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An Open Letter to Australia’s Politicians in Opposition to the Proposed Metadata Retention Laws March 17, 2015 – Written by: Rob Marsh

An Open Letter to Australia’s Politicians in Opposition to the Proposed Metadata Retention Laws

I recently wrote a rather long article on the potential dangers of new metadata retention laws to the fabric of our society and the functioning of our democracy. There is no issue I feel more passionate about in our society today, as it affects literally every one of us. We are witnessing the creation of the greatest weapon of oppression in the history of man, to quote Edward Snowden, and as individuals, citizens of a democracy, and human beings, we owe it to ourselves and each other to do what little we can to stall and hopefully stop this legislation from passing into law.

To that end, I’ve prepared an open letter to the politicians of this country outlining the failings of the legislation and other relevant information around metadata collection and the relation thereof to human rights.

Please send this to as many members of parliament as you can, and please share this template on your social media walls and any political groups you may be a part of. The more people that know that this is happening and that recognise that they are personally implicated in it, the more chance we have of stopping this draconian imposition on the freedoms of all Australians, rich and poor, powerless and powerful, male and female, old and young.

With your help, I sincerely believe we can make a positive difference.



An Open Letter to the Politicians of Australia on the Potential Adverse Effects of Proposed Metadata Retention Legislation on Human Rights and the Functioning of Our Democracy

This letter contains many references to the Report of the Inquiry into Potential Reforms of Australia’s National Security Legislation, where there is a number or text enclosed in brackets like so: (5.17), refer to the appropriate section of the report.

[Politician’s name],

I am writing to you to express my deep and sincere concern with regards to the proposed Metadata Retention legislation that the government wishes to pass by the 27th of March 2015.

This legislation represents, contrary to the claims of those with vested interests in seeing the legislation pass, a grave threat to the right to privacy, freedom of speech and association that is fundamental to a well-functioning democracy.

You may not be aware of what the legislation addresses, or what the “telecommunications data” it refers to actually entails.

Nicola Roxon, in a statement to the Attorney General, describes telecommunications data as: “Telecommunications data is information about the process of communication, as distinct from its content. It includes information about the identity of the sending and receiving parties and related subscriber details, account identifying information collected by the telecommunications carrier or ISP to establish the account, and information such as the time and date of the communication, its duration, location and type of communication. (5.7)

The proposed legislation, based on the definitions above, would give the Australian government unprecedented access to nearly every aspect of the online activity of it’s citizens, and the ability to infer a disturbingly accurate “pattern of life” from the collected data.

For example, you may have your cellphone’s GPS services enabled to use Google Maps. That data, in conjunction with your phone records and timestamps on the above data could clue in a security agency as to your most likely whereabouts on any given day. This poses an enormous risk to freedom of the press, as governments could use these capabilities to track journalists and their sources to frequented meeting places, limiting concerned parties’ abilities to bring sensitive information to the public for democratic review.

“The database will contain every page they accessed – every article they’ve read on a newspaper site, any online political activity, any purchases on ebay, books bought from amazon, Facebook pages visited etc.” – Ian Quick

In the words of former NSA/CIA Director Michael Hayden:

“We kill people based on metadata.”

Fears about the above stated powers and the implications thereof have been echoed by several EU countries.

The Romanian Court, with regards to local metadata retention, held that a “continuous legal obligation” to retain all traffic data for six months was incompatible with the rights to privacy and freedom of expression. (5.26)

In Germany, the Constitutional Court described metadata retention as a “serious restriction of the right to privacy” and stated that a “retention period of six months [was] at the upper limit of what should be considered proportionate”. (5.27)

The Czech Constitutional Court, in analogous statements, described misgivings about the potential abuses of these powers: “Individual citizens had insufficient guarantees against possible abuses of power by public authorities.” (5.28)

The EU Court of Justice found that the 2006 European Data Retention Directive violated citizens “fundamental rights to respect for private life and to the protection of personal data”.

