. They humanized Abu Saqr and asked him what drove him to do such a desperate act?

GH | This is the media war. Either they say he is violent or they say he is an angel; hasn't he demonstrated how he cut out an organ and ate a piece of it? When the BBC describes a man who ate the heart of a dead soldier as a peaceful man, how then would they describe beasts?

EB | Regarding events in Syria in 2011, both Western and Gulf media called it a peaceful unarmed uprising for many months, even for up to a year. Do you have an example of attacks by what the West called unarmed protesters against the Syrian army, police or security forces in 2011?

GH | In 2011 they said the reason behind the first spark was that the army, or another security body, pulled out the nails of some children in Dara`a. Over the past eight years, it has become clear that all of the armed groups are equipped with video cameras and live-streaming devices. Can any of them provide us with a video of one child whose nails were pulled out? Where are these children? Why couldn't the media that fabricated such lies film the pulled-out nails?

Let's go back to the peaceful uprising. On April 10, 2011, less than a month after the beginning of the so-called uprising, an army convoy transporting soldiers back to their homes was intercepted on the highway from Tartous to Banias. Nine people were martyred: two officers, five warrant officers, and two civilians. They also fired at the ambulances that tried to reach the wounded.

Other examples are the Nawa massacre in Dara`a, the Jisr al-Shoghur massacre, and the Asi River massacre — where they live-streamed the dumping of people into the river. All these massacres were perpetrated before the end of June 2011.

That is the peaceful [Arab] spring the Western and Gulf media talked about.

Are these examples enough, or should I cite more? It's important to me that Western readers know how many lies and how much deception there has been, especially by the media.

I'll give you another minor example. Usually, the BBC, Al-Jazeera and France 24, etc. would broadcast that an explosion took place in a certain area. However, there was no explosion. But 15 to 30 minutes later an explosion would take place in the same area. It was like a code to the armed groups to carry out the explosion.

I'll provide you with a more comprehensive example. When the area of Ma`raba [near al-Tal, a suburb of Damascus] was targeted by the Israeli enemy, cameras were focused on the targeted area even before the missiles hit.

EB | So, they were ready?

GH | The cameras were aimed at the area where the missiles were supposed to hit. At the moment that the missiles hit the targeted area, members of armed groups began cheering "Allahu Akbar Allahu Akbar." This was documented by their cameras; definitely not Syrian media cameras. At the same time, armed groups in eastern Ghouta attacked Damascus from seven fronts.

As an ordinary person — not as a military figure– I could tell it was a role carried out by three. First, the one who carried out the aggression, and that is the Zionist entity [Israel].

Second, the media outlets that were assigned to broadcast the aggression before it was carried out. And third, the armed groups who attacked Damascus. Therefore, the cameraman and those militants are substitute recruits of the Israeli enemy. I cannot call them but the substitute army of Israel and the United States.

According to confessions by Israeli and American officials, including previous U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, ISIS was made by America. Later on, ISIS was classified as a terrorist organization.

Thus, those terrorists made in the U.S. are the rebels of the peaceful [Arab] spring later circulated in the region by means of the foreign media outlets.

EB | According to Israeli media, Israel is fighting terrorism, Muslim extremists. However, there are reports of Israel treating militants or terrorists in Israeli hospitals. Can you please outline Israel's role in the war on Syria?

GH | Everything that has taken place in Syria and in the region — all the blaze erupting in the region, under what they falsely called the Arab Spring — serves the interests of Israel. These are not my own conclusions; rather, it is the Israeli media who talk about this. The Israeli prime minister appeared on television when he visited wounded terrorists, injured while fighting the Syrian army, being treated in Israeli hospitals. This is number one.

The other issue is that every time the Syrian Arab Army is making an apparent advance, Israel conducts an aggression [airstrike]. When Israel is unable to achieve its objective, it seeks the help of the United States, just as it did when the U.S. Air Force targeted the Tharda Mountains in Deir ez-Zor as the Syrian army was en route to clear Deir ez-Zor of terrorists.

I hope that you underscore the following statement: Those who sponsor terrorism don't fight it. Israel is an entity based on both killing and falsehood. When Palestine was already inhabited, they claimed that Palestine was a land without people and wanted to give it to people without a land. Thus, the United Kingdom's Foreign Secretary, Arthur Balfour, gave what the U.K. didn't own to those who didn't deserve it.

In 2019, Trump did the same and gave the Golan to Israel as if Trump inherited it from his own father. Who gave Trump the right to give other people's property to others? The issue here is that international law needs power to protect it. Unfortunately, the United States is still the superpower of the world and the financial and economic despot of the world. U.S. officials are indifferent to falsehood, humanity, law or human rights. All this means nothing to them.

I would like to remind foreign readers that Iraq was destroyed under the pretext of having weapons of mass destruction. The whole world still recalls Colin Powell when he presented what he called a satellite image as evidence of Iraq possessing weapons of mass destruction. When Powell left office, he admitted to U.S. media outlets that that moment was the darkest in his lifetime. The question is: When did he admit it? How many innocent victims were killed as a result?

How come a sovereign state was occupied without international legitimacy? American officials don't care about this. Wherever the U.S. has interfered around the world, the result has been more killing, destruction, and suffering and successive U.S. administrations are competing to serve Israel.

EB | Syria has been accused of using chemical weapons against civilians. Does the Syrian army use chemical weapons against civilians?

GH | An official mission came to Syria and demanded that the Syrian government carry out an official investigation. They delayed for years before the mission arrived. And those who came submitted an untruthful report.

Syria signed the agreement and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) visited Syria and checked all places and the existing stockpile [of chemical weapons] was destroyed on a U.S. vessel. Accordingly, The OPCW announced that Syria was chemical weapons-free.ve

The Syrian Government has been accused of using chemical weapons many times, in eastern Ghouta and in other areas. Under this pretext, [th U.S. and its allies] launched their aggression on Syria. Syria affirmed many times through statements by Syrian officials, both before and after the agreement was signed, that Syria does not in any way intend to use chemical weapons and that Syria has not used nor will it use chemical weapons.

After the declaration of this organization [OPCW] that Syria is free from chemical weapons, how could Syria use something that it does not have? Despite evidence that chemical substances and weapons entered into areas under the control of militant groups in Syria through Turkish borders, investigations were not resumed.

There are a number of videos showing how the armed groups were the ones using chemical weapons themselves. Each time Syria was accused of using chemical weapons, the Syrian army was on the verge of finishing a military operation. Is it logical they'd use chemical weapons — which would prevent the declaration of victory?

With regard to their claim of using chemicals in Ghouta, the areas there are interconnected. Those who use chemical weapons cannot protect themselves. When those terrorists used chemicals there, both the civilians and the military were hit, as was the case in Khan al-Asal and elsewhere. This was exposed in the [UN] Security Council by Bashar al-Ja'afari.

Syria does not possess chemical weapons. Syria has never used chemical weapons before. Syria cannot use a chemical weapon for a simple reason, or for two reasons in fact: Ethically, Syria does not believe in using chemicals [weapons]. This is number one. Second, Syria does not own chemical weapons.

EB | The Rukban Camp is near the U.S. base of al-Tanf. One question is about the U.S. relationship with ISIS in that area and whether or not America has been fighting ISIS in the area. Also, according to Western media, refugees evacuated from Rukban to centers in Homs, for example, are taken and thrown in prison.

For example, the Canadian Globe & Mail, citing a Qatari-based organization, said that from 2017 to 2019 around 2,000 Syrians who returned to government-controlled areas (in general and not from Rukban specifically) were detained and 784 are still in prison. How would you reply to accusations that people returning home were detained or forced to serve in the Syrian army?

GH | In relation to ISIS and the U.S., I can say that a mother does not eat her own son. ISIS is a U.S. product, according to American confessions. However, America sometimes becomes a cat and eats some of its own kittens when they become a burden.

America uses ISIS, fights with ISIS, not against ISIS. Whenever the role of some armed ISIS fighters comes to an end, the U.S. abandons or gets rid of them. The U.S. does not care whether those members get killed or not.

However, when the U.S. needs them, it sends helicopters to evacuate them, just like what happened when Deir ez-Zor was liberated. American helicopters would land and evacuate ISIS leaders together with their families and fly them somewhere else.

Rukban Camp is within the sight of the Americans in the Tanf base. U.S. surveillance can distinguish a hen from a rooster on a street anywhere in the world. How is it that ISIS members are able to move at the Tanf border without being observed by the U.S. military there? How can the U.S. convince the world that it is fighting ISIS when the latter's members move freely under U.S. observation?

Four months ago, I was working with the Head of the Russian Reconciliation Centre, General Victor Kopcheshen. He told me that the Russian government received an official reply from the Americans that they would not allow any Syrian or Russian to come close to the 55-kilometer line around Rukban Camp to help evacuate people from the camp.

Less than four months ago we first began evacuating a few hundred [people] from Rukban. Now, the number of people who returned from Rukban Camp has exceeded 15,000 (As of July 31, that number has reached 17,458 according to Russia's Ministry of Defense). Can anyone provide me with the name of even one person who left Rukban and got detained? These claims are flagrant lies.

Author's note | I asked officials at the UN about the accusation that the Syrian government was imprisoning former residents of Rukban, I detailed their reply in a separate article for MintPress:

"David Swanson, Public Information Officer Regional Office for the Syria Crisis UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs based in Amman, Jordan, told me regarding claims of substandard conditions and of Syrians being forcefully held or mistreated in the centers that:

‘People leaving Rukban are taken to temporary collective shelters in Homs for a 24-hour stay. While there, the receive basic assistance, including shelter, blankets, mattresses, solar lamps, sleeping mats, plastic sheets, food parcels and nutrition supplies before proceeding to their areas of choice, mostly towards southern and eastern Homs, with smaller small numbers going to rural Damascus or Deir-ez-Zor.

The United Nations has been granted access to the shelters on three occasions and has found the situation there adequate. The United Nations continues to advocate and call for safe, sustained and unimpeded humanitarian assistance and access to Rukban as well as to all those in need throughout Syria. The United Nations also seeks the support of all concerned parties in ensuring the humanitarian and voluntary character of departures from Rukban.'

Hedinn Halldorsson, the Spokesperson and Public Information Officer for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) based in Damascus, told me:

‘We looked into this when the rumours started, end of April, and concluded they were unfounded – and communicated that externally via press briefings in both Geneva and NY. The conditions in the shelters in Homs are also adequate and in compliance with standards; the UN has access and has done three monitoring visits so far.'"

GH | I would like to stress a point concerning military service in the army. Several presidential decrees have been issued. Any Syrian citizen [living] abroad who wishes to settle his status and return to Syria can benefit from those decrees, which invalidate any other verdict issued against that Syrian citizen.

These decrees do not nullify a Syrian citizen's rights nor their duties. Syrian citizens who return to Syria are still Syrian citizens and therefore still have the duties of Syrian citizens. The decrees granted them a grace period of six months to settle their legal status.

