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To this day I can’t sleep . Moazzam Begg, tortured in Bagram and Gitmo, talks to RT after 20-year US war in Afghanistan ends
2 Sep, 2021 19:15
Tortured by the US in Afghanistan’s Bagram prison and Guantanamo Bay, British-Pakistani author Moazzam Begg told RT of his ordeal and the vindictive, futile US ‘War on Terror’ that he says “destroyed” American soldiers too.
Begg spoke with RT for the ‘Ghosts of War,’ a special project looking at the fallout of the US invasion and 20-year occupation of Afghanistan, which officially ended on Monday.

I was begging to go to Guantanamo because what I had seen and witnessed in Bagram was so destructive, to this day I can’t sleep.

Born in the UK to Pakistani parents, Begg had moved to Taliban-run Afghanistan with his family in July 2001. After the US invasion, they sought shelter in Pakistan. In February 2002, Pakistani authorities arrested him and turned him over to the US troops, “without any legal process at all.” For the next year, he was held in Bagram, a notorious prison camp next to the now-abandoned airbase.

During his year-long detention in Bagram, Begg says he saw two people “beaten to death” by US soldiers. A subsequent US military inquiry found that the cause of death of the two men, identified as Dilawar and Habibullah, was indeed homicide.

“For me this place epitomized what the US was doing in Afghanistan,” he told RT. “They were bringing people to this torture site – Afghans, ordinary Afghans – and abusing them outside the rule of law, and then allowing some of them to go back home. And they would go home and tell people ‘this is what the Americans did’.”

In February 2003, Begg was sent to Guantanamo Bay, a US-controlled enclave in Cuba where a camp had been built for 'enemy combatants' captured in the so-called Global War on Terror.

“We were stripped, we were beaten, we were spat upon, we were humiliated, photographs of us [were] taken,” he told RT. His captors also played sounds from the next room suggesting his wife was being tortured there, and showed him photos of his children. “What they wanted me to do was to sign a confession that I was a member of Al-Qaeda, which I was not,” he said.

Among his fellow inmates were several Taliban members, who he says are now senior figures in the new Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, proclaimed after the US-backed government collapsed in mid-August. The Taliban takeover prompted a frantic scramble by Westerners and Afghans who worked with them to flee the country, which officially came to an end on Monday when the last US military flight departed Kabul.

At one point in his Guantanamo captivity, Begg says he stopped thinking of himself as a human being and started calling himself 588, the number he was assigned. He showed RT a hand-made calendar he kept and the letters from his children, redacted by US censors.

My children were growing up without me, and every day without them was a stab in the heart.

Begg was released in January 2005 and sent to the UK. The US never charged him with any crime. “The War on Terror was not a police operation, it was a military operation,” he told RT.

While in Guantanamo, some of the American guards treated him with compassion, talking to him, giving him chocolate, and sometimes letting him watch movies on a smuggled DVD player. Begg called those “little acts of humanity that I’ve never forgotten to this day.”

“I left Guantanamo not hating America because of those soldiers,” he told RT.

Begg added that some US troops have written to him afterward, saying that the war “destroyed” them and that they can’t sleep at night. While some 15,000 US troops and contractors died in the ‘War on Terror,’ twice that number have committed suicide, according to the Costs of War project.

“This is a defeat, it’s a military defeat, however you want to look at it,” Begg says of the US and NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan, which left the Taliban in possession of all the military equipment and infrastructure built up for the US-backed regime.

He thinks “imperial hubris” won’t allow the West to come to terms with this outcome and move forward.
« Last post by Roger on September 04, 2021, 12:06:42 PM »
Lindsey German
As the last US soldier left Kabul on Monday night, Joe Biden acknowledged the defeat not just of the war and occupation there but of the whole policy of liberal interventionism. ‘This decision about Afghanistan is not just about Afghanistan. It’s about ending an era of major military operations to remake other countries’.

The wars started by George Bush – ably abetted by Tony Blair – have come to an ignominious end. Those of us who argued 20 years ago that this war should never happen, that it would worsen terrorism worldwide and worsen the lives of millions, have been proved right. There were many who saw that the war and intervention launched then would not succeed in its aims. We were ignored by politicians, media and military who launched a propaganda war to cheer the real one.

They have a lot to answer for. The wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, then Libya and Syria have seen more than a million dead, many more have become refugees, and whole countries have been devastated by their consequences. The human costs have been immense – in the countries wrecked by war but also in those launching the wars. Biden acknowledged in his speech that 18 veterans in the US commit suicide every day. The loss felt by families of those killed never goes away. The future costs of medical care and disability for those who served in the wars runs into billions.

The US has spent $300 million a day on the Afghan war alone, at the expense of health care, education and much else. It has left Afghanistan one of the poorest and least developed countries in the world. For all the talk of making Afghanistan free from terrorism ISIS-K has grown as a force under the occupation, just as it did in Iraq. The Taliban, defeated very rapidly in 2001, have been able to seize back a country governed by corrupt pro-US politicians and unable to deliver for most of its citizens.

The whole idea that the world’s largest imperialist nation could ‘remake’ a country was itself a conceit born of overweening power and military might. The vast bulk of Western resources in Afghanistan went into military and related expenditure, as it was always going to. The war and its successors were about regime change and asserting Western imperialism’s role, not championing human rights.

Those who argue for continued ‘humanitarian intervention’ are spreading the illusion that this was ever on offer. It was not. It is therefore right for the troops to leave and for the Afghan people to decide their own future. The west should help through reparations and accepting refugees as equal citizens, not as the pariahs they are treated by Western governments.

Despite the bluster of the British government, the withdrawal has shown its weakness. There is no independent military operation (or even evacuation) without the US.

There is little sign of government or media here facing up to the reality of the past 20 years’ failure. Instead, the very military and politicians who caused such a catastrophe are asked for their opinions on a daily basis while those who predicted this outcome are ignored.

Yet the impact of anti-war movements on public opinion and on shifting perception of wars has been profound and it continues. It’s why Biden still talks about ending the ‘forever wars’. And it’s why, as tensions grow with Iran, Russia and China – all of whom will be playing a role in Afghanistan – we need to keep campaigning.
Afghan Aftermath Europe Braces for Another U.S.-Induced Migration Crisis
Finian Cunningham, Information Clearing House

Aug 23, 2021

   "Information Clearing House" - "SCF" -- President Joe Biden vowed "America is back" when he took office, meaning that Washington would realign with and respect European allies under its global leadership after the years of Trump discord.

The European political establishment swooned and cooed like dutiful debutantes apparently having Uncle Sam's affections and patronage again.

How quickly indeed has that supposedly rosy relation between the U.S. and the Europeans been ruptured with bitter recriminations following the disastrous collapse in Afghanistan. The EU is scrambling to cope with the potential fallout of mass migration from the Central Asian country after the return to power of the Taliban.