With such strident international condemnation, it seems to go without saying that any committee responsible for review of similar legislation would be given express access to details of the proposed changes and sufficient resources to complete a sincere and detailed examination of the material. Oddly enough, these criteria were not met: “Having commenced the inquiry at the beginning of July 2012, the Committee was asked to report if at all possible by the end of the calendar year. This afforded the Committee a highly compressed and unachievable time frame of less than six months to examine what is an extensive list of potential reforms, some of which are far reaching.” (Introduction, Page 3)

It seems that the government also failed to provide the committee with the relevant draft legislation, leaving those involved to rely on speculation and inference rather than an appraisal of the raw data: “The Government sought the Committee’s views on a mandatory data retention regime. The Committee did not have access to draft legislation. Furthermore, the inadequate description of data retention in the terms of reference and discussion paper also impaired both the public discussion and the Committee’s consideration of the data retention issue.” (1.29)

The question of how efficacious metadata retention is in solving and preventing crime is a raging debate.

Electronic Freedom Australia noted that it was “highly questionable” whether data retention would aid in the investigation of terrorism, organised crime or other serious illegal activities:

“It is worth noting that determined criminals will have little difficulty disguising or anonymising their communications. There are many relatively simple and effective tools available that allow for the protection of communications from surveillance.” (5.167)

This is an excellent point. The proposed legislation is no secret. Those in the criminal world will have no doubt heard of the potential for their activities to be monitored and have likely already taken steps to anonymise their online behaviour. Even in the event that the scope of the metadata retention reforms is so broad that it includes tools for opening encrypted chats and messaging services, it is not unlikely that tech savvy individuals on the wrong side of the law will be developing tools to combat this unwanted intrusion, rendering the legislation effectively useless in dealing with its raison d’être: combating terrorism and serious crime.

An unintended consequence of the introduction of metadata retention could be the opposite of what it is designed to achieve: a progressive opacification of the internet, with more and more users turning to encrypted browsing and communication, thereby shrinking the usable pool of data.

“Why do we imagine that the criminals of the greatest concern to our security agencies will not be able to use any of numerous available means to anonymise their communications or indeed choose new services that are not captured by legislated data retention rules?”

This quote from Communications Minister Macolm Turnbull, in addition to his recently revealed use of the messaging app Wickr, which provides a platform for anyone to send and receive self-deleting encrypted messages, seems to indicate that the reforms are likely to bring about little change in the positive ability of law enforcement agencies to stop criminal activity.

Add to this comments made by Blueprints for Free Speech, indicating that “there is no evidence to suggest data retention would assist with the prevention of crime or terrorism. A 2011 study of Germany’s Data Retention Directive found it had no impact on either the effectiveness of criminal investigation or the crime rate. Further, the study specifically found that countries without data retention laws are not more vulnerable to crime.”

Make no bones about it, metadata retention is mass surveillance. It can be used to form a dataset, a pattern of life indicating your movements, interests, affiliations and beliefs. You will be paying for this intrusion of privacy through rises in service bills, a kind of “tele screen tax” if you will. You will be at a higher risk of identity theft through the creation of ‘honeypots’ of data, irresistible to organised criminals and foreign actors. Your basic rights to privacy, to freedom of speech, to live as a dignified human person, are being infringed upon in ways that do not preclude a broadening of the scope of these abuses.

Even the supporters of the legislation don’t buy into their own rhetoric, with members of the Liberal party using Wickr on a daily basis, showing the world that privacy is of the utmost importance even to those who adamantly maintain that it isn’t.

With unanimous condemnation from leading human rights groups around the world, with a public backlash on a scale almost never witnessed, with the potential for so much to go horribly wrong, we simply must put a stop to this.

Tony Abbott has made statements that he wants a parliamentary inquiry into the legislation to be scrapped. I think it’s our responsibility as members of our democracy to ask why anyone would want a piece of legislation with so many potential avenues for abuse to pass without appropriate scrutiny.

I implore you, with the utmost sincerity and urgency, to do whatever is within your power to oppose this legislation at the very least until it is put before an independent NGO and reviewed in depth, with all the aspects of the legislation made available for public review and scrutiny.

Thank you for your time and your consideration, I hope that we, together, can make history and bring our society forward into an age of social egalitarianism, where the ideals of freedom of speech and thought, freedom of association and transparency of government are enshrined as they once were, as the foundations of a working democracy.