For example, a person who lost their official ID, or army service registry or anything, can settle their legal status during this period. It is a normal official procedure to call for duty those who are subject to mandatory or reserve military service. This procedure has been applied to all Syrian citizens in all provinces, not only those who return.

I cannot say just respect the rights and ignore the duties. Everyone is equal before the law. They have to obey what Syrian law states and the majority of them are loyal and doing their duties enthusiastically.

But the people who have their status settled do not have the right to commit a crime. If I had a son living abroad who returned and settled his status, does it give him the right to commit an offense against his neighbors or to kill somebody or commit a crime? The law is the law and must be adhered to.

EB | Western media say that Iran and Russia's presence in Syria is an attempt to occupy Syria and control it. What are the roles of Iran and Russia in Syria?

GH | Before I answer your question, let us decide what logic we're using. Are we using the logic of international law or the law of the jungle? Who has the right to speak in the name of the Syrian people? It is only the Syrian state that has the right to speak in the name of the Syrian people. No other side has the right to speak for them. Surely, those who are speaking in the name of the Syrian people do not know the Syrian people. It is really strange that the governments of those who kill the Syrian people are acting as if they were advocates of the Syrian people.

According to international law, it is the right of any state to defend itself when such a country faces hazards endangering its own existence. Such a country has the right to defend its existence and sovereignty by using all means possible. In this respect, this country has the right to rely on its relations with friends and allies as well, no matter whether those allies are Russian, Iranian or any other ally. Neither the U.S., Israel nor the Gulf states have anything to do with this. It is a matter of Syrian sovereignty.

The other thing has to do with the military presence of any country on the territory of another state. Such a presence can be legal in one of the following two cases: when invited by the state concerned, or through a resolution issued by the [UN] Security Council. Otherwise, such a presence is an occupation.

Therefore, there is no reason for the Syrian state to be ashamed of its stance on the presence of Iran or Russia in Syria. The Syrian State declares its stances clearly and explicitly: that the presence of Iran, Russia and Hezbollah is based upon an official invitation by the Syrian government. Thus, their presence is legal according to international law. Can anyone in the West — or the media outlets who claim to be neutral — convince any Syrian citizen that the U.S. presence or the Turkish presence is legal?

The Syrian State says they are forces of occupation. There is no [UN] Security Council resolution allowing them to be present in Syria. So what is the meaning behind their presence? They are using the law of force, rather than the force of law. Thus, they are referring back to the law of the jungle and not to the force of international law.

Those occupiers support terrorism, created terrorism, and are still financing it according to a confession made by the former Qatari prime minister that his country spent $37 billion to arm and finance armed groups in Syria. The Qatari PM confessed that his country and the armed groups had agreed to destroy Syria. Yet, they disputed when things went out of their control. They paid the armed groups to hunt the prey. However, they disputed among themselves when the prey escaped.

EB | Syria welcomed Palestinian refugees and has supported the Palestinian resistance. Could you please explain the role of some Palestinians in the events in Syria within the past few years, whether in fighting terrorism or supporting it.

GH | The Syrian State does not deal with people and does not take stances based on reactions. The Syrian state has its own constants and principles, and it [continues to] adhere to these constants and principles even in its ninth year of war. Syria still believes that the cause of Palestine is the central cause of the Arab world.

So, when some Palestinian groups choose to affiliate themselves with the Muslim Brotherhood rather than being loyal to the Palestinian cause and to Syria, it makes Syria [even] more committed to its principles. Especially as these days, the world knows well that the Muslim Brotherhood [has become] the basis of evil since they've adopted terrorism.

The Palestinian cause remains the central cause. Syria will always take interest in the Palestinian cause, in spite of the fact that some [Palestinians] were eager to be part of the war on the Syrian State. Even though weapons that were supposed to be used to fight Israel were used in the war on Syrian citizens.

The Syrian State is now recovering and history will remember those [Palestinians] as traitors. History will show that Syria has been, and will be, loyal to the Palestinian cause.

The Yarmouk Camp is back under Syrian sovereignty. The camp is now free from those who carried weapons and used them against Syrian citizens, whatever names they used — ISIS, Nusra or otherwise — and regardless of their nationality, Palestinian or otherwise. All of them are now gone, thanks to the sacrifices made by the Syrian people the heroism of the Syrian Arab Army and the wisdom of our leader, President Bashar al-Assad.

EB | Some Palestinians remained loyal to Syria, including in fighting terrorism, like the Quds Brigade

GH | Yes, of course. Surely. There are loyal people even inside occupied Palestine. Not all people are ungrateful to those who help them. Not all people bite the hand that is stretched out to help them. Only traitors bite that hand.

EB | When eastern Aleppo and eastern Ghouta were being liberated, Western and international media said that the Syrian army was massacring and raping civilians there and that both the Syrian and the Russian militaries were bombing hospitals. Now, they are saying that 29 hospitals in Idlib have been targeted. What would you say about these accusations?

GH | We have liberated eastern Ghouta. We have also liberated eastern Aleppo. In both locations, a number of field hospitals were shown on television with piles of medicine. This implies that these hospitals were not bombed. This is very briefly.

The other point is that when a building is selected as a command center for armed groups under the pretext of its being a hospital, does this mean we should let those positioned in eastern Ghouta target Damascus on a daily basis with their shells?

Didn't the world watch those angels of mercy, when they entered Adra industrial town, burning people alive in ovens and throwing civilians off fourth and fifth floors?

We're talking about war here, we're talking here about armies of terrorists equipped with light, medium and heavy weapons and empires of media around the world, in addition to the regional and world powers supporting them.

It is the duty of the Syrian State, before being its own right, to provide the Syrian people with protection against terrorism. The problem with the national Syrian media is that it does not reach the West.

Crossing points are identified as corridors for the exit of civilians before any military operation gets started in a populated area. Such corridors are then equipped with ambulances, medical services and every other need. Who targeted the nurses, doctors and civilians on their way out when citizens were evacuated from eastern Ghouta?

Has anybody seen the photo of the Syrian soldier carrying an old woman on his back and a child on his arm? That soldier knew he could drop as a martyr carrying this heavy load. Other soldiers fell as martyrs while they were helping civilians escape.

That number, 29 hospitals, is a lie in itself. It is more than the number of [national] hospitals available all over Syria. Do they allocate a hospital for every twenty or thirty people? This is illogical.

There is also something strange about all the field hospitals that we discovered. Saudi, Israeli and U.S. medicine was found in these hospitals. How did such medicine reach the terrorists? Did it come from underneath the ground?

And those who had been targeting Damascus and Aleppo are all of sudden depicted as angels of mercy, peace and freedom advocates calling for democracy?

It's worth pointing out to people in the West that it has been proven that only a limited number of the fighters in armed groups came from western Europe and North America, while tens of thousands, or hundreds of thousands, came from other countries.

The Turkish president declares that such terrorists are free to leave Syrian territory whenever he gets upset with Europe or the U.S. Subsequently, EU countries and the U.S. get so horrified at the possibility of those terrorists returning home.

The EU countries and the U.S. do not want any of those terrorists to return. Why is it that they do not want them to come back? Are they not their own citizens? They say that such terrorists will spread terrorism, so they spread terrorism there while they plant roses and flowers here? Is it okay for terrorists to spread terror here while they're forbidden to return to their own countries?

Briefly, these are the types of lies spread by the West.

I'm calling on each and every citizen of Western countries, as I am absolutely sure that they have pure human emotion, not to believe the Western media. I want them to be certain that their governments have participated in the killing of the Syrian people and in the killing of Syrian children. Their governments participated in the killing of Syrian women and the killing of the Syrian elderly and convinced them [Western citizens] that they were promoting something else [freedom].

EB | Recently, journalists from CBS and Sky News were in Idlib. I believe one of the two groups, Sky News, claimed that it was targeted by the Syrian army. Could they be reporting independently of al-Qaeda or any of the other terrorist groups in Idlib? They claim they are not [embedded] with al-Qaeda. Is this feasible? Is this realistic?

GH | It's a funny question. You're a journalist. Surely, this is not the first time you have visited Syria. Have you faced any obstacles while entering Syria as a journalist? Do any Western or European countries accept the entry of foreign journalists illegally into their countries?

Sky News, the BBC, and Al Jazeera teams conduct live transmissions while embedded with armed groups — the terrorists. I wish that the mental power of the Syrian soldiers could become super advanced so that they can order shells to avoid foreign correspondents who are side by side with terrorists. The army is responding to attacks launched by terrorists — soldiers and officers of the Syrian army cannot give orders to an exploding shell to avoid this or that.

The most important question is this: What are they doing there? How did they enter? Who is in control in Idlib? Isn't it the Nusra Front? How are they [the journalists] allowed to be there? They are there under the protection of the Nusra Front. They are under the protection of an internationally-designated terrorist organization. Their countries should hold them accountable for communicating with terrorist groups before asking why the army is targeting them.

EB | How can Idlib be liberated when Turkish forces occupy northern Syria and there are civilians in Idlib, in addition to the 70,000 al-Qaeda and other terrorist fighters?

GH | There were civilians and armed groups in Homs. There were civilians and armed groups in Ghouta as well. There were civilians and armed groups all over Dara`a. All these regions have been liberated. The majority of citizens remained there while the terrorists were wiped out. Idlib is no exception. Eastern parts of the Euphrates are no exception either.

Each square centimeter of Syrian land is part and parcel of Syria as a whole. It is the duty and the right of the Syrian State to eradicate terrorism.

Unless under an invitation by the Syrian government, any foreign military presence on the Syrian territory is a force of occupation. The Syrian State is entitled to face such an occupation with every possible means.

The Syrian State has opened the door wide for reconciliation. The Syrian State trusts the wisdom of Russian and Iranian friends and relies on its relations with Turkey.

Surely each Syrian citizen, civilian or military, wishes that not even one drop of blood be spilled. This does not mean to yield to occupation in any way.

Idlib will be freed either through reconciliations or a political agreement. Otherwise, the Syrian State will find the means to liberate Idlib in the same way it liberated all other regions. I am absolutely certain — not as an officer but rather as a citizen — I know how Syrian citizens think; they believe that Idlib will be freed, as will each and every inch of the Syrian territory.

The presence of U.S., Turkish, or any other occupation force does not mean such a force is a destiny that cannot be faced. As long as we [the Syrian State] spare no effort or means — whether military, political, economic or diplomatic — to win this war [against terrorism] by God's will, and I hope it is not going to be through military action. But if things reach a dead-end, Idlib will not remain under occupation.

EB | Can you speak to the importance of liberating Idlib, not only for Syria's territorial integrity but also for the villages in Northern Hama that are affected by terrorists in Idlib? The media is not talking about Mahardeh, Sqailbiyeh and other places being attacked by terrorists.

GH | When Mhardeh and Sqailbiyeh are targeted, as a Syrian citizen, I do not see these two towns as less important than Damascus. Likewise when the neighborhoods of Homs were targeted.

All areas inhabited by Syrian citizens under the control of the Syrian State have been targets for those armed terrorist groups that are supported by the West, which claims it is standing by human rights and cares about the interests of the Syrian people.