This is the militant group that Washington and its NATO allies spent two decades fighting at the cost of hundreds of thousands of lives and trillions of dollars – only for the militants to seize power amid a total collapse of a U.S.-backed regime in Kabul.

Yeah, America is back alright. Causing mayhem and political headaches for its supposed European partners.

The U.S.-led military interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria have already shaken the European Union to the core with political crisis from the destabilizing influx of migrants from war zones. That crisis came to a head in 2015-2016 when an estimated one million refugees made their way into EU member states. Then German Chancellor Angela Merkel responded with an open-door policy of accepting asylum seekers. But that policy rebounded in explosive tensions within and between member states owing to European nations perceiving an overwhelming challenge to their social systems.

That, in turn, led to EU states closing their borders in violation of the whole concept of a seamless bloc. There was also much open bickering between member countries accusing each other of not sharing the burden of accommodating foreign migrants.

The crisis also fed into the rise of anti-EU populism since the Brussels bureaucracy was perceived as overriding national consent about accepting the influx of non-Europeans.

Let's recapitulate: much of the strain from the migration pressure on the EU stemmed from Washington's illegal wars in Asia, the Middle East and North Africa. Wars, admittedly, that the European NATO allies assisted in prosecuting.

Having said that, however, it was the minor American partners who seemed to be loaded disproportionately with the repercussions in terms of dealing with the migration from the war zones – not the United States.

The same baleful phenomenon looks like repeating. This week European Union foreign ministers held an emergency summit to assess the aftermath of the Afghanistan debacle.

"We have to ensure that the new political situation created in Afghanistan by the return of the Taliban does not lead to a large-scale migratory movement towards Europe," said Josep Borrell, the EU's foreign policy chief.

German foreign minister Heiko Maas said the EU is concerned about "the stability of the region", adding that "neighboring countries will certainly be confronted with further refugee movements."

As the Washington Post reported: "[European Union] officials offered rare criticism of Washington for risking a flood of refugees to their borders and the return of a platform for terrorism in Central Asia."

It is estimated that nearly 570,000 Afghan nationals have applied to the European Union for political asylum over the past six years. Even before the dramatic seizing of power last week by the Taliban, there was a sharp increase in Afghans fleeing to the EU.

The European governments are caught in a public relations nightmare. Earlier this month, six EU member states – Austria, Belgium, Germany, Denmark, Netherlands and Greece – were pushing for the "forced return" of Afghans who had been refused asylum. Now, that initiative is being suspended because of the politically damaging look of EU states callously sending people back to the Taliban regime, which doesn't exactly share "European values" (whatever that means).

Meanwhile, Germany's Merkel made a veiled swipe at the Biden administration saying she believed the U.S. decision to press ahead with the withdrawal was taken for "domestic political reasons" and was to blame for the ensuing chaos in Afghanistan. The leader of her party, Armin Laschet, went further, calling the entire Afghanistan operation a failure and the withdrawal "the biggest debacle that NATO has suffered since its founding" 72 years ago.

Austria and other EU members are striving to set up deportation centers in Pakistan, Turkey, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan to keep the refugees at bay. But it is far from certain that such a scheme would work.

In that case, the European Union is set to incur another massive migration wave from Afghanistan. With a population of 38 million and an estimated five million internally displaced, the numbers of Afghans seeking to make their way across EU borders could surpass the waves of refugees previously seen from Syria, Iraq, and Libya as well as Afghanistan during the past six years.

The Biden administration is being criticized by other NATO members for hastily pulling out of Afghanistan thereby triggering the implosion of an already shaky puppet regime in Kabul.

America's European allies are in particular facing immense political pressure over the resultant humanitarian crisis and the inevitable flow of refugees clamoring for a safe haven. This will shake the EU to the core again and with that the transatlantic alliance.

Regarding the Biden administration and its unctuous professions of transatlantic unity, the European governments must be wondering with friends like that who needs enemies?

Finian Cunningham has written extensively on international affairs, with articles published in several languages. He is a Master's graduate in Agricultural Chemistry and worked as a scientific editor for the Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, England, before pursuing a career in newspaper journalism. He is also a musician and songwriter. For nearly 20 years, he worked as an editor and writer in major news media organisations, including The Mirror, Irish Times and Independent.
South Tyneside Stop the War / UK gunboat diplomacy fires blanks at China
« Last post by Roger on September 03, 2021, 04:34:42 PM »
UK gunboat diplomacy fires blanks at China

AUGUST 31, 2021

   HMS Queen Elizabeth carrier strike group has given areas that could provoke China a wide berth while in the region

SEOUL – The visit of the UK's HMS Queen Elizabeth carrier strike group (CSG) to the Korean peninsula has got underway with less of a bang and more of a whimper.

At a time when China is acting as a global economic engine for the world's stuttering recovery from Covid-19 and casting an ever-longer shadow across East Asia, the UK's gunboat diplomacy in East Asian waters has been considerably more prudent than it was during the Mediterranean and Black Sea phases of its deployment.

Both London and Seoul appear more reluctant to irk Beijing than is their joint ally, Washington, which last week sent two ships through the strategic Taiwan Strait to Beijing's displeasure.

Against this backdrop, Covid-19 may have provided a face-saving solution for both parties. A planned port call by the CSG to South Korea has been called off and the ongoing drills are low-key.

More unusually, neither US units embedded with the CSG nor those based in South Korea are taking part in the exercises.

Brexit Britannia flexes new muscle The high-profile voyage of the Queen Elizabeth, which left her home base in May, has been hailed in the UK as a showcase of the world-ranging muscle behind a new, post-Brexit "global Britain."

"The presence of the UK Carrier Strike Group in the Indo-Pacific is a powerful demonstration of the UK's commitment to deepening diplomatic, economic and security-based ties in the region," the British government said.

In the region, the CSG has undertaken exercises with the navies of Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and the US and has also visited Guam. However, the voyage of the British-led multinational flotilla has been overshadowed by a massive humiliation for Western militaries: The fall of Kabul to the Taliban after a 20-year conflict.

The CSG comprises nine ships, 32 aircraft and one submarine and is manned by 3,700 sailors, aviators and marines. US and Dutch warships are in the carrier's escort group, and the bulk of the F35s on her deck have US pilots.

The subordination of US assets to British command suggests both US political approval and close tactical interoperability.

The 65,000 tonne, conventionally powered Queen Elizabeth is not quite as big, butch and hairy as the 100,000 tonne nuclear-powered Gerald Ford-class US Navy carriers. Still, as the crown jewel of the Royal Navy, the GBP3 billion man-of-war showcases cutting-edge air and sea power-projection capabilities.