Sincerely,

______

For more information on the legislation you can refer to the Report of the Inquiry into Potential Reforms of Australia’s National Security Legislation, which you can find here: http://www.aph.gov.au/parliamentary_business/committees/house_of_representatives_committees?url=pjcis/nsl2012/report.htm

An independent summary/opinion piece on the legislation can be found here: https://wideeyedandhopefullywild.wordpress.com/2015/03/05/metadata-and-you/

——

For the sender of this email: you can find the contact addresses of your parliamentarians at these links:

http://www.aph.gov.au/Senators_and_Members/Members

http://www.aph.gov.au/~/media/03%20Senators%20and%20Members/32%20Members/Lists/MemList.pdf

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Israeli PM’s telecom cronies busted as corruption scandal continues to unfold – By SPUTNIK

netanyahu

© Associated Press / Matt Dunham
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

The Israel Securities Authorities has opened an investigation into allegations that the country’s largest telecommunications company Bezeq received benefits so as to deal with positive media coverage of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Several senior executives from the Israeli telecommunications giant Bezeq, including two close associates of Benjamin Netanyahu, have been arrested as part of the corruption probe into the Israeli Prime Minister’s alleged corruption activities.

The detainees include Communications Ministry Director General Shlomo Filbert, who is accused of handing confidential documents to Bezeq to add to the company’s favorable treatment and provide positive media coverage of Netanyahu.

Police also nabbed Shaul Elovitch, the controlling shareholder of Bezeq, who is suspected of communicating with the Israeli Prime Minister.

netanyahu scandals

© Reuters / Amir Cohen
The logo of Bezeq Israeli Telecommunication Corp Ltd, the country’s largest telecom group, is seen outside their headquarters in Tel Aviv, Israel June 21, 2017

The arrests came just a few days after the Israeli police said that they had collected enough evidence to support claims that Netanyahu committed fraud and took bribes. The police promised to hand over the relevant investigative materials and its indictment recommendations to Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit.

Right now, Netanyahu faces charges of accepting expensive gifts from wealthy supporters, in the form of cigars, champagne and jewelry in return for advancing their interests.

The second investigation looks into allegations that Netanyahu arranged to obtain favorable coverage from the popular newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth in return for creating problems for its rival, the Israel Hayom paper.

Additionally, the Israeli Prime Minister may be accused of alleged involvement in a multimillion dollar submarine deal with German shipbuilder ThyssenKrupp. Netanyahu vehemently denies any wrongdoing, claiming that he is the victim of a smear campaign launched by his political opponents.

Late December saw thousands of people protesting in the streets in Tel Aviv to demand Netanyahu’s resignation over alleged corruption, in the “March of Shame” demonstration which continued for the fourth consecutive week at the time.

The beginning of January saw the continuation of anti-corruption protests against Netanyahu, with more than 2,000 people taking to the streets in Tel Aviv.

Comment: Even Israelis are getting fed up with Bibi

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Google, Amazon Patents Reveal How Your Smart Devices Will Tell Them When You Shower… – By ANONYMOUS

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When Edward Snowden brought evidence of NSA’s unlawful spying to the fore, there was a limited outcry… but people came to accept this infringement of privacy, and lived with it.

Then there was the spying Microsoft Windows 10 brought to your PC in 2015, and people were content to simply “opt out” of it. It’s free and better than windows 8, no brainer. After we opt out of the spying, surely we can trust the smart people in charge to respect our decision right???  Not so fast.

That year we found out that our smart TVs were spying on us too, literally listening in on conversations as admitted by Samsung in their privacy policy which stated that “if your spoken words include personal or other sensitive information, that information will be among the data captured and transmitted to a third party through your use of Voice Recognition“. But that was fine, you could “opt out” too!…

Last year Wikileaks revealed that the CIA and MI5 had devised a program designed specifically to manipulate smart TVs into becoming literal Orwellian Telescreens that could pretend to be turned off but secretly and perpetually record video and audio.