For Syrian citizens, the liberation of each centimeter, or rather each grain of sand, is as important as the liberation of Idlib. Of course, the existence of armed groups in Idlib leads to abnormal circumstances that cause dysfunction in citizens' daily lives. Thus, it is important to liberate Idlib to guarantee the return of normal life in Mahardeh, Sqailbiyeh and other areas.

At the same time, it is important to end the occupation by the U.S. and its allies.

I hope that each European or American citizen will ask: Why do Syrian citizens return to areas that have been liberated? Why do citizens welcome the army? Why do citizens — except those who are held hostage by terrorists — flee from areas under the control of terrorist groups?

The civilians residing in terrorist-held areas are helpless hostages. A year ago all of the neighborhoods in eastern Ghouta were populated by terrorists. If the Syrian army had been shelling civilians in the past, why not do now? Why are people now living in peace there?

These are questions that I put forward to people living in the West. I hope they are human enough to ask [themselves] these questions.

EB | Regarding misinformation from international media on the Syrian Arab Army, portraying them as murderers and rapists. Can you speak about the sacrifices of the Syrian Arab Army throughout these eight years of war?

GH | I will answer your question with a question. Syria is an area of 185,000 square kilometers. According to United Nations documents, 360,000 armed terrorists infiltrated Syrian territory.

I would like to draw an example other than Syria. I'll give the U.S., the superpower of the world, as an example. Let's suppose that 36,000, rather than 360,000, terrorists infiltrate any state of the United States. That's 10 percent of the number of terrorists who made their way into Syria. Let's also suppose that such terrorists are supported by world powers. What would have happened to the U.S.?

The achievements of the Syrian Arab Army are not ordinary; these achievements are miraculous accomplishments.

The two greatest armies in modern history have failed to achieve what the Syrian Army has accomplished. In Afghanistan, fewer than 10 percent of the number of terrorists in Syria were able to defeat two armies: the Red Soviet Army and the U.S. Army.

But, the Syrian Army defeated such terrorism. According to military theory, any fight between an army and terrorist militia of armed gangs will end with the armed gangs winning. This has been evident throughout military history.

For the first time in the history of humankind, a traditional army has defeated armies of militant groups. The Syrian Army fought battles that can be classified as new in military science. The Syrian Army fought above ground and underground battles in addition to their battles against the media war, intelligence war, information war, economic war, gang and street-to-street wars. Despite all of that, the Syrian Army achieved victory. Therefore, can we imagine the magnitude of the sacrifices made in this respect by the Syrian Army?

In the first months of this war, the Syrian leadership realized that the terrorists wanted Syrians to be used to seeing blood everywhere. So, soldiers were forbidden from carrying weapons, even handguns, when they went to areas of so-called demonstrations to prevent demonstrators from destroying infrastructure.

For months the soldiers confronted the militants knowing that they could be martyred. However, the discipline of the Syrian army pushed the soldiers to do their missions without carrying a weapon.

Let any Western citizen imagine how it would be for a soldier with no weapons facing armed militants to stop them from destroying infrastructure and targeting civilians.

This is the Syrian army. The Syrian army cleared most of the Syrian regions occupied by the fiercest types of terrorism ever witnessed in the history of mankind.

EB | Thank you very much for your time and for the interview in general.

GH | I also would like to thank you all for what you've done so far and for all of the questions you raised. I kindly request that you share my replies with foreign readers.

Personally, I think your role as an objective journalist transcends the traditional role of journalism. It reflects an ethical responsibility of telling the truth about what you've seen. If you want to help the Syrian people, the greatest help you can offer the Syrian people is to tell the truth you have seen with your own eyes, not just what is said all over the internet.

Again, anyone can look up Abu Saqr al-Souri and see how he ate the heart of a dead soldier. He was a member of the so-called peaceful group of the Free Syrian Army, when he was killed — he was with the Nusra Front. This can be enough to convey the message.

Feature photo | Syrian General Hassan Hassan, center, is interviewed by Eva Bartlett, right in his office. A translator is seated to the left. Photo | Eva Bartlett

Eva Bartlett is a Canadian independent journalist and activist. She has spent years on the ground covering conflict zones in the Middle East, especially in Syria and occupied Palestine, where she lived for nearly four years. She is a recipient of the 2017 International Journalism Award for International Reporting, granted by the Mexican Journalists' Press Club (founded in 1951), was the first recipient of the Serena Shim Award for Uncompromised Integrity in Journalism, and was short-listed in 2017 for the Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism. See her extended bio on her blog In Gaza. She tweets at @EvaKBartlett

2
Interviewed by Russian Blogger and Public Figure. From Moscow to Donbass

The other day, I was interviewed by Vadim Manukyan on the Moscow protests but also on issues related to Syria, Gaza, Venezuela and western corporate media propaganda.

*Vadim Manukyan is a blogger, public figure, and an “expert of the Council for the Development of the Information Society and Media at the State Duma”, as described on his Facebook profile.
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*Photo by Eva Bartlett. Journalist taking selfie in front of Russian police. Many journalists at the protest had a visible fixation with framing their photos with police. The intent seems clear enough to me. Police, by the way, did not react to this nor to further harassment by journalists.


“Canadian journalist and blogger Eva Bartlett attended an opposition rally on Sakharov Avenue in Moscow on August 10 and called the protesters “the most apathetic she had seen” The journalist shared her thoughts on Facebook.

[Eva note: My emphasis on APATHETIC was to highlight the sense that many of the protesters were not there for reasons to do with “democracy”, etc, but were, lets say, persuaded by other interests… ]

For this “liberty”, according to tradition, some of the Russian social network users harassed her, Eva was accused of “propaganda” and “work for the Russian media”.

In order to clarify the position of Eva Bartlett on all pressing issues, Vadim Manukyan spoke with her specifically for the Federal News Agency.


20190810_135723
*Photo by Eva Bartlett. Protesters in Moscow August 10, 2019.

VM: -Is this your first time in Russia?

EB: -I came to Russia both as a tourist and a journalist. I plan to travel around to see some other Russian cities. But also, since Western media has made considerable hype about the protests in Moscow, I decided to observe for myself whether or not there was “police brutality”. I was also curious about the nature of the protests themselves.

[I’m also planning on going to Donbass for 2 to 3 weeks.]

In Donbass, I plan to interview civilians about what they’ve experienced under Ukrainian shelling, and also to interview journalists who have been covering this.
I also have an interview I’ll conduct in Moscow, but prefer to wait until I’ve done so before speaking about it.

VM: – You’ve said that the protesters in Moscow turned out to be the most apathetic of those whom you have seen, and that they got more energetic only when the singers and the bands began performing. Maybe it’s because most people did come not for the action, but just to see their favourite performers?

EB: – That’s the impression I got. My point about apathy was this: if one truly believes in the cause he/she is advocating for, that passion shows during protests. What I observed was people who periodically chanted for a brief period, and then just stood there. In all the protests I’ve participated in, I’ve never seen such lackluster.

It really seemed like many of those who came out on Saturday–many of whom were youths–might have had other reasons for attending. One obvious one was the presence of the bands/singers. I’ve also heard allegations that protesters are paid to attend–but I can’t personally verify those allegations.

VM: -You noted that the protesters on Sakharov avenue seemed to be waiting for the team from the organizers to shout certain slogans. Did you have any feeling that the organizers themselves also received instructions from the West? Don’t you think that we are talking about a foreign intervention into the Russian politics, as it was in Ukraine, Egypt, Syria, Venezuela and other countries where there were staged protests?

EB: – I think that is entirely possible. I don’t discount that people in Russia, or Venezuela, or Syria, have genuine political grievances and want certain changes, of course they do. But if we look at the case of Syria, for example, it is now known that from the very beginning there were armed protesters who attacked security forces, and committed massacres against security forces and civilians. This was at a time when most Western and Gulf media maintained the lie that the protests were peaceful [Please see my 2015 article on this.]

I was in Venezuela for several weeks in March 2019. There were massive protests (video) in support of the government . Those protests were filled with people who were very politically-aware, informed and could articulate what they were defending. I did try to attend opposition marches, but they never materialized. [Related: US is manufacturing a crisis in Venezuela so that there is chaos and ‘needed’ intervention]

Back to your question: given the amount of media hype around these considerably small protests in Moscow, and given the long-held Western hostility against Russia in general, as well as the US embassy in Moscow essentially advertising last Saturday’s protest, it is not at all far-fetched to suspect that there is foreign intervention going on here.

VM: – Every independent journalist who dares to contradict Western propaganda about Russia is instantly called an employee of RT/Ruptly. And it does not matter whether you left a comment or you wrote the author’s column, or sent a stream. You were affected, too. Do you feel that Western media is jealous to the success of this TV company? Western viewers increasingly prefer RT and they are called as propagandists by real propagandists from BBC, CNN, Radio Liberty and other media.

Now highly oppositional Maria Baronova and moderately oppositional Ekaterina Vinokurova joined the RT team. Also opposition journalist Anton Krasovsky cooperates actively with this media. The opposition labeled them immediately as sold ones to propagandists, but in fact the involvement of such professionals to the work for the state media is the sign of real democracy and the success of the RT management presented by Margarita Simonyan. How do you feel about the success of RT around the world and the attempts of the Western governments to block their broadcasting?

EB: -Western leadership are threatened by RT, otherwise they would not ban RT’s participation in conferences and meetings, as they did recently in the so-called “media freedom” conference in the UK. Both RT and Sputnik weren’t permitted to participate. The irony is that actual propagandists and spreaders of disinformation (CNN, Sky News, Channel 4, CBC, BBC, CNN, etc) were not only able to attend but highlighted. [See my: London’s ‘media freedom’ conference smacks of irony: Critics barred, no mention of jailed Assange]

Earlier this year, when the Lima group met in Canada, again Russian media and Telesur weren’t able to attend.

As for myself, yes, when I am smeared by Western media and those who disagree with my observations, one of the first things they will say is that I’m “employed” by RT. In fact, I am a freelancer, and contribute to a number of platforms, only one of which is RT–and I maintain that I’m grateful that I have this platform, where I am not censored. I also maintain that whatever I publish on RT I would have otherwise published on my blog. It isn’t that RT dictates what I write or influences me in any way, its merely that RT offers a platform for my views the be read. Further, if you look at the list of contributors to RTs op-ed section, its a long list, and likewise they are not “employed” or “owned” by RT. [See my earlier: Those Who Transmit Syrian Voices Are Russian Propagandists?]

VM: -Canada has got a very large Ukrainian Diaspora. One of the first visits abroad of the new President of Ukraine was to Canada. Do you follow what is happening in Ukraine? I know that you were in correspondence with the journalist Kirill Vyshinsky and interviewed his lawyer. Do you think he is a hostage of the Ukrainian authorities? How do you feel about the fact that radicals in Ukraine are shelling TV channels, scaring journalists. Why does the West support this regime in Ukraine and does not notice all these horrors?