And she certainly filled a gap in the cash-strapped British forces. Prior to her 2021 cruise, the Royal Navy had been without operational aircraft carriers – the ultimate admirals' toy – since 2014.

Poking the bear, evading the dragon In the Mediterranean, the CSG conducted airstrikes against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

In the Black Sea, a British destroyer from the group conducted a freedom of navigation exercise, or FONOP – sailing within 12 nautical miles of a disputed territory – off the coast of Russia-held Crimea.

The CSG has behaved with greater circumspection in East Asian waters. Given Chinese capabilities – Beijing controls weaponized islands in the South China Sea, and deploys two aircraft carriers with a third under construction – that looks sensible.

Just after the CSG entered the South China Sea, state-run tabloid Global Times – a media known for its kinetic editorial stance – warned:

"We advise US allies to be particularly cautious .they must be bluntly told that if their warships rampantly behave as the US military does in the South China Sea, they will more likely become an example of China defending its sovereignty and territorial integrity – just as a popular Chinese phrase indicates: ‘To execute one as a warning to a hundred.'"

Neither the Queen Elizabeth nor its sub-units conducted FONOPs off China's weaponized islands in the flashpoint South China Sea. Nor has it traversed the Strait of Taiwan, which Beijing sees as particularly sensitive.

USS America conducted a historic bilateral fueling-at-sea with British Royal Navy destroyer HMS Defender while operating with elements of the HMS Queen Elizabeth Carrier Strike Group in the Philippine Sea on August 24. Photo: AFP / EyePress News

According to Hong Kong media, the Chinese military was "satisfied" with the British-led CSG's activities in the South China Sea.

For Whitehall mandarins, both push and pull factors are at work.

On the one hand, China has been behaving with increasing assertiveness across the world, is powering up its armed forces, and has appalled the UK with its stance on Hong Kong. On the other, post-Brexit Britain is seeking to upgrade trade with partners beyond the EU.

For all these reasons, Whitehall may have decided that despite the bravado surrounding the carrier, which carries two squadrons of top-tier F35s stealth fighters, "poking the Chinese dragon" was not in Britain's best national interests.

Apparent British circumspection toward a country that is both a regional hegemon and an economic superpower is reflected, indeed greatly amplified, in the nation the CSG is operating off today.

Circumspect cruise South Korea – having suffered heavy economic retaliation from China after it permitted the deployment of US anti-missile systems on its soil in 2017 – has already learned to be extremely careful around Beijing's strategic touchiness.

In this vein, Asia Times understands that there had been friction between the Ministry of National Defense and the presidential Blue House in the run-up to the CSG visit.

While military officials have been keen to see the new carrier up close via a port call, and there were hopes of marine drills on land, the Blue House, ever wary of triggering China, has been lukewarm.

In the event, Covid-19 looks convenient.

South Korea is struggling to contain the Delta variant and is under its strictest ever social distancing guidelines. There are reported Covid infections – but no hospitalizations – aboard the visiting flotilla. As a result, a port call to Korea's second city, Busan, was called off on August 24.

Even so, naval exercises started on Monday and are due to continue off Busan on the southeast of the peninsula through Wednesday. The location of the drills appears shrewd.

Exercises in the Yellow Sea, off the western coast port of Pyeongtaek, home to a massive US base, would be sensitive for China and possibly for North Korea.

Likewise, exercises off South Korea's Jeju island, home to a domestic naval base, would also risk peeving China. Jeju is perfectly situated to monitor the egress of naval units from the Yellow Sea, home to key Chinese ports, bases and naval dockyards.

"This part of the world is very sensitive, everybody lives pretty close by, and when you have that kind of proximity, you want to respect personal space," Chun In-bum, a retired South Korean general, told Asia Times. "Unfortunately, sometimes the biggest neighbor forgets to do that – but that is the neighborhood Korea lives in."

Unusually on Monday, Seoul's Ministry of National Defense spokesperson told reporters that no US assets would take part in the joint exercises.

"That caught me off guard," admitted Chun, who said he had no information on the surprise announcement.

Chun assumed that the drills would be based on humanitarian and anti-piracy scenarios, rather than kinetic naval operations.

"We can respect China's concerns, and at the same time achieve our purposes of building standard operational procedures, gaining experience, enhance mutual understanding," said Chun. "All these things are benign in nature but can be used in contingencies."

Distant friends The fact that the CSG's first operational cruise is to the Far East – its ultimate destination is Japan – is a sign of increasing British interest in a part of the world that is strategic in both economic and security terms.

But while post-Brexit London may wish to extend its influence eastward at a time when key ally the US is also encouraging stronger ties between democracies in Western Europe and East Asia, South Korea-UK defense ties remain distant.

The UK dispatched the second largest contingent to the UN Command, the US-led force that fought for South Korea in the 1950-53 Korean War. That conflict, with China as the key combatant against the UN Command, remains the bloodiest London has fought since World War II.

Despite this, and despite London's ongoing membership in the UN Command, South Korea and the UK are not bound by any formal alliance; the obligations of all UN Command "sending states" to South Korea in the even of renewed hostilities are vague.

Moreover, the UN Command – which offers the US eyes on the crossing points of the Demilitarized Zone, and, moreover, maintains depot arrangements in Japan – has not been popular during the Moon Jae-in administration. Some non-US troops assigned to the unit have even faced administrative obstacles from Seoul officialdom.

Even so, since the drawdown of British involvement in wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, British units have been traveling to South Korea to scope out the ground and to get a closer look at a large, conscript military that dwarfs the professional UK force.

British Army battalion battlegroup staffs have traveled to South Korea to join US and local forces in annual spring military drills. Those visits were halted by the agreement between Donald Trump and Kim Jong Il to suspend the drills in 2018, and subsequently by Covid.

It is unclear when, or if, they will resume.

Visits by British units to the country to commemorate key anniversaries of the Korean War in 2020 and 2021 were put on hold for the same reason, as has a tour of the country by the British Staff College.

The main military-military cooperation is naval, in the anti-submarine helicopter space. The South Korean Navy operates British Wildcat helicopters, and there is close cooperation between related units.

Multiple models of the latest British naval helicopters are aboard the Queen Elizabeth, and in July, visiting British Minister of Defense Ben Wallace said that the Royal and South Korean navies are in talks to share experience in operating aircraft carriers.

There are widespread rumors in South Korea about the acquisition of an F35 aircraft carrier. A source at the Ministry of National Defense told Asia Times that no acquisition plan has been confirmed, nor has the type or size of the vessel.

One solution would be the conversion of existing helicopter landing ships, a model pioneered and pursued by Japan's Maritime Self Defense Force.

But there are more ambitious ideas. In June, the world's biggest shipbuilder, Hyundai Heavy Industries made public a design for a dual-island aircraft carrier with a take-off ramp – the type pioneered by the Queen Elizabeth class.