You can’t opt out of government spying, a lesson that the protagonist of Orwell’s 1984 would find out that there was no part of his home that was safe from the telescreen. The program’s name was Weeping Angel, which is probably a reference to the uninformed consumers in the final phases of surrendering the last vestige of their freedom to Big Brother.

Now, surprise surprise, Google and Amazon – creators of two of the most popular voice “assistants” (spies) – are also getting in on the spying-for-profit-oops-the-NSA-hacked-us-it’s-not-our-fault scheme.

Advocacy group Consumer Watchdog recently analysed patent applications filed by Google and Amazon for future smart devices and found that these voice spies listen in on, and analyze, your conversations even when you haven’t issued the “wakeword”, the “Alexa” or “Ok Google” command.

The patents reveal that Google and Amazon plan on using the stolen information to build consumer profiles in order to better target advertising. Future iterations of the devices would be able to identify statements related to interests and hobbies, allowing Amazon to send advertisements for products that fit these criteria to consumers.

Worse, the assistants can differentiate between different voices so that they can build up a completely different case-file for all your family members. With smart home devices synced to them, they know what you’re doing… all the time… Consumer Watchdog notes:

“In 2014, as Amazon was preparing to roll out its Echo smart speaker, the company patented an algorithm that could listen to human speech, including phone conversations, for statements of interest such as “I love skiing”. The algorithm would then process the statements into keywords that could be used to target advertising.

“The patent describes transmitting the keywords to Amazon servers as text, which could allow the company to spy on conversations while technically keeping its promise to only store and analyze audio recordings that a user intends to share.”

The same, and worse, is true for Google, which has filed multiple patents. The technologies detailed in the patent applications include:

“A method for inferring users’ showering habits and targeting advertising based on that and other data. Dozens of patent applications for Google’s smart home devices detail scenarios in which Google may share data from smart home devices with third parties, including businesses, who can then use the data to make inferences about users’ sleeping, cooking, entertainment, and showering schedules.

“A particularly troubling patent application describes how Google could use video feeds from smart devices to determine users’ behaviors and characteristics, including “gender, age, fashion-taste, style, mood, known languages, preferred activities, and so forth”. The patent application describes smart devices that target advertisements based on the title of the book by a user’s bedside, the presence of a guitar or basketball in the room, and the face of a famous actor on a user’s t-shirt.”

Don’t be evil Google? With Google’s Android running on most smartphones and the Google Assistant snooping about on default, able to run cameras and voice recorders all the time… I’m not sure if selling my shower schedule (best not to bring one’s phone into the toilet either) to the highest bidder (a ninja assassin? ) or losing such info to an organisation that could blackmail me can be considered non-evil activity.

“Google and Amazon executives want you to think that Google Home and Amazon Echo are there to help you out at the sound of your voice. In fact, they’re all about snooping on you and your family in your home and gathering as much information on your activities as possible,” said John M. Simpson, Consumer Watchdog’s Privacy and Technology Project Director. “You might find them useful sometimes, but think about what you’re revealing about yourself and your family, and how that information might be used in the future.”

It seems we are at the point where not only have we gotten used to the age of corporate/government spying, some of us have paid good money for the perpetual sensation of being watched.


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The Problem is America: The Malignant Cultural Hegemony – By Phil Butler (New Eastern Outlook )

Author: Phil Butler

 

 

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What is wrong with the American people? After several years of horrific policy toward the waking world, democracy’s standard bearers seem to be drowning in a lake of selfishness. Distracted, apathetic, or simply dumbed and numbed by unrelenting propaganda, the most admired society on Earth has turned to a wriggling mush of diverging ideals. I fear that American have become what we ultimately deplored, just another despicable cultural hegemony. Here’s a short brief on the matter.