EB: -Unfortunately, because Canada’s Foreign Minister, Chrystia Freeland’s grandfather has a Nazi collaborator background, I believe that is one major factor that influences her decisions. I haven’t been able to follow Ukraine as closely as Syria, given that I’ve spent much of the past six years going to or writing on Syria. However, I’m aware of the basics, and that FM Freeland is whitewashing the crimes of neo-Nazis in Ukraine.
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Russian-journalist-Ukraine_edited-1
As for Kirill Vyshinsky, I’ve been trying to raise awareness of his unjust imprisonment. In doing so, I did interview Kirill by email and earlier this year went to Kiev to interview Andriy Domansky, his defense lawyer. They both articulated that Kirill is being held as a political card to be played by Ukrainian authorities, that he is not guilty of the allegations of treason. And Mr. Vyshinsky made the good point that if he was such a danger to Ukraine, why did they wait 4 years to act on the articles he published–none of which were written by himself, all of which carried a standard disclaimer?

 [Kirill: “Nothing happened before May 2018, this is what amazes me! Accusationsagainst me in the case investigated by the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) are connected with posts on the website that I run dating back to the spring of 2014.

 The posts were made in the spring of 2014. According to the SBU, they represented a threat to the national security of Ukraine, but they remembered them only in 2018! And this is despite the fact that the SBU and Ukraine’s Ministry of Press and Information (another supervisory authority) have been regularly publishing lists of websites that were a “threat to national information security,” while my website was never listed!! And then, in May 2018, I was arrested. “]

On the note of tv stations being shelled, I noticed that occurred soon after the media freedom conference.

During that conference, many countries pledged to defend and protect journalists. So I asked the rhetorical question: “Any reaction from so-called ‘Global Media Freedom’ conference co-hosts Freeland & Hunt, or those who pledged to ‘shine a light on violations & abuses of media freedom, bringing them to the attention of global public and working towards accountability’”.


VM: – Why does not Western media notice the shelling of Donbass by the Ukrainian armed forces? Why is Russian humanitarian aid to those regions and peaceful people living there drawn by the West as the assistance to armed rebels?

EB: – Western corporate media cannot report honestly on the shelling of civilians y the Ukrainian forces, just as they cannot report honestly on the murder of Syrian civilians by terrorists they call “rebels”. It is a rare case when a corporate journalist is allowed to report honestly on such things. There is an editorial line they must follow, and that line coincides with the ambitions of the US and allies. So Russia must be constantly vilified, and the crimes of the West’s proxies on the ground must be whitewashed [Related: How the Mainstream Media Whitewashed Al-Qaeda and the White Helmets in Syria].


VM: – The topic of Crimea in Western media is always shown as something bad. Why so? Why does no one want to take into account the opinions of people living in Crimea?If not for the British journalist Graham Phillips, who interviews these people and shows the truth to the whole world, no one in the West would know the truth about Crimea. Does not the Western propaganda understand that the truth always comes out, especially when everyone has YouTube and the opportunity to read independent journalists?

EB: -This again falls back to the West’s need to vilify everything to do with Russia. All logic is put aside. Just as the media ignore the will of people in Crimea, they also ignore the will of the millions of Syrians living in government secured areas, most of whom do not support the fake ‘revolution’. [Related: Western media ignoring reality on the ground in Syria]

If Western media gave a platforms to these voices, it would be apparent that its America, Canada, the UK, France, etc who have been supporting terrorism, who have been outright lying about events pertaining to Russia and Syria (and Venezuela, Iran…). By the way, I plan to go to Crimea and do my best to share what people living there have to say about their lives.

VM: -Russia’s help in Syria and its huge contribution to the victory over international terrorists in the Western media is being always diminished. Peaceful people are grateful to Russia for the help, they respect Assad and his wife. Russia sends constant humanitarian assistance to this country. Natalia Poklonskaya, the deputy from Crimea, comes to Syria and takes the children for the rest and recovery in the Crimea. But this doe not seem to be interesting for the Western media. Is it because Russia should be always bad in the eyes of the Western propaganda?

EB: -Short answer: yes.

However, I do try to enlighten readers about these facts. In fact, at the start of this year, I decided we independent journalists need to be more bold in showing the truth about, for example, how Syrians feel about their president [Related: 2019 is the year of proudly thanking President Assad for his steadfastness when nearly the entire world was against Syria].

Or for example the sacrifices of the Syrian Arab Army and allies.

I have tried to get interviews with the Russian Centre for Reconciliation in Syria, in order to highlight statistics on reconstruction, reconciliation, returned refugees… However, until now, I haven’t been granted an interview.

I was however able to interview the head of the political division of the Syrian Arab Army [A Syrian Leader Tells His Country’s Story: An Interview with SAA General Hassan Hassan].

I would like to note, also, the hypocrisy of some Western journalists: If for example they had the opportunity to meet and interview former President Obama, or Hillary Clinton, I’m sure they would be applauded. But in reality, those are just two of the West’s war criminals, with the blood of countless civilians on their hands.

VM: -In the situation with Venezuela, Western governments got to the direct intervention in the internal affairs of the country and declared a guy from the street as the Venezuelan President. In the end, this guy never got any power. Maduro is still the President of the country. Do Western leaders feel fooled about it?

EB: -Western leaders know that Maduro was freely and fairly elected, just as President Assad was [Related: Syrians Flock to Vote in Lebanon]. Unfortunately, Western leaders don’t care much for the truth.
When I was in Venezuela, I spoke with average citizens, including in the poorest areas. They didn’t support Guaido, and they could articulate very clearly why they support Maduro.

VM: – Please, describe briefly what is really happening in Gaza now. How do people live there, is there any Western intervention?

EB: – Sure. I lived in Gaza for a cumulative 3 years, from November 2008 to June 2010, and then mid 2011 off and on until March 2013. I was only able to enter by sea, sailing from Cyprus, and by the Egyptian border crossing, not via Israel (I was deported from occupied Palestine by Israeli authorities in 2007).

Israel has manufactured a crisis in Gaza that does not need to exist. Israel has cut off Palestinians’ ability to be self-sufficient, to work, to export. Israeli soldiers on a daily basis target with live ammunition (or shelling) Palestinian farmers, people living or working in the border regions, and fishers. I used to accompany farmers on their land, and when the Israeli soldiers started firing with live ammunition I and other volunteers would document, often with bullets flying past our bodies/heads. All of this is summarized, with many links to individual accounts, in an article I wrote some years ago: Observations from Occupied Palestine: Gaza.

Israel destroyed the power station in 2006 and hasn’t allowed Palestinians to import the material to properly rebuild. When I lived in Gaza, power was off for on average 18-20 hours a day, for years.

This affects all aspects of life.

Palestinians have to pump sewage into the sea because they can’t adequately contain and treat it.

Fishers limited to less than 6 km off the coast end up fishing in water polluted by sewage.
Israel has created a multi-layered hell in Gaza, from which Palestinians cannot escape. And on top of this, every so often Israel wages a war on Gaza.

I was there during the 2008/9 war, riding in ambulances in the most hard-hit areas, documenting the war crimes and taking testimonies. These include point-blank assassinations of children and using White Phosphorous on civilians. [For links related to these points, see: Interview on Last American Vagabond: Rukban Camp (Syria) & Gaza]

VM: -How can we overcome this atmosphere of mistrust between Russia and the West? Russian people feel that the West always tries to interfere in our internal affairs. Maybe it’s time for the Western governments to deal with their own problems and not to meddle in the affairs of Russia?

EB: -I wish that Western leaders would listen to such wise advice–and people in the West should wish that too. How much money is wasted on wars that could be spent on the growing population of poor and desperately poor in the West.


VM: -Do you think that independent journalists around the world will be able to bring the truth to the people in order to reconcile all of us?

EB: – I think there is a growing mistrust of establishment media, after all of the regime-change wars the West has made, the media has had a bloody role in these wars and more people are becoming aware of this. However, the flip side is that censorship is becoming endemic on all social media platforms, specifically to silence independent and honest voices.
 

3
Iran summons British envoy for 'illegal seizure' of an Iranian oil tanker - TV

Reuters

DUBAI (Reuters) - Iran summoned the British ambassador in Tehran over the “illegal seizure” of an Iranian oil tanker in Gibraltar on Thursday, Iranian state TV quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi as saying.

British Royal Marines seized an oil tanker in Gibraltar on Thursday accused of bringing oil to Syria in violation of EU sanctions, a dramatic step that could escalate confrontation between the West and Iran.

Writing by Parisa Hafezi; Editing by Toby Chopra

4
News Items / Britain’s warmongering media in the spotlight
« on: June 23, 2019, 05:53:01 PM »

Britain’s warmongering media in the spotlight
Sun Jun 23, 2019 03:27PM [Updated: Sun Jun 23, 2019 03:33PM ]  Press TV

The recent suspicious attacks on tankers in the Persian Gulf have touched off a flurry of speculation in the international media as to the identity and motives of the saboteurs.

While much of the international press is agnostic on the central question as to who could be responsible, the British media stands out in its near-unanimous chorus of deflecting blame onto Iran. In fact, in this regard, the British media has out-performed their American cousins in assigning blame onto Iran as part of a broader demonization strategy.     

What is most striking about this British media strategy is the extent to which it mirrors the British government’s position. The UK government staked out an extreme position in the immediate aftermath of the 13th June attacks on the Front Altair and the Kokuka Courageous in the Gulf of Oman by pointing the finger of blame at Iran.

This approach was exemplified by British foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt’s bold assertion that he was “almost certain” Iran was behind the attacks. Hunt – with the British media in lockstep – had staked out an identical position in respect to a similarly suspicious attack last month on four tankers off the United Arab Emirates’ coast.

Predictably, the British media has adopted a sensationalist approach toward last Thursday’s downing of the US drone which had violated Iranian air space. Almost without exception the press and the broadcasters dutifully stuck to the false American position that the drone had been shot down in international airspace.

Worse than that, the British press immediately indulged in warmongering, as exemplified by the apparently pro-war position of the tabloid newspaper the Daily Express. Britain’s main tabloid newspaper, the Sun, chose to fan the flames of mutual suspicion and impending doom in its 21st June edition by misreporting a defensive missile show in a village near Tehran. The Sun’s sensationalist reporting completely distorts the spirit of the defensive manoeuvre by making it appear as though Iran is preparing to strike key political targets in the US and Israel whilst simultaneously chanting “Death to England”.

Even supposedly more responsible newspapers, such as the Times, the Daily Telegraph and broadcasters, such as the BBC and Sky News have not only indulged in misreporting – by reflexively relaying the American version of events – but moreover they have consciously tried to create the impression that the US and Iran are edging toward war.

This is despite the fact that the political and military leaderships of both Iran and the USA have explicitly stated their desire to avoid a direct military clash, let alone a major war. So why is the British media trying to whip up a frenzy about a potential war against the wishes of the central protagonists?

At this juncture it is worthwhile examining the British media’s historical role in warmongering and whipping up tensions with a view to satisfying British foreign policy objectives.