"Our navies operate similar complements of F-35 aircraft and Wildcat helicopters, as well as many other platforms," said Brigadier Mike Murdoch, the UK defense attache in Seoul, in a statement sent to foreign reporters.

"There is thus already a solid infrastructural basis for our partnership, and in the coming years the Royal Navy plans to maintain a regular deployment to the region."

All this suggests the possibility of defense consulting and sales as well as interoperability between the two mid-sized powers.

A regional footprint? The CSG's next port of call is Japan's China-facing port of Sasebo. Units will subsequently join "Exercise Bersama Gold," which marks the 50th anniversary of the Five Powers Defence Arrangement, alongside Australia, Malaysia, Singapore and New Zealand.

However, despite erroneous reporting in some British media, the CSG will not be permanently stationed in East Asian waters.

Indeed, the Royal Navy, which is particularly short of frigates and destroyers, has no permanent patrol presence in East Asia waters. Although it has sent a number of surface ships on ad hoc deployments in recent years, there was no permanent patrol presence.

That changed in July, when Whitehall announced that two small Royal Naval offshore patrol vessels, the HMS Tamar and HMS Spey, will be based in the region

The naval base at Singapore, where the Royal Navy maintains a small naval party tasked with logistics and fueling, might act as a convenient home for the vessels. Sasebo or Guam might also be conceivable homes for the ships.

However, Asia Times understands that they will not have a permanent base in the region, and will fly in rotational crews of sailors and Royal Marines from the UK.

The modest UK naval commitment did not impress Global Times.

"The UK simply does not have the ability to reshape the pattern in the South China Sea," the newspaper editorialized. "To be precise, if the UK wants to play the role of bullying China in the region, it is demeaning itself. And if there is any real action against China, it is looking for a defeat."


   Former British ambassador to Damascus says OPCW mere ‘puppet' of West against Syria
Press TV

10 July 2021

   It is a "tragedy" that the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has been "corrupted" in a way that it is being used as a "puppet" by the West to exert pressure on Syria rather than being an international and technical monitoring organization, the former British ambassador to Syria tells Press TV.

Peter Ford, who is also an expert on West Asian affairs, made the comments from Manchester during Press TV's Spotlight program, which was aired on Friday night.

He said that he was completely in agreement with what the Syrian government has recently reiterated that the global chemical watchdog is no longer a technical organization but a political tool in the hands of the United States, the United Kingdom, and France to exert pressure on Damascus.

"Sadly I have to agree one hundred percent with that take on the OPCW. It is a tragedy that a very important international monitoring body should be corrupted in this way by being politicized by Western powers. The OPCW should be playing an impartial role and should be seen to be extremely impartial. But for the last few years, decision after decision, it is shown that it is a puppet of the Western powers," Ford said.

He added that the UK and the US, in particular, were responsible as they have staffed the OPCW with officials from their own administrations.

These officials do not respect the impartiality of the watchdog but rather "carry out the wishes of their masters in Washington and London. This is basically why the OPCW is well underway to be completely discredited," Ford further said.

Comments by the former British ambassador to Syria came hours after the chairwoman of the Syrian mission to the OPCW said the US and its allies had lowered the status of the international watchdog, and turned it into a political tool to level baseless accusations against Damascus and exert pressure on it.

Addressing the 97th session of the Executive Council of the OPCW, Rania al-Refaei stated earlier on Friday that anti-Syria claims are meant to advance the agendas of certain countries, and implement the plots hatched by terror outfits.

She categorically dismissed allegations that the Damascus government has chemical weapons in its possession, terming such accusations as "spurious and unfounded."

Syria surrendered its stockpile of chemical weapons in 2014 to a joint mission led by the US and the OPCW, which oversaw the destruction of the weaponry. It has also consistently denied using chemical weapons.

However, the Western media and governments have repeatedly accused the Syrian government of using chemical weapons against its own citizens in the war against terrorists.

The OPCW, in line with the Western powers, accuses Damascus of using chemical weapons, including an alleged attack in Hama in 2017. Damascus has repeatedly rejected such accusations, describing them as false flag operations.

Elsewhere in his remarks, Ford said that the Western powers and the so-called rebels obviously benefit from such accusations and false flag operations.

"The Western powers needed to justify their illegal bombing of Syria. That's why they can never admit, that it was carried out on the basis of falsehood. That's why they continue to sustain this lie. They have to justify their continuing of war on Syria which mainly takes the form of economic warfare, in the shape of sanctions and withholding reconstruction," he added.

Brussels-based Elijah Magnier, a veteran war-zone correspondent and political analyst covering West Asia and North Africa, was the other panelist invited to the Spotlight program, who also confirmed that the OPCW's reports have been politicized.

"When Jose Bustani came out with his narrative saying that we inspectors are scientists and according to scientists' opinion there is no chemical attack on Douma. The reason why the OPCW is insisting is to justify the US, UK and France's attack on Damascus. The whole world watched that the OPCW is lacking trust these days, particularly after the Douma attack and it is obvious that a lot of pressure was put on the organization," he said

If the decision is made before the attack by the West, there is no need to go there and gather evidence impartially, Magnier added.

Current and former staff members of the OPCW decry the organization's new report that blamed the Syrian government for suspected chemical attacks.

On April 7, 2018, an alleged chemical attack hit the Syrian city of Douma near the capital Damascus. Western countries were quick to blame it on the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

A week later, the US, Britain, and France launched a coordinated missile attack against sites and research facilities near Damascus and Homs with the purported goal of paralyzing the Syrian government's capability to produce chemicals.

Damascus, however, said that no chemical attack had happened and that the Douma incident had been staged by foreign intelligence agencies to pressure the government in the face of army advances against militants.

In October 2019, Jose Bustani, the OPCW's first chief, said that convincing evidence of irregular behavior in the OPCW investigation of the alleged Douma chemical attack confirmed doubts and suspicions he already had.

In October next year, he was scheduled to testify at the UN Security Council about the alleged cover-up by the OPCW regarding the Douma chemical attack. However, the US, UK, and France blocked Bustani from testifying, claiming that he left the watchdog in 2002 and thus was not involved in the issues being discussed.