A recent article by James Carden at The Nation prompted me to discuss this unsavory truth today. The title of the piece, “Trump’s Syria Policy: Perpetual War Without Debate”, provides a stunning introduction for my “proofs” of America’s war on peace. But, the reader need not read Carden’s story to understand that the United States has been transformed into a lawless international pirate state. This paragraph is evidence enough our government has gone rogue:

“Currently there are, in the absence of congressional authorization and in violation of international law (since the United States was not attacked by Syria, nor are US troops there at the invitation of the sovereign Syrian government), an estimated 2,000 American troops based in Syria. Given this, it was odd, though hardly surprising, when major US media outlets like CNN carried the news that American occupying troops were acting “defensively” last week when the United States launched a series of strikes against regime forces, killing over 100 Syrian soldiers, in retaliation for an attack on a headquarters of US-allied Syrian Democratic Forces in Khusham. Reports emerged this week that perhaps dozens, if not hundreds, of Russian mercenaries were also killed in the US attack.”

We Are the Enemy

It’s high time we face the fact that successive administrations have been operating outside the Constitution of the United States of America. There’s no arguing that Obama and Trump blatantly exceeded their authority under that founding document, as well as under the War Powers Resolution of 1973, which limits executive authority to conduct such military actions. However horrific this fact may be thought, these actions are only a symptom of a much deadlier, and more pitiful causal agent – a society in shameful decay, one indiscernible from those of the last days of Rome or Hitler’s Third Reich. What we have witnessed these last thirty years is the corruption and destruction of a dream – a dream very few can even recall. The Cold War, Korea, Vietnam, Iran-Contra, Afghanistan, and Iran and a dozen regime changes taught Americans nothing whatsoever. Today, my people scarcely even noticed the tens of millions ruined or dead on account of America’s corrupt policies toward the world. Not even the Clintons’ graft and misdeeds seem to register as more than a sound bit these days. Rather than parroting the painfully obvious, I should think the reader is wanting more explanation of how in the hell this happened.

For those unfamiliar, it was Karl Marx who gave us the notion of “cultural hegemony,” which is the domination of a culturally diverse society by the ruling class. In such a system of control, the ruling class manipulates the culture of society, altering and shaping the beliefs, explanations, perceptions, values, and mores in such a way as to form a social construct beneficial only to this ruling class. Make no mistake, this is exactly where American society is today – managed to the point of being automated. And while we all grew up whispering how “The Man” was controlling everything, hardly anyone in my country will stand up and raise a voice professing this truth. Please my fellow Americans, do not hazard to argue here – we all know this is the truth we do not want the world to know. The technocrats I harp about, the ruling elites who hide behind their invulnerability, and the local despots allowed to run their urban games, the wheelers and dealers, and the apathetic masses who tolerate them – we’re finally at the predictable end my friends. Rex Tillerson the Exxon king armed with the mighty lever of American military might, now there is a fearsome vision for you, a moving picture image of literal cultural imperialism. “We need gas, we’ll take gas, don’t you try and stop us.”

The Rotten Seed of Mediocrity

And now you might ask; “Where did we go wrong?” Was the assassination of JFK or some other crisis the beginning? Well, the beginning of America’s transformation into a dastardly hegemony does not really matter now. We are here. It is helpful to look at a few signposts though, just in order that we tweak the consciousness of a few. Maybe some analysts would point to Bill Clinton’s role in destroying Yugoslavia. While others will venture back to Lyndon Johnson and America’s biggest disaster, that Vietnam War. But, I can recall a more recent societal disaster for American known as the “No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB),” first proposed by former President George W. Bush, and signed into law January 8th, 2002. This disastrous piece of legislation ensured 13 years of dumbing and numbing of America’s youth, with aftereffects reaching into the distant future. NCLB provided Bush and Obama with a monetary lever to blackmail educators into retarding the educational excellence that had made America the envy of the world once. NCLB produced a generation of Americans who can read well and do mid-level math, but who are also social science cripples. We created a generation of sociopaths who could read iPhone instructions and count well. NCLB drowned the excellent student and threw a life preserver for any child who wanted a free ride. NCLB was scrapped just before Obama left office, and it was replaced by Every Student Succeeds Act, which was like closing the gate after the cows have already left. Please understand, the ruling elite have no interest in a new intelligent society, think about it.

After over a decade of American kids supposedly being pushed forward, the United States ranks 40th in Mathematics, 25th in Science, and 24th in reading behind many of the countries Donald Trump calls “shit holes.” According to