The state broadcaster, the British Broadcasting Corporation, came of age during the Second World War, when it was effectively the central arm of the British state’s wartime propaganda apparatus. Based on this tradition, the BBC, in tandem with the broader media establishment, has sought to justify British foreign policy adventures, primarily by way of whipping up tensions and demonising Britain’s opponents.

This media-government partnership was very prominent during the Falklands conflict of 1982 when the British media fully fell behind then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s military intervention to take back the disputed islands from Argentina.

But arguably the best example was in the run-up to the first Persian Gulf War in early 1991 when Britain and America were trying to mobilise an international coalition against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.

At that time the British media helped the government perform an awkward about-turn in foreign policy by justifying the reversal of support for Saddam Hussein. This was a delicate public relations exercise which was central to mobilising national and international support for the British government’s position.

Fast forward nearly 30 years and it is legitimate to ask if the British media is trying to sell a war with Iran by whipping up tensions and engaging in widespread scaremongering. In these highly delicate situations, when even the slightest miscalculation can have exorbitant costs, altering perceptions can quickly change the reality on the ground.

Thus, for instance, by attributing blame to Iran in respect of the suspicious attack on the tankers, and misrepresenting the facts in relation to the downed US drone, the British media runs the risk of fanning the flames of conflict and helping to produce a war by altering the perceptions of the protagonists and their constituencies.

As the UK foreign office minister Andrew Murrison visits Tehran today, ostensibly on a mission to de-escalate regional tensions, the British media would do well to at least temporarily cease their warmongering, if only to save the minister from embarrassment.           

5
For Your Information / The Gulf of Credibility
« on: June 14, 2019, 07:47:14 PM »

The Gulf of Credibility 146

Craig Murray

14 Jun, 2019  in Uncategorized by craig | View Comments

I really cannot begin to fathom how stupid you would have to be to believe that Iran would attack a Japanese oil tanker at the very moment that the Japanese Prime Minister was sitting down to friendly, US-disapproved talks in Tehran on economic cooperation that can help Iran survive the effects of US economic sanctions.

The Japanese-owned Kokuka Courageous was holed above the water line. That rules out a torpedo attack, which is the explanation being touted by the neo-cons.

The second vessel, the Front Altair, is Norwegian owned and 50% Russian crewed (the others being Filipinos). It is owned by Frontline, a massive tanker leasing company that also has a specific record of being helpful to Iran in continuing to ship oil despite sanctions.

It was Iran that rescued the crews and helped bring the damaged vessels under control.

That Iran would target a Japanese ship and a friendly Russian crewed ship is a ludicrous allegation. They are however very much the targets that the USA allies in the region – the Saudis, their Gulf Cooperation Council colleagues, and Israel – would target for a false flag. It is worth noting that John Bolton was meeting with United Arab Emirates ministers two weeks ago – both ships had just left the UAE.

The USA and their UK stooges have both immediately leapt in to blame Iran. The media is amplifying this with almost none of the scepticism which is required. I cannot think of a single reason why anybody would believe this particular false flag. It is notable that neither Norway nor Japan has joined in with this ridiculous assertion.

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6

   D-Day More Drama Than Decisive in World War II Victory
Finian Cunningham, Strategic Culture Foundation

June 6, 2019


   Stealing the laurels of victory was a necessary act of treachery by the Western powers in order to facilitate their Cold War against the Soviet Union. The same treachery continues today as Washington and its NATO allies try to wage a new Cold War against Russia.

US President Donald Trump called it the "greatest battle ever" while attending a 75th anniversary ceremony this week to mark the Western allied invasion of Nazi-occupied France.

Trump was joined by Britain's Queen Elizabeth II and leaders from 15 other nations in the British harbor city of Portsmouth from where allied troops embarked for the beaches of Normandy on June 6, 1944.

Looking back, Operation Overlord was indeed a huge military and logistical undertaking. Some 150,000 troops from the US, Britain and Canada, among others, crossed the narrow English Channel in 7,000 vessels. It is recorded as the biggest military land invasion from sea.

Allied forces were met by Nazi firepower as they stormed the Normandy beaches. But in truth the Nazi defenses were easily overwhelmed. That's largely because Hitler had already shifted the best fighting units months before to the Eastern Front where the Third Reich was really in a war for its survival against the Soviet Red Army. The D-Day casualty figures would attest that American, British and German deaths from the brief battles in Normandy were of the order of 10,000. Meanwhile, on the Eastern Front the casualties on both the German and Soviet sides were hundred-fold more, in the millions.

When the D-Day invasion was launched in June 1944, the pivotal battle at Stalingrad was long over, 16 months before that. The Wehrmacht was already being rolled back to German homeland. Some 90 per cent of all German military casualties – nearly six million soldier deaths – were to be inflicted on the Eastern Front fighting the Red Army.

The question remains: why did Western allies not launch their offensive on Nazi-occupied France much sooner? Soviet leader Josef Stalin had pleaded over the previous year with his American and British counterparts to do so on several occasions in order to relieve the Soviets. Did the Western allies finally act on D-Day because they could see that the Red Army was on the way to conquering all of Nazi Germany singlehandedly, and thus were motivated to claw some of the spoils? It was the Red Army that vanquished the Third Reich's last stand in Berlin in May 1945. But the Soviet Union entered into a postwar carve-up of Germany with the US and Britain.

So, when President Trump talks about D-Day being the "greatest battle ever" he is being prone to unfounded exaggeration, relying on Hollywood fabulation than historical record.

There is little dispute that the opening of the Western Front did indeed help accelerate the final defeat of Nazi Germany. But it also indisputable that the greatest battles and decisive victories were achieved by the Soviet forces for the liberation of Europe from Nazi tyranny.

What we see in today's celebration of the 75th anniversary of D-Day is more dramatics than actual historical reality. Official Western conceit pretends that that event was the key to defeating Nazi Germany.

Part of the reason is to arrogate a moral authority for Western states, which is hardly deserved. By claiming to have emancipated Europe from the scourge of totalitarian fascism, Western states are thereby given a political and moral cover to conduct their own otherwise blatant policies of aggression and militarism.

How many illegal wars and subterfuges have the US and its NATO allies, particularly Britain, carried out since the end of the Second World War? Some historians like the late William Blum, author of ‘Killing Hope', or Mark Curtis, author of ‘Web of Deceit', put the number in the hundreds. These genocidal, supreme crimes of aggression, are afforded an audacious moral license largely because these same aggressors continually invoke their supposed victory against Nazi Germany. The truth is that the US and its NATO allies have in many ways continued the same aggression of Nazi Germany in countless wars and covert operations around the world over the past seven decades. The genocides in Korea, Kenya, Malaya, Indonesia, Vietnam, Chile, Central America, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, are just a few among many other US-UK atrocities.

The present looming conflicts involve the US threatening war and destruction against Iran and Venezuela based on transparently spurious pretexts. And yet Trump has the brass neck to eulogize during the D-Day commemorations this week about American forces standing up for "freedom and liberty".

The US and its NATO allies are using the past and its presumed glories as a shield for their own criminal imperialism.

Dramatizing D-Day as an event is also crucial for the discrediting and demonizing of Russia, as it was previously with regard to the Soviet Union. Wouldn't it have been appropriate to invite Russian leader Vladimir Putin to the D-Day events this week in order to pay respect to the colossal sacrifices of the Soviet people in defeating Nazi Germany?

7
UK's position on the Golan Heights has not changed
 Foreign & Commonwealth Office and Karen Pierce DCMG 
27 March 2019


 (Transcript of the speech, exactly as it was delivered)

Statement by Ambassador Karen Pierce, UK Permanent Representative to UN, at the Security Council Briefing on UNDOF/Golan Heights

Thank you Madam President and thank you to the two Under-Secretaries-General for your helpful briefings.

Madam President, I'd like to structure my remarks around six headings:

The UK position on the Golan; UN Security Council Resolutions; What this means for the international order; Israel's right to security; The Middle East Peace Process; and UNDOF.

On the first point, the United Kingdom's position has not changed Madam President. It is our position that the Golan Heights is territory occupied by Israel.

The turbulent history of the region is of course well-known. Following the 1967 Six-Day War, Israel took control of the Golan, including the disputed Sheba'a Farms, and in 1981 took the decision to annex the territory. The United Kingdom did not recognise that annexation and nor do we today.

Annexation of territory by force is prohibited under international law, including the UN Charter. In addition, under the Law of State Responsibility, states are obliged not recognise the annexation of territory as a result of force.

Turning to the UN Security Council Resolutions; it is important, Madam President, that we uphold the relevant UN Security Resolutions. Security Council Resolution 242 - which the then British delegation had the honour to pen - was adopted unanimously by the UN Security Council on November 22, 1967. British sponsored, it called on all parties to end territorial claims, acknowledge the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every state in the area and for "the withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict".

We recall, Madame President, that Security Council Resolution 497, adopted unanimously on 17 December 1981, decided that the Israeli Golan Heights Law, which effectively annexed the Golan Heights, is "null and void and without international legal effect" and it further demanded that Israel rescind its action.

The decision by the United States to recognise Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights is in contravention of UN Security Council Resolution 497.

In terms of international order, Madame President, the United Kingdom firmly believes that the rules based international system has increased states' ability to resolve their differences peacefully, and it has provided a framework for the greatest sustained rise in prosperity which mankind has seen. This is why the United Kingdom thinks we should work hard with our international partners to nurture and protect these rules.

Madame President, the right to self defence is inherent. Israel has a right to defend itself. She has a right to security and her people has a right to live in safety. We do not wish to diminish Israel's genuine security concerns. We fully support her right to defend herself and urge, the Asad Regime, Iran and Hizbollah to refrain from actions which will only lead to increased instability in the region as well as put civilians at risk. As the US Representative has noted, Syria has allowed the use of its territory to launch missiles at Israel and at Israeli civilians. This is not acceptable. But at the same time Madame President, we emphasise importance of adhering to rules-based international system and abiding by UNSCRs which are designed to protect that system. And this is true irrespective of the importance of the Golan is to Israel's security, or of the lack of progress in peace talks.

Turning to the peace talks; Resolution 242 enshrined the concept of land for peace and this has proven successful in ending the conflict between Israel, Jordan and Egypt. We believe it remains a basic principle for resolving peace between Israel, the Palestinians and other neighbours.

I want to emphasise, Madame President, that we strongly welcome the US's efforts on the Middle East Peace Process and we encourage the US Administration to bring forward detailed proposals for a viable Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement that addresses the legitimate concerns of both parties. We continue to believe that the best way to achieve this is through substantive peace talks between the parties leading to a two-state solution.

Finally, Madame President, turning to UNDOF; the United Kingdom expresses its strong support for UNDOF. It should be the only armed forces active in the area of separation. The presence and activity of any other armed forces, armed personnel and/or military equipment of any kind in the area of separation contravenes the Disengagement of Forces Agreement and Security Council Resolution 2394 of 2017. The United Kingdom remains committed to supporting UNDOF's mandate and we look forward to engaging in discussions regarding its renewal in June.

Thank you Madam President.