Nevertheless, the Russian envoy at the UNSC read out Butsani's statement, which stated that the OPCW engaged in "evidence suppression, selective use of data and exclusion of key investigators" when it was making its report about the so-called Douma chemical attack.
"Stealth jets fight Daesh in first combat missions from HMS Queen Elizabeth":
A "Global Britain" is a Military Threat to the World's People

On Tuesday May 22, the government announced [1] that after spending "weeks working with its NATO allies", its newly deployed UK Carrier Strike Group had launched "stealth jets to fight Daesh (Islamic State)". These bombings and air attacks on Daesh are part of the US-led Operation Shader [2] in Syria, Iraq and the Levant region [3] with British and US F-35 jets carrying out these very first "combat missions" from HMS Queen Elizabeth. The Carrier Strike Group which left Britain for its deployment on May 22 and announced to be stopping at a "100 ports in over 40 countries" is heading to the Asia-Pacific. According to the report, the last leg of the voyage will take the strike group into what is described as the
Chinese Aircraft Carrier Liaoning most serious part of the "journey through the South China Sea, waters which China claims more of than is internationally recognised". This is before taking part in provocative military exercises with Japan and "visiting" South Korea. Such hostile acts will not go unchallenged as Britain continues its military interference in the Middle East and then enters into a dangerous stand-off with China and the DPRK, countries which are rightly already opposing the hostile war preparations of the US in the Indo-Pacific, South China Sea, East China Sea and Yellow Sea. Britain is already carrying out hostile actions in the Black Sea against the Russian Federation and giving warships to Ukraine in a defence deal [4] all aimed at increasing the tensions further between Russia and Ukraine, which is not in the interests of either neighbouring country.

Emphasising that the UK Carrier Strike Group represents "Global Britain" as a military threat to the world's people, the government statement says that "it marks a change of emphasis. From exercises and international engagements, the Carrier Strike Group is now delivering its full might of naval and air power, putting the 'strike' into Carrier Strike Group and contributing to the UK's fight against Daesh." Defence Secretary Ben Wallace confirmed, "The Carrier Strike Group is a physical embodiment of Global Britain and a show of international military strength." He claimed that it would "deter anyone who seeks to undermine global security". This means that such sabre-rattling is not just aimed at Daesh, who they had also claimed to have bombed out of existence in 2019 [5], but it is aimed against any country who challenges the "rules-based international order" dominated by the US.

This is also calculated to accompany what the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, claimed in March was Britain's Indo-Pacific "tilt" at the heart of the national defence and security review. Such a "tilt" in war preparations has to be seen alongside the US "pivot" to Asia and Australia's Pacific "step up". It also coincides with NATO's 2030 agenda confirmed at the NATO Summit in Belgium on June 14 to extend its reach to the Asia-Pacific.

The government statement also emphasises that Britain is to be even more integrated into the US war machine than in the days of the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the subservience of Britain's then Prime Minister Tony Blair to then US President Bush. The statement quotes Commodore Steve Moorhouse, Commander of the UK Carrier Strike Group: "This is also notable as the first combat mission flown by US aircraft from a foreign carrier since HMS Victorious in the South Pacific in 1943. The level of integration between Royal Navy, Royal Air Force and US Marine Corps is truly seamless, and testament to how close we've become since we first embarked together last October." Of course, what Commodore Steve Moorhouse fails to mention is that in 1943 Britain and the US were in a formal alliance with the Soviet Union against Hitlerite fascism, which was in the interests of all the world's people to defeat the fascist invasions and occupations, and that such integration of forces was against a world war and not, as it is today, preparations to unleash a new world war.

The latest actions of the UK Carrier Strike Group are revealing that once again the mask has slipped in the attempt to project post-Brexit "Global Britain" as part of a "rules-based international order" that is acting for "global security". In other words, the UK Carrier Strike Group represents "Global Britain" as a military threat to the world and integration of British with the US forces. It is a dangerous attempt to continue the Anglo-US "might makes right" war preparations in their rivalry with other powers and in opposition to the rights of the world's people, who wish to live without sanctions and war from the Anglo-US imperialist system of states. In Britain, the working class and people must demand that the UK Carrier Strike Group is recalled to British waters immediately and that all its US forces return to the US. The people should affirm the right to be of all nations and peoples of the world, and take a stand to renew international relations based on international law, declaring that international issues and world security is not settled by force of arms. Another world is a necessity for the people to live in a peaceful world!

1. "Stealth jets fight Daesh in first combat missions from HMS Queen Elizabeth" - Ministry of Defence and The Rt Hon Ben Wallace MP, June 22, 2021
2. Since Operation Shader began in 2014, the RAF has conducted more than a thousand air strikes over Iraq and Syria, using more than 4,300 weapons launched from Tornado, Typhoon and Reaper drone aircraft. By January 2019, the Ministry of Defence stated that "1,700 British air strikes had killed or injured 4,315 enemy fighters" in Iraq and Syria. The number of air strikes carried out in Iraq and Syria has been described as "second only to the United States". The operation is the most intense flying mission the RAF has undertaken in 25 years. Sources: Wikipedia and
3. The Levant region comprises Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Palestine and Jordan.
4. "UK Giving Ukraine Sandown-Class Vessels in Defence Deal", June 22, 2021
5. "On December 19, 2018, President Donald Trump declared that ISIS was defeated and signalled his intention to withdraw all 2,000 US troops supporting the SDF in Syria. But the SDF continued its offensive and in February 2019 launched the final siege on ISIS forces in Baghouz, the last holdout. Baghouz fell on March 23, 2019, formally ending the caliphate's claim to any territory. The mass surrender of ISIS fighters and their families illustrated the lingering challenge: how to deal with jihadists to forestall its transformation into an insurgency in Iraq and Syria. The Baghdadi era of ISIS ended on October 26, 2019, when the leader was killed in a US raid in northern Syria." The Wilson Centre

Anti-War Movement statements on British actions in the Black Sea
HMS Defender's Encroachment into the Black Sea

Stop The War Statement - June 24, 2021

Stop the War condemns the provocative decision for the UK destroyer HMS Defender to sail into disputed waters in the Black Sea near the Crimea. HMS Defender sailed just 12 miles off the Crimean coast, despite warnings from the Russian forces that they regard these as Russian waters. Moscow's defence ministry said a patrol ship fired warning shots towards the destroyer and a jet dropped bombs in the path of HMS Defender.

The UK government has played down events and denied such a military incident, but Jonathan Beale, a BBC journalist who was on the destroyer, said that the ship was indeed harassed by the Russian military. It is clear that the crew of the Defender knew that their action was likely to cause a dangerous incident. Beale reported that, "the crew were already at action stations as they approached the southern tip of Russian-occupied Crimea. Weapons systems on board the Royal Navy destroyer had already been loaded."

UK government sources have confirmed that the ship's action was deliberate, saying that "it was not there to pick a fight but to make a point". In recent weeks the US and its allies have ramped up their intervention in Ukraine, inflaming an already tense situation which could erupt into a shooting war at any time.

The British government's use of a navy destroyer to back up US brinkmanship is completely irresponsible. It is a dangerous act of aggression that has nothing to do with defence or security. We call on the government to end its support and participation in NATO's provocations against Russia.