 

8
Ukraine's Neo-Nazis "Suddenly" a Problem as Power Grows
 Ulson Gunnar, New Eastern Outlook 
Feb 17

 The central role right-wing extremists and literal Neo-Nazis played in Ukraine's "Euromaidan" protests was obvious from the beginning. The square in Kiev the protests unfolded in were filled with the flags of ultra-right party, Svoboda as well as the red and black banners of the Neo-Nazi Right Sector movement.

The Western media never scrutinized who these political parties and militias were leading the protests and often times the violence that eventually overthrew the elected Ukrainian government in 2014. This was a deliberate attempt to portray the protests as spontaneous and popular rather than the efforts of fringe extremists merely portrayed as spontaneous and popular.

Since the NATO-organized coup in 2014, right-wing extremists and Neo-Nazis have played a growing role in the Ukrainian government. From holding public positions to filling up the rank and file of regular and irregular military units with their members, so bad has it gotten that many involved in initially covering up their role in the 2014 Euromaidan protests are now speaking up.

Ian Bond of the Centre for European Reform (CER), a think-tank funded by some of the largest Transatlantic corporate interests, would recently post on social media that:

 Ukraine needs to get these people out of Interior Ministry, police & other official structures. They will do more to help Russia, by reinforcing its propaganda about Nazi influence in Kyiv, than Ukraine – regardless of any good that Azov did on frontlines.

Even as part of Bond's admission, he still attempts to salvage "Azov" (Azov Battalion), a heavily armed Neo-Nazi militia now formally incorporated into Ukraine's National Guard.

While attempting to deny the presence of Neo-Nazis throughout the present day Ukrainian government and military, even official US policy regarding Ukraine reflects their presence and the obvious dangers (or at least, political inconvenience) they pose.

Articles like, "National Guard Decides Not To Give U.S. Arms To Azov Regiment On Request Of United States," clearly illustrate awareness in Washington of the dangers/political inconvenience of yet another one of its client regimes around the globe being cobbled together with some of the most unsavory elements in that nation's society.

As Ian Bond of the CER noted, the Azov Battalion has performed well on "frontlines." Just as designated terrorist organizations in Syria, including Al Nusra and the self-proclaimed "Islamic State" (IS) proved the most capable forces in the US proxy war against Damascus, Neo-Nazis are proving themselves the most loyal and dedicated proxies in Washington's continued confrontation with Russia.

It is clear that despite "official" US policy being not to arm or train Neo-Nazi militias in Ukraine, the fact that the Ukrainian government whom the US does arm and train, in turn arms and trains militias like the Azov Battalion, makes such US policy mere window dressing than anything else.

Again, the US arming and supporting the governments of Saudi Arabia and Qatar, who in turn admittedly are arming and funding US designated terrorist organizations, is in actuality Washington's enthusiastic support for such militant groups simply "laundered" through its Gulf ally intermediaries.

The Real Problem

The real problem isn't that Ukraine's Neo-Nazi political and armed organizations are growing in power, it is the political nightmare of Washington being seen as openly associating with and even supporting them.

Just as the US has played a sort of geopolitical dance in Syria, circling around IS and Al Nusra, while at other times outright shielding them from destruction, attempting to pose as fighting them while clearly preserving their fighting capacity, the US is preparing to perform a similar dance in Ukraine.

Comments like Ian Bond's of the CER and other NATO-initiated propaganda campaigns aimed at noting and condemning the Neo-Nazi scourge growing inside Ukraine will lead to no discernible change in actual US or NATO policy. Behind the scenes however, attempts will be made to further obfuscate Washington-fed pipelines funneling groups like the Azov Battalion and Right Sector weapons, training and funds.

The real problem is that Washington lacks any credible partners in its "Ukraine project." Those like Azov and its backers in Kiev were always going to inevitably rise to the top in an atmosphere corruption, foreign-backed subversion and counterproductive policies determined in Washington and aimed at hurting Russia regardless of the cost accrued by Ukraine itself.

Hiding the growing power of these extremists, including outright Neo-Nazis is Washington's (and its European partners') real problem, not actually dealing with the growing threat of Nazism in Ukraine in any meaningful manner.

Just as Washington's policy of supporting terrorists in Syria while posing as fighting against them was entirely unsustainable, so too is its current policies regarding Ukraine. Unlike the threat of terrorism through organizations like Al Qaeda and its many affiliates, Nazism is a more universally reviled and well-recognized scourge that will further taint whatever remains of America's reputation within the international community, a community it poses as the unilateral leader of, yet demonstrates none of the qualities associated with actual global leadership.

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

9
Chuka's core values: privatisation, austerity and war
 Mona Kamal , Counterfire 
February 19, 2019


 What the 7 MPs who quit Labour have in common is their voting records supporting welfare cuts, privatisation and foreign intervention, writes Mona Kamal

I met Chuka Umunna at a conference in January 2016 a week before the first day of strike action by junior doctors. I invited him to visit our picket in South West London on one of the strike days or failing that, to express support for junior doctors on social media. He refused both, saying that whilst he was "totally behind our wonderful junior doctors", Labour MPs should not be seen expressing support for all-out strike action. He then asked if I'd like a selfie with him.

It was no surprise to me that Chuka Umunna, a media-savvy Blairite, would be more concerned about the optics of being seen on a picket than showing support for NHS workers, despite admitting that this was clearly the right thing to do. Chuka Umunna has consistently shown extraordinary levels of self interest and fickleness, as evidenced by his vehement opposition to the idea of a second referendum after the Leave vote in 2016 before making a spectacular U-turn to demand a second referendum on the final deal when he realised that adopting this position would bring him some prominence and be a handy vehicle to further his own career interests.

After spending the last 2 years undermining his party and openly attacking its leader Chuka Umunna finally resigned from the Labour party along with Luciana Berger, Mike Gapes, Angela Smith, Gavin Shuker, Chris Leslie and Ann Coffey to form the so-called moderate ‘Independent Group'.

Putting aside the chaos and genuine hilarity of Monday's events, which has included Angela Smith making racial slurs on national television (hashtag funnytinge) hours after she had identified growing racism within the Labour Party as a reason for her resignation, it is crucial to pause and allow for an objective assessment of what these MPs really stand for, their principles and crucially their voting records.

First off looking at the issue of Tory austerity and welfare reform in particular. Surely amongst the most basic requirements of a Labour MP is to oppose a program of ideological cuts which punishes the poorest and most vulnerable and which has destroyed our welfare state. However, all seven of these MPs were among those who refused to vote down these reforms in 2015. There had been clear warnings that hundreds of thousands of children would be negatively impacted if these proposed cuts went ahead, with single mothers being hit the hardest. Yet in contrast to the Labour leader, all seven abstained, and the result: a record 4.5 million children living below the poverty line (as measured in 2018). In addition to this, one could argue that if in 2015 Ed Milliband had provided a robust opposition to the Tory austerity being imposed, then Labour would not have suffered such a significant defeat in that general election. The reason that did not happen was down to one Chris Leslie who was amongst the main authors of the ‘austerity-lite' manifesto.

Another of the catastrophic Tory policies was the creation of the hostile environment. This was Theresa May's flagship policy of "deport now, hear appeals later" during her time at the Home Office. Again, not one of the seven MPs in the Independent group opposed this bill - an extreme policy designed to appease the right and which has resulted in the deportation of immigrants who had resided in the UK for decades and seen others denied access to NHS care. And yet it is the Labour leader, amongst a handful of MPs that opposed this racist anti-immigrant bill, who is branded an extremist.

The charge of ‘terrorist sympathiser' could accurately be levelled at Mike Gapes for his support and advocacy for the brutal Saudi regime. Despite allegations by the UN of war crimes in Yemen, Mike Gapes has repeatedly opposed calls for sanctions on Saudi arms sales – this, whilst being the beneficiary of lavish Saudi hospitality with all-expense paid trips provided by the Kingdom. Mr Gapes is also famous for not only voting for the Iraq war but for repeatedly voting against inquiries into the invasion.

Before the extraordinary gaffe of describing BME communities as "being a funny tinge" during a debate on racism, Angela Smith's most noteworthy contributions were in opposing the popular Labour manifesto commitment to renationalise the water industry. Studies have shown that an overwhelming majority of the population are in favour of the plans popularised by the Labour leader for public ownership of the main industries. 83% of those polled were in favour of nationalising the water industry (with 77% for nationalising electricity and gas and 76% for renationalising the railways) and yet despite this, late last year, Angela Smith argued that nationalising the water industry must be resisted and would merely be an "expensive indulgence in the politics of the past". It later emerged that she had vested interests in the water industry and chairs the All Party Parliamentary Water Group which is funded almost entirely by the water industry (namely Affinity Water, Northumbrian Water and Wessex Water), and along with her husband had received lavish gifts from various water companies.

In an article for the Guardian a few months ago she described privatisation of the water industry in the late 1980s as "a pragmatic response to an environmental imperative" and goes on to describe herself as a "passionate environmentalist", but this does not appear to be the case either. She has voiced support for fracking, dismissing concerns around the damage that shale gas extraction could have on the environment, stating that she did not think "those fears are justified at all". Again these comments were made whilst she was sat on the parliamentary group for "Unconventional Oil and Gas", a body given more than £73k by pro-fracking lobbying firm Hill + Knowlton Strategies.

What's especially galling is that whilst these 7 MPs have been motivated by a wish to undermine the leadership of the Labour party and it's left agenda, it was this left agenda that they stood on at the general election in 2017 and which enabled them to increase their majorities. As John McDonnell said yesterday, now that they are standing on a markedly different platform by-elections must be called so that constituents are given the opportunity to select alternatives to their current pro-war, pro-austerity, pro-privatisation representatives.




 

10
Juan Guaidó: The Man Who Would Be President of Venezuela Doesn't Have a Constitutional Leg to Stand On
Roger Harris, COHA

February 7, 2019


   Donald Trump imagines Juan Guaidó is the rightful president of Venezuela. Mr. Guaidó, a man of impeccable illegitimacy, was exposed by Dan Cohen and Max Blumenthal as "a product of a decade-long project overseen by Washington's elite regime change trainers." Argentinian sociologist Marco Teruggi described Guaidó in the same article as "a character that has been created for this circumstance" of regime change. Here, his constitutional credentials to be interim president of Venezuela are deconstructed.

Educated at George Washington University in Washington, DC, Guaidó was virtually unknown in his native Venezuela before being thrust on to the world stage in a rapidly unfolding series of events. In a poll conducted a little more than a week before Guaidó appointed himself president of the country, 81% of Venezuelans had never even heard of the 35-year-old.

To make a short story shorter, US Vice President Pence phoned Guaidó on the evening of January 22rd and asked him how'd he like to be made president of Venezuela. The next day, Guaidó announced that he considered himself president of Venezuela, followed within minutes by US President Trump confirming the self-appointment.

A few weeks before on January 5, Guaidó had been selected as president of Venezuela's National Assembly, their unicameral legislature. He had been elected to the assembly from a coastal district with 26% of the vote. It was his party's turn for the presidency of the body, and he was hand-picked for the position. Guaidó, even within his own party, was not in the top leadership.