Warmongering British Actions in the Black Sea

Craig Murray, June 24, 2021 (excerpts)

HMS Defender entering the Black Sea

The pre-positioning of the BBC correspondent on HMS Defender shatters the pretence that the BBC is something different to a state propaganda broadcaster. It also makes plain that this propaganda exercise to provoke the Russian military was calculated and deliberate. Indeed that was confirmed by that BBC correspondent's TV news report last night when he broadcast that the Defender's route "had been approved at the very highest levels of the British government".

The Prime Minister does not normally look at the precise positions of British ships. This was a deliberate act of dangerous belligerence.

The presence of a BBC correspondent is more than a political point. In fact it has important legal consequences. One thing that is plain is that the Defender cannot possibly claim it was engaged in "innocent passage" through territorial waters, between Odessa and Georgia. Let me for now leave aside the fact that there is absolutely no necessity to pass within 12 miles of Cape Fiolent on such passage, and the designated sea lane (originally designated by Ukraine) stays just out of the territorial sea. [...]

So far as I can establish, the British are not claiming they were engaged in innocent passage, which is plainly nonsense, but that they were entering territorial waters off Crimea at the invitation of the government of Ukraine, and that they regard Crimea as the territory of Ukraine and Crimean territorial waters as Ukrainian territorial waters.

I want to impress on you how mad this is. The whole point of "territorial sea" is that, legally, it is an integral part of the state and that the state's full domestic law applies within the territorial sea. That is not the case with the much larger 200 mile exclusive economic zone or sometimes even larger continental shelf, where the coastal state's legal jurisdiction only applies to specific marine or mineral resources rights.

Let me put it this way. If somebody is murdered on a ship within twelve nautical miles of the coast, the coastal state has jurisdiction and its law applies. If somebody is murdered on a ship more than twelve miles off the coast, the jurisdiction and law of the flag state of the ship applies, not the law of any coastal state in whose exclusive economic zone the ship is.

In international law, the twelve mile territorial sea is as much part of the state as its land. So to sail a warship into Crimean territorial seas is exactly the same act as to land a regiment of paratroops in the Crimea and declare you are doing so at the invitation of the Government of Ukraine.

[...] the UK government legal position can only be that Russia is an "occupying power". It is impossible that the UK government legal position is that Ukraine is in "effective control" of the territory.

We need to see the legal advice provided by FCO legal advisers. It is simply not the practice in international law to ignore the existence of an occupying power which is a recognised state, and act with armed forces on the authority of a government not in effective control. The difference in British attitude towards Russia as an occupying power and towards Israel is tellingly different.

The legality of the British action is, at very best, moot. In realpolitik, it is an act of brinkmanship with a nuclear power and further effort to ramp up the new Cold War with Russia, to the benefit of the military, security services and armaments companies and the disbenefit of those who need more socially useful government spending. It is further an act of jingoist populism for the neo-liberal elite to distract the masses, as the billionaires' incredible wealth continues to boom.


Source Workers' Weekly
South Tyneside Stop the War / Exercise BALTOPS 50 kicks off June 7
« Last post by Roger on June 12, 2021, 08:44:05 AM »
Exercise BALTOPS 50 kicks off today
US European Command

June 7, 2021

   The 50th Baltic Operations (BALTOPS 50) exercise, the premier maritime-focused exercise in the Baltic Region, kicks off today, June 6.

Between June 6-18, air and maritime assets from 18 NATO Allies and partner nations will participate in live training events that include air defence, anti-submarine warfare, amphibious operations, maritime interdiction, mine countermeasure operations.

"This year, we celebrate the 50th BALTOPS, an exercise that sets the foundation of interoperability across the Alliance," said U.S. Vice Adm. Gene Black, commander, Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO and commander, U.S. Sixth Fleet. "BALTOPS stands as the keystone of our exercise season, demonstrating half a century of the unwavering commitment of our partners and Allies. Lessons learned in BALTOPS enable international strike group operations, advanced missile defense capabilities and seamless surface action group missions."

BALTOPS 50 consists of two at-sea training phases: the combat enhancement training (CET) and force integration training (FIT) portion and the final tactical phase of the exercise (TACEX).

During the first six days (the CET/FIT phase), ships and aircraft will transit through the Danish Straits, focusing on maritime operations in critical chokepoints, ensuring access and freedom of navigation in the Baltic Sea.

The exercise will continue to move East during its two phases, operating in accordance with international law and supported by participating Allies and partners. The exercise will culminate with the TACEX phase, where the exercise paradigm will shift into a "free-play" portion, and commanders are given more freedom to run their own tactical programs. The TACEX phase is designed to better represent operating in real-world situations.

For the first time, exercise design incorporates defensive cyber warfare tactics, techniques and procedures as BALTOPS continues to adapt and train to ensure an asymmetric advantage in the era of modern warfare.

Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO (STRIKFORNATO) will again command and control BALTOPS from its headquarters in Oeiras, Portugal.

II Marine Expeditionary Brigade and Expeditionary Strike Group 2 will command and control exercise Marine forces throughout the exercise from aboard USS Mount Whitney (LCC 20), demonstrating international naval integration and power projection ashore for an amphibious demonstration in Lithuania.

BALTOPS 50 involves participation from 18 nations. The 16 NATO and 2 partner nations will provide approximately 40 maritime units, 60 aircraft, and 4,000 personnel.

The participating nations are: Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, the U.K., and the U.S.

BALTOPS, held in the Baltic region since in 1972, is a joint, maritime-focused exercise that brings together NATO Allies and partners in order to increase interoperability and enhance flexibility among the participants.

Belarus: Western media, even Bellingcat, failed to save the reputation of neo-Nazi soldier Protasevich
Donbas Insider

May 28, 2021

   Since the arrest of Roman Protasevich in Minsk after the emergency landing of the Ryanair flight he was on, a real battle for his reputation has been launched between Belarus and the West, among other things to know whether or not he fought for the neo-Nazi battalion ?Azov? in the Donbass.

On the Russian and Belarusian side, some people quickly pointed out that Roman Protasevich had fought in the neo-Nazi Azov battalion at the beginning of the conflict in Donbass. This was denied by the Western media and even by some Ukrainians, such as Andrey Biletsky, the former commander of the Azov battalion.

On his blog hosted on the Ukra?nskaya Pravda website, Biletsky explains that Protasevich was indeed with the Azov battalion in the Donbass, but allegedly as a ?journalist?.

?I will immediately dot all the ?i?s?. Yes, Roman really fought with Azov and other military units against the occupation of Ukraine. He was with us near Shirokino, where he was wounded. But his weapon as a journalist was not a machine gun, but words,? wrote Biletski.

The problem is that no matter how hard you look on the Internet, you can?t find an article from him about the Donbass war. Rather strange.

Then the cover of the 15th issue of the magazine of the neo-Nazi battalion Azov appeared, on which Protasevich is clearly seen posing in uniform, weapon in hand!

Roman protassevitch sur la couverture du magazine du bataillon n?o-nazi Azov

There was general panic on the Western side, it was absolutely necessary to save the soldier Protasevich by proving that he was not a neo-Nazi mercenary, and to avoid him ending up like Navalny, whose extreme right-wing political positions had caused him to lose his status of political prisoner with Amnesty International (before regaining it after an appropriate change of direction), and his reputation.

For such a difficult assignment, it was Bellingcat and its affiliates such as The Insider (based in Russia) that were put on the case.

It was first Michael Colborne, a Bellingcat ?journalist?, who launched the ?save soldier Protasevich? operation by trying to prove that if he was indeed a member of the neo-Nazi battalion ?Azov?, he was only a journalist.

Some speculated that the cover photo was doctored to add Protasevich?s face. But very quickly someone found an archive of the PDF file published on 8 July 2015 on a page of Azov hosted on the social network VK! There is no doubt that the cover is genuine!

Archive de la page VK d'Azov

The next day, The Insider tried another approach and published an article claiming that the man in the cover photo was not Protasevich but another soldier, Andrey Snitko, who has since died.

But in the meantime a lot of other photos and videos have come out of the bag, including from Protasevich?s own phone, which prove undeniably that he fought in the neo-Nazi battalion ?Azov?.

Roman Protasevich

Roman Protasevich in uniform and weapon with neo-nazi battalion Azov chevron

Roman Protasevich during a parade of neo-nazi battalion Azov in Mariupol

Zoom on Roman Protasevich

Roman Protasevich during a parade of neo-nazi battalion Azov in Mariupol

We see Protasevich in uniform with the battalion?s chevron, the weapon in his hand and a bunch of magazines for his machine gun in the bullet-proof vest! What a strange outfit for a ?journalist?! He can also be seen in a video and photos taken during a parade of the Azov battalion in Mariupol! Since when do journalists march in a military parade ???

At a pro-Belarus event, Protasevich?s own father admitted that his son had fought in the Donbass.

?Cases were filed against my son as early as 2014, when he was on the Donbass territory, fighting alongside the Ukrainian army,? said his father at the time, who of course retracted his statement once his son was arrested in Minsk.

Faced with the rapidly accumulating evidence, The Insider simply deleted the article, but too late. An archive was kept, showing the efforts of this Bellingcat-affiliated ?media? to try to whitewash Protasevich.

The final blow came from Protasevich himself. Indeed, in September 2015, he had given an interview to the media outlet Nasha Niva. His head is hidden in the photo illustrating the article but it is not difficult to recognise the photo of Protasevich found in his phone!

Interview donn?e par Roman Protassevitch ? Nacha Niva

Comparaison des photos

In the interview, Protassevitch is referred to as ?Kim?. He says that he was wounded near Shirokino, which is consistent with other elements of Protasevich?s biography. He also says that he fights in Ukraine because he has Ukrainian ancestors, that he hates communists and Russia as the successor of the USSR, and to ?stop Putin?s Russian horde? before they attack Belarus. He even recounts his first fight and his first shot! What a strange journalist he is.

Then comes the classic argument ?yes, but they are not all neo-Nazis at Azov?.

Problem: another photo of Protasevich proves that he is indeed a neo-Nazi. In this photo he is clearly seen (on the left) wearing a Sva Stone t-shirt with four swastikas!

Roman Protassevitch avec un t-shirt arborant des svastikas

Pull avec le m?me dessin

This brand is an active supporter of the neo-Nazi battalions Azov and Right Sector, as can be seen in this poster.

Affiche du bataillon n?o-nazi Azov

The brand sells T-shirts with explicit names like ?pure blood? or ? perun sekira? (the name of a neo-Nazi music group), as well as ?blitzkrieg? waistcoats, or ?Romper Stomper? (the name of a film about a neo-Nazi skinhead gang in Melbourne), etc.

Clearly, Roman Protasevich is neither a nice guy who came to bring democracy to Belarus, nor a journalist, but a former fighter of the neo-Nazi battalion ?Azov?, who adheres to the ideology of this battalion, and wanted to organise a violent Maidan-style coup in his home country. It seems that the West can only recruit neo-Nazis and Islamist terrorists to lead its colour revolutions.

Christelle N?ant

AFRICOM military's exercise: The art of creating new pretexts for propagating US interests
Peoples Dispatch, Pavan Kulkarni

June 1, 2021

   Phoenix Express 2021 (PE21), a 12-day US-Africa Command (AFRICOM)-sponsored military exercise involving 13 states in the Mediterranean Sea, concluded on Friday, May 28. It had kicked off from the naval base in Tunis, Tunisia, on May 16. The drills in this exercise covered naval maneuvers across the stretch of the Mediterranean Sea, including on the territorial waters of Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco and Mauritania.

The regimes in these countries, which cover the entire northern and northwestern coastline of Africa, participated in the drill – one of the three regional maritime exercises conducted by the US Naval Forces Africa (NAVAF). Belgium, France, Greece, Italy, Malta and Spain were the European states that participated in the drill.

Among the heavyweights deployed in the exercises was the US navy's USS Hershel "Woody" Williams (ESB 4). The 784-feet-long warship is a mobile military base which "provides for accommodations for up to 250 personnel, a 52,000-square-foot flight deck.. and supports MH-53 and MH-60 helicopters with an option to support MV-22 tilt-rotor aircraft," according to the Woody Williams Foundation. "The platform has an aviation hangar and flight deck that include four operating spots capable of landing MV-22 and MH-53E equivalent helicopters."

When the warship entered into its maiden service with the US navy in 2017, Capt. Scot Searles, strategic and theater sealift program manager at the Program Executive Office (PEO) Ships, said, "The delivery of this ship marks an enhancement in the Navy's forward presence and ability to execute a variety of expeditionary warfare missions.

The Algerian National Navy frigate El Moudamir (F911), Egyptian Navy frigate Toushka (F906) and Royal Moroccan Navy multi-mission frigate Sultan Moulay Ismail (FF 614) were also part of PE21, bringing with them a range weapon systems including surface-to-surface and surface to air missiles, torpedo launchers, heavy naval guns and naval radars.

According to a press release by the US navy, the purpose of this exercise was to test the ability of the participants "to respond to irregular migration and combat illicit trafficking and the movement of illegal goods and materials."

Smugglers moving goods across the border also illicitly traffic migrants fleeing war or economic crisis in their home countries. AFRICOM has on multiple occasions acknowledged that instability in Libya is the driving force behind the migration crisis.

Who is destabilizing the region?

While ‘Russian intervention' is blamed for the instability in Libya, AFRICOM played a key military role in the Libyan war in 2012, deposing Muammar Gaddafi, who was a staunch opponent of expanding US military footprint in the region, with the help of radical Islamist organizations. With the exception of Algeria, all the other north African states which participated in PE21 had supported this war in Libya, which has led to mass distress migration.