Guaidó's party, Popular Will, is a far-right marginal group whose most enthusiastic boosters are John Bolton, Elliott Abrams, and Mike Pompeo. Popular Will had adopted a strategy of regime change by extra-parliamentary means rather than engage in the democratic electoral process and had not participated in recent Venezuelan elections.

Although anointed by Trump and company, Guaidó's Popular Will Party is not representative of the "Venezuelan opposition," which is a fractious bunch whose hatred of Maduro is only matched by their abhorrence of each other. Leading opposition candidate Henri Falcón, who ran against Maduro in 2018 on a neoliberal austerity platform, had been vehemently opposed by Popular Will who demanded that he join their US-backed boycott of the election.

The Venezuelan news outlet, Ultimas Noticias, reported that prominent opposition politician Henrique Capriles, who had run against Maduro in 2013, "affirmed during an interview that the majority of opposition parties did not agree with the self-swearing in of Juan Guaidó as interim president of the country." Claudio Fermin, president of the party Solutions for Venezuela, wrote: "we believe in the vote, in dialogue, we believe in coming to an understanding, we believe Venezuelans need to part ways with the extremist sectors that only offer hatred, revenge, lynching." Key opposition governor of the State of Táchira, Laidy Gómez, has rejected Guaidó's support of intervention by the US, warning that it "would generate death of Venezuelans."

The Guaidó/Trump cabal does not reflect the democratic consensus in Venezuela, where polls consistently show super majorities oppose outside intervention. Popular opinion in Venezuela supports negotiations between the government and the opposition as proposed by Mexico, Uruguay, and the Vatican. The Maduro administration has embraced the negotiations as a peaceful solution to the crisis facing Venezuela.

The US government rejects a negotiated solution, in the words of Vice President Pence: "This is no time for dialogue; this is time for action." This intransigent position is faithfully echoed by Guaidó. So while most Venezuelans want peace, the self-appointed president, backed by the full force of US military power, wrote in a New York Times op-ed that it was possible to "end the Maduro regime with a minimum of bloodshed."

The Guaidó/Trump cabal's fig leaf for legitimacy is based on the bogus argument that Article 233 of the Venezuelan constitution gives the National Assembly the power to declare a national president's "abandonment" of the office. In which case, the president of the National Assembly can serve as an interim national president, until presidential elections are held. The inconvenient truth is that Maduro has shown no inclination to abandon his post, and the constitution says no such thing.

In fact, the grounds for replacing a president are very clearly laid out in the first paragraph of Article 233 of the Venezuelan constitution and do not include fraudulent or illegitimate election, which is what the cabal has been claiming. In the convoluted logic of the US government and its epigones, if the people elect someone the cabal doesn't like, the election is by definition fraudulent and the democratically elected winner is ipso facto a dictator.

The function of adjudicating the validity of an election, as in any country, is to be dealt with through court challenges, not by turning to Donald Trump for his approval. And certainly not by anointing an individual from a party that could have run in the 2018 election but decided to boycott.

The National Electoral Council (CNE), Venezuela's separate electoral branch, has certified Maduro's reelection, as have independent international observers. A transparent and redundant auditing process of the vote had been conducted at each polling station and all party representatives – including opposition ones – signed off on the validity of the process when the polls closed. Further, no appeal was filed by any of the boycotting parties, although Falcón – who ran – subsequently asserted irregularities in the process before the high court.

Maduro was sworn into office under Article 231 of the Venezuelan constitution before the Supreme Tribunal of Justice (TSJ), which is the separate high court branch of the Venezuelan government. The TSJ had previously found the National Assembly to be in judicial contempt under Article 336:7, because the assembly had sworn in three deputies temporarily suspended because of voting irregularities.

The far-right opposition has boycotted the high court as well as the electoral process. They contest the legitimacy of the TSJ because some members of the TSJ were appointed by a lame duck National Assembly favorable to Maduro, after a new National Assembly with a majority in opposition had been elected in December 2015 but not yet seated.

Even if President Maduro were somehow deemed to have experienced what is termed a falta absoluta (i.e., some sort of void in the presidency due to death, insanity, absence, etc.), the National Assembly president is only authorized to take over if the falta absoluta occurs before the lawful president "takes possession." However, Maduro was already "in possession" before the January 10, 2019 presidential inauguration and even before the May 10, 2018 presidential election. Maduro had won the presidency in the 2013 election and ran and won reelection last May.

If the falta absoluta is deemed to have occurred during the first four years of the presidential term, the vice president takes over. Then the constitution decrees that a snap election for the presidency must be held within 30 days. This is what happened when President Hugo Chávez died while in office in 2013. Then Vice President Nicolás Maduro succeeded to the presidency, called for new elections, and was elected by the people of Venezuela.

If it is deemed that the falta absoluta occurred during the last two years of the six-year presidential term, the vice president serves until the end of the term, according to the Venezuelan constitution. And if the time of the alleged falta absoluta is unclear – when Maduro presided over "illegitimate" elections in 2018, as is claimed by the far-right opposition – it is up to the TSJ to decide, not the head of the National Assembly or even such an august authority as US Senator Marco Rubio. Or the craven US press (too numerous to cite), which without bothering to read the plain language of the Bolivarian Constitution, repeatedly refers to Guaidó as the "constitutionally authorized" or "legitimate" president.

As Alfred de Zayas, United Nations independent expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order, tweeted: "Article 233 of the Venezuelan constitution is inapplicable and cannot be twisted into legitimizing Guaidó's self-proclamation as interim President. A coup is a coup."

Roger Harris with the Task Force on the Americas and the Campaign to End US/Canada Sanctions Against Venezuela.

11
What's behind U.S. Troop Withdrawals Announced for Syria and Afghanistan?
 Sara Flounders, International Action Center in UNAC 
December 24, 2018
 
 The announced withdrawal of the remaining 2,000 U.S. troops from Syria and a partial withdrawal from Afghanistan does not mean an end to the Pentagon's aggressive militarism and endless U.S. wars – in Syria, in Afghanistan, in the region or globally.

The U.S. military has 170,000 troops stationed outside the U.S. in 150 countries, in more than 800 overseas bases. Nearly 40,000 are assigned to classified missions in locations that Washington refuses to even disclose. Because the Pentagon has continually renamed and shuffled its forces in the Middle East, it's impossible to know how many troops are on standby and how many are on rotation.

But this surprise "troop withdrawal" announcement — regardless of its limitations, regardless of U.S. military strength — exposes the increasingly untenable U.S. imperialist global position and the fraying condition of all of its historic alliances.

The announcement has opened a chasm within U.S. ruling circles. Resignations from the Trump administration and ensuing denunciations are calling the attention of the masses to the heated conflict.

The top echelons of the Democratic Party and corporate media "talking heads" are in an uproar of opposition. They are attacking Trump for "caving in" to Iran and Russia and allegedly endangering national security — by which they mean he is harming U.S. imperialist interests.

Their charges only confirm that both the racist Trump and his ruling-class opponents are imperialist war criminals and enemies of the people of the world. The pro-militarist criticisms of Trump are themselves reactionary.

A progressive working-class analysis

Trump's abrupt announcement — with no known discussion with policy makers, without any consultation with co-conspirators in the NATO war alliance — is indeed a departure from the U.S. hegemonic strategy of the past 75 years.

That departure is behind "Mad Dog" Mattis's resignation as Trump's Secretary of Defense. Mattis, lauded as the "grownup" in the Trump cabinet, has bulwarked relations with U.S. allies using his Pentagon position. His nickname comes from his infamous statement about U.S. war in Afghanistan: "It's fun to shoot some people. You know, it's a hell of a hoot." (New York Times, Feb. 4, 2005) Mattis is also notorious as the U.S. commander responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Iraqi civilians in Fallujah in 2004.

Mattis' resignation reflects how the announced withdrawal is a dramatic break with countries that have collaborated with the U.S. in Syria, such as France, Germany, Belgium and Britain. All of them are former colonial powers that destroyed Indigenous cultures and looted the Americas, Africa and Asia.

The rulers of these countries were all determined to re-colonize the Arab world after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Other willing partners in imperialist crime were Saudi Arabia and Israel. They were willing to commit to war on Syria based on the assumption they would share in the looting of the country. Their official threadbare cover was that they were fighting a "war on terror."

Trump surprised them with this major U.S. policy shift in the region, which increases imperialist instability.

U.S. tries to exploit national differences

According to numerous media reports, Trump made his decision based on a long phone call with Turkish President Erdogan. Erdogan has threatened to launch a military operation against U.S.-backed Kurdish YPG forces in northeast Syria, where U.S. troops are based. Erdogan made it clear that the U.S. cannot have Turkey as an ally and also have a Kurdish U.S.-proxy statelet.

This is an unsolvable dilemma for the U.S. imperialists, whose corporate rulers have not been able to destabilize Syria and carry out "regime change." Washington's open demand from day one was the resignation of President Bashar Assad and all existing government officials. It hasn't happened.

The U.S. goal was the appointment of a Syrian government, subservient to Western interests, which would establish an electoral process under the control and vetting of the major imperialist powers. This is the meaning of the vague term "regime change."

On Washington's drawing board, it looked like an easy plan.

To this end, the U.S. political-military establishment attempted to exploit every possible difference, based on the many religious, ethnic and national groups within Syria, including the Kurdish forces. The entire U.S. and Western effort was to carve Syria into pieces, all in the name of "defending" oppressed nationalities and "democracy."

This effort to weaponize sectarian differences was implemented with the influence of the reactionary Saudi regime. Foreign-funded mercenary death squads operated openly in Syria. Supplies were air-dropped in massive quantities.

The outside imperialist and Saudi efforts sought to mobilize reactionary elements in the majority Sunni Arab population against Christians, Alawis, Druzes, Shi'a, Yazidis, Armenians, Kurdish, Turkmen and numerous smaller national, ethnic and religious groupings and recent refugees. Among Syria's 23 million population (counting those who have recently left the country) are more than a half million Palestinian refugees and 1.5 million Iraqi refugees.

The U.S. spent eight years orchestrating participation of Western imperialist powers and Gulf monarchies in its imperialist endeavor. Despite four years of bombing that decimated the country's infrastructure, the introduction of tens of thousands of heavily armed and well-funded mercenaries, intense international political pressure, and strangling economic sanctions, Syria still remains unconquered.

Solidarity combats sectarian division in Syria

Syria resisted the attempted takeover on two fronts. Of course, the government organized a defensive military struggle. But the most important weapon was the constant reliance on the fact that Syria is a mosaic of many religious, ethnic and national groupings that are all able to coexist through a secular state.

The positive face of the struggle to maintain national independence was visible in every picture, every delegation, every mobilization and every mass rally. These stressed the rich cultural diversity and the unity of the whole people.

Syria also invited Hezbollah's well-organized military units from Lebanon, and then Iranian and Russian military assistance, to aid in defense against this imperialist attack, part of an expanding regional conflict.