Many Islamist organizations which emerged amid the anarchy caused by the war were also used by the US and its allies in the Syrian war in a bid to overthrow president Bashar al-Assad, triggering another major wave of destabilization and migration.

Noting that "Syrians.. have (also) entered Libya from neighboring Arab states seeking onward transit to refuge in Europe and beyond," a US Congressional Research Service report states: "The International Organization for Migration (IOM) reports that nearly 654,000 migrants are in Libya, alongside more than 401,000 internally displaced persons and more than 48,000 refugees and asylum seekers from other countries identified by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)."

The report in 2020 acknowledged that with "human trafficking and migrant smuggling.. trade has all but collapsed compared with the pre-2018 period."

This migration wave, caused in no small part by AFRICOM-coordinated military interventions in Libya, has since been purported as a reason for further militarization of the region through such exercises as PE21 sponsored by AFRICOM.

The hysteria surrounding migration whipped up by right-wing parties has provided politically fertile ground for the US to mobilize state militaries for such drills. This is despite a fall in undocumented migration.

The need to respond to ‘irregular migration' with warships is one of the official pretexts which, like the ‘war on terror', has been used to further the militarization of Africa through AFRICOM since it was established in 2007.

Meanwhile, notwithstanding the fact that the main cause behind the explosion of terrorist organizations in the region was the 2011 Libyan war in which AFRICOM itself was an aggressor, it continues to be portrayed as a bulwark against terrorist organizations. Its operations in Africa over the last decade, including hundreds of drone strikes, correlate with a 500% spike in incidents of violence attributed to Islamist terrorist organizations.

Another justification given by the US for AFRICOM is the perception of a growing Chinese influence. "Chinese are outmaneuvering the U.S. in select countries in Africa," General Stephen Townsend, commander of AFRICOM, told Associated Press late in April, less than three weeks before the start of PE21.

He went on to claim that the Chinese are "looking for a place where they can rearm and repair warships. That becomes militarily useful in conflict. They're a long way toward establishing that in Djibouti. Now they're casting their gaze to the Atlantic coast and wanting to get such a base there."

Calling out the lack of credibility of this claim, Eric Olander, a veteran journalist and co-founder of The China-Africa Project, wrote: "The Chinese are looking for a base but he doesn't provide any specifics or any evidence to back up the claim. Again, we've heard this before for years in fact. For all we know the general doesn't have any more refined intelligence than the same speculation that's been floating around African social media all these years about a new Chinese base in Namibia or was it Kenya or maybe Angola?"

Townsend also pointed to the Chinese investments in several development projects in Africa. "Port projects, economic endeavors, infrastructure and their agreements and contracts will lead to greater access in the future. They are hedging their bets and making big bets on Africa," he claimed.

This has been disputed by Deborah Bräutigam, director of the China Africa Research Initiative at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, who concluded that China's economic engagements in Africa are not of a predatory nature.

Bräutigam argues that Chinese economic engagements on the continent are very much in line with the economic interests of these African states, providing jobs to locals and improving public infrastructure.

Neither the concocted threat of Chinese domination of Africa, nor terrorism and irregular migration add up to the raison d'etre of AFRICOM. As former AFRICOM commander Thomas Waldhauser explained to the House Armed Services Committee in 2018, the purpose of AFRICOM is to enable military intervention to propagate "US interests" across the continent, "without creating the optic that U. S. Africa Command is militarizing Africa." However, the 5,000 US military personnel and 1,000 odd Pentagon employees deployed across a network of 29 bases of AFRICOM in north, east, west and central Africa present a different picture.

AFRICOM has its headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany, which sponsored PE21. While this exercise was still underway, preparations for African Lion 21, Africa's largest military exercise, had already begun.

Pentagon to Use War Games to Smuggle Weapons to Ukrainian Army, Extremist Formations for War in Donbass
Internationalist 360°, Rick Rozoff

June 2, 2021

   Today's TASS cites Major General Igor Konashenkov, spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry, warning that the U.S. and NATO will exploit this year's Sea Breeze military exercise in Ukraine to smuggle advanced weaponry and munitions to the nation's armed forces and fascistic paramilitaries and mercenaries of the infamous Azov Battalion and similar units. The arms will be used for the ongoing war in the Donbass region.

In Konashenkov's words:

"Advanced armaments, munitions and materiel are planned to be delivered precisely to that region for Ukrainian troops under the guise of holding the drills.

"Eventually, as was the case in previous years, all this weaponry will be delivered to the Ukrainian troops and nationalist formations stationed close to the areas in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions uncontrolled by Kiev."

This year's version of the annual U.S.-NATO Sea Breeze exercise in the Black Sea region will run from June 28 to July 10 and include 4,000 troops, forty combat ships and other vessels, thirty military aircraft and over 100 armored vehicles from 29 NATO member and partner states.

Before the U.S.-orchestrated overthrow of Ukraine's legally-elected, internationally-recognized government in 2014 in a violent uprising supported by NATO and the European Union, Sea Breeze war games were largely conducted from Crimea.

The Russian Defense Ministry spokesman was also quoted stating:

"The Defense Ministry of the Russian Federation will closely follow the preparations for and the course of the Ukrainian-American exercise Sea Breeze with the involvement of NATO countries and will, if necessary, react appropriately to the developing situation in the interests of ensuring Russia's military security."

It's evident the Russia defense establishment and military see this year's U.S.-led exercise posing a more direct threat than its predecessors have; and not only to the Donetsk and Lugansk republics but perhaps to Crimea and Belarus as well.

The Russian Defense Ministry described the land, sea and air components of the drills as including, in the first two cases, the training of partners according to NATO combat standards, the deployment of troops and equipment to "combat employment areas" and "organizing and conducting an offensive in the maritime area in interaction with a seaborne assault force."

The maritime drills will include "forming and ensuring the cohesion of a multinational naval task force, organizing the navy's interaction with the ground forces and aircraft, planning and conducting joint operations, employing an amphibious assault force in joint operations with land troops."

The only states bordering the Black Sea not NATO members or advanced partners (Enhanced Opportunities Partners) are Russia and Abkhazia, the latter identified by the U.S. and NATO as an occupied territory.

The TASS account described the air component of the upcoming exercise as using combat aircraft in support of naval and ground forces, conducting reconnaissance operations and "delivering strikes against sea and ground targets ."

The warfighting scenario entails U.S., NATO and partner states – notably Ukraine – "stabilizing a crisis" incited by the actions of "some armed formations outlawed in Ukraine and enjoying the all-out support of a neighboring state," the Defense Ministry spokesman added.

That is a dress rehearsal for an invasion of the Donbass region, pure and simple; though as noted above regarding Belarus and Abkhazia an assault on the Donbass may not be all that's planned.

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