Almost all the tens of thousands of reactionary foreign mercenaries funded and trained by the U.S., Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates have now been defeated, along with the fanatical ISIS forces who held large areas of Syria. Though each armed group was capable of massive destruction, the different mercenary militias were divided and competed with each other, based on who was sponsoring them.

National pride in Syria's accomplishments and defense of Syria's sovereignty succeeded in keeping the country intact.

Diminishing U.S. ability to dominate globe

The U.S. has been dealt a different but similar failure in Afghanistan. Despite an open and direct U.S. invasion of the country in 2001 and years of occupation, with the rotation of a million troops, Washington's brutal "pacification" program in Afghanistan has failed. Corruption may be endemic in an occupation, but so is resistance. Today, not one base of occupation or one national road in the country is secure.

The Afghanistan war is now the longest in U.S. history, with no end in sight and no prospect of establishing a stable puppet regime.

An additional crisis for U.S. imperialism is mounting international opposition to the civilian casualties and starvation in Yemen. Even with U.S.-supplied high-tech arms and a U.S. naval blockade, its proxy, Saudi Arabia, has not succeeded in crushing resistance in Yemen.

Meanwhile, against all possible odds, the Palestinian resistance continues against U.S.-proxy Israel. This resistance is a 21st-century reality that even the latest generation of U.S.-provided weapons cannot seem to reverse.

Despite the confident, aggressive tone of Trump's sudden announcement, it nevertheless reflects a diminishing U.S. capacity to dominate the world — regardless of who is in the Oval Office. The current media and political brouhaha is about where to lay the blame for this diminished capacity, and how to reverse the slide of U.S. power.

Media speculation is that Trump, faced with a wall of political opposition for his racist, sexist and anti-migrant actions, is cynically trying to shore up his own base. Though Trump's base is racist and right-wing, it sees no interest for itself in another U.S. war — just like every other sector of the U.S. masses.

Trump actually made campaign promises to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria and end U.S. involvement in Afghanistan — but no one in U.S. ruling circles expected him to follow through on those promises.

Why Syria is on U.S. hit list

Syria has been targeted by the U.S. for decades based on its militant Arab nationalism, its support of the Palestinian struggle, its opposition to the Israeli state — which is an imperialist beachhead in the region — and its nationalized oil and state-regulated economy.

Before being placed on the U.S. hit list, Syria had a relatively high standard of living and rate of development in the region.

The U.S. effort to destroy Syria moved into high gear when President George W. Bush included Syria in his 2002 "Axis of Evil" list of countries slated for overthrow. In 2013, Washington imposed economic sanctions on Syria that were intentionally dislocating. Washington charged Syria with not making the "right decisions" at the time of the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Wikileaks documents exposed CIA subversion plans in 2006, and its efforts in fomenting dissent and supplying weapons drops by 2009.

In 2011 U.S. operatives began to manipulate the mass ferment that toppled U.S.-supported military dictatorships in Egypt and Tunisia, called the "Arab Spring." This ferment gave the U.S. an opening for undercover efforts to topple the anti-imperialist governments in Libya and Syria.

Seven months of U.S. bombing did succeed in ripping apart Libya in 2011, thereby shredding every development gain in a country that had enjoyed the highest standard of living in Africa. The extensive development aid that Libya had provided throughout Africa was left in ruins. The U.S. immediately seized the opening to position new military bases throughout Africa.

Obama administration officials, especially Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, all but announced that they expected a similar and even faster success in Syria. The early predictions were that, under direct U.S. pressure, the Syrian government would collapse within weeks.

Washington invited all its allies to participate in the shredding of Syria. Not wanting to be left out of the promise for future looting, France, Britain Turkey, Canada, Australia, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE funded proxy attack forces. Jordan provided open-border training camps. Israel provided backdoor access through the Syrian province of Golan that Israel has occupied since 1967.

An endless series of international conferences on Syria, hosted by the United Nations or the European Union, were held in Geneva, Washington, London, Paris, Brussels and Berlin. A rotating assortment of collaborators who had no base in Syria were appointed to set up a new proxy government. These puppet forces could not agree with each other and their contending backers maneuvered endlessly.

The existing Syrian government was never a participant in any meaningful way in these grand conferences to decide the future of their country.

Then Secretary of Defense James Mattis repeated the arrogant U.S. demand as recently as August 2018:

 "Our goal is to move the Syrian civil war into the Geneva process so the Syrian people can establish a new government that is not led by Assad."

Other "humanitarian conferences" were held to focus on the 5.5 million Syrian refugees who had fled the destruction. But the conferences' real purpose was also to raise demands for a "negotiated settlement" that gave international bodies some effective control over Syrian sovereignty.

Each of these conferences made it clear that no aid in reconstruction or resettlement would be forthcoming unless there was a government in place that was to their liking.

Additional in the effort to legitimize the U.S. takeover was a multi-pronged effort on social media to demonize Syria and its leadership. It was a campaign intended to silence and demoralize any opposition.

Many good community-based activists, who knew little about Syria, were taken in. Even those who resisted the U.S. war message absorbed a deep suspicion of the forces fighting to defend Syria, as a secular state, from the concerted effort to pull it apart.

What is role of Turkey and Kurds?

The day before Trump's Dec. 18 announcement to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria, there was a meeting in Geneva on Syria — one that excluded the U.S. and imperialist EU countries.

Instead, meeting on the future of Syria were the foreign ministers of Russia, Iran and, surprisingly, Turkey.

These three countries are opposed, for different reasons and interests, to the uninvited, massively destructive U.S. role in Syria. At the recent conference, according to the Guardian newspaper, they pledged to move forward with "a viable and lasting Syrian-owned, Syrian-led, UN-facilitated political process." (Dec. 18)

Turkey, an especially strategic member of the U.S.-commanded NATO military alliance, has been sharply opposed to the U.S. use of the YPG Kurdish forces in Syria. Turkey is engaged in a decades-long war against the national aspirations of the 15 million oppressed Kurdish population in Turkey, where the Kurds make up almost 20 percent of the population.

The much smaller Kurdish minority in Syria, amounting to 1.5 million, decided to take advantage of the vacuum created by the weakened central Syrian government to establish a long-sought Kurdish homeland as an autonomous area. They did not, however, call for the overthrow of the Syrian government or of President Assad's ouster.

The political umbrella representing the Syrian Kurds, the SGF, has held official meetings with the Syrian government in Damascus. At these meetings President Assad made it clear that the government welcomed "open doors" and discussion with the Kurds, but that all foreign occupiers, including the U.S. and Turkish forces, must leave Syria.

The Syrian Kurdish delegation made it clear that their goal is a political deal to safeguard their autonomy. The Syrian central government, engaged in a struggle to save the whole country, did not oppose Kurdish autonomy. The future federated status of the Kurds was left open. (tinyurl.com/ycrvng9b)

In May 2017 Washington, anxious to create a statelet or proxy state in the oil-rich area of northeast Syria, armed the Kurdish YPG forces in an effort to create an army dependent on the U.S. With al-Qaeda ISIS forces on one side and a U.S. bombing onslaught on the other, the Kurdish YPG militias were boxed into an alliance with the U.S.

The Turkish regime appeared apprehensive that U.S. arms supplied to Iraqi Kurds with the U.S. aim of keeping Iraq divided, and U.S. arms supplied to Syrian Kurds with the U.S. aim of keeping Syria divided, would easily reach the more numerous and more oppressed Kurds in Turkey.

Current hand wringing by the U.S. media that Trump's announced withdrawal means a U.S. military presence will no longer "protect" the Kurds in Syria is disingenuous.

The U.S. goal all along has been to establish its own base in the region and keep all other forces divided and in contention.

Now Turkey's participation with Russia and Iran in the recent conference, and the growing possibility of Turkey's break with NATO — perhaps even military intervention where Turkey's army confronts U.S. forces — has caught Washington in a tangled web of its own making.

Russia, Iran or — ? Which country is next?

Russian and Iranian assistance to Syria is defensive in character.

If the U.S. were to succeed in overturning the government in Syria — as it did in Iraq and Libya — certainly Russia and Iran, which both resist U.S. domination, seem likely to be next on the U.S. list for attack.

The antiwar movement also needs to remain vigilant. U.S. forces are still massed on the ground in the Near East, in drone bases in African countries, in naval convoys off the shores of China and in the Far East.

There are still U.S. troops, aircraft carriers, nuclear subs and drones in the immediate area of Syria, looking for a new opportunity or a staged provocation.

As the Pentagon did in Iraq, there are many ways to rebrand or rename U.S. troops in Syria and launch a new imperialist initiative.

Antiwar and progressive forces need to maintain a clear and consistent demand to bring all U.S. troops and advisors home, close the bases, and end all occupation and sanctions.

Sara Flounders has traveled twice to Syria in solidarity delegations during the U.S. war against that country. She is co-director of the International Action Center and helps coordinate the United National Antiwar Coalition, the Hands Off Syria Campaign, and the Coalition Against U.S. Foreign Military Bases.




 

12
Jeremy Corbyn adviser suggests 'deep state' working to stop Labour government
  Kevin Schofield, PoliticsHome 
19th September 2018
 

 A top adviser to Jeremy Corbyn has suggested the intelligence services are working to prevent him ever becoming Prime Minister.

Andrew Murray said his suspicions were raised by recent newspaper reports about his failure to get a security pass for Parliament nearly a year after applying.

The Mail on Sunday also reported that he has been banned from entering Ukraine for allegedly being part of Vladimir Putin's "global propaganda network".

Mr Murray, who was in the Communist Party of Great Britain and the Communist Party of Britain before joining Labour in 2016, said he believed the "manoeuvrings of what is now called the deep state" could be behind it.

Writing in the New Statesman, he strenuously denied any links to the Russian regime and added: "Call me sceptical if you must, but I do not see journalistic enterprise behind the Mail's sudden capacity to tease obscure information out of the SBU (Ukrainian security services).

"Yes, they got a copy of an SBU letter allegedly banning me back in June, although it is dated 14 September and does not mention me anyway. Don't publish what you can't read guys!

"Someone else is doing the hard work – possibly someone being paid by the taxpayer. I doubt if their job description is preventing the election of a Corbyn government, but who knows?

"We are often told that the days of secret state political chicanery are long past and we must hope so. But sometimes you have to wonder – this curiously timed episode seems less rooted in a Kiev security scare than in a political stunt closer to home."

Mr Murray, who works for Unite general secretary Len McCluskey and is also a part-time adviser to Mr Corbyn, added: "This much I know: the millions of people headed by Corbyn who were right on Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan when the elite, the security services included, were wrong, are near to office – in significant part because of those views.

"Britain could soon have an anti-war government. Vet that, comrades."

It emerged earlier this week that another of Mr Corbyn's staff, his private secretary Iram Awan, had finally been given a Parliament pass nine months after applying for one.

A row had broken out after it was revealed she had been getting signed in by others in the Labour leader's office while her application was processed.
 

13
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.

14
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.
 

15
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
 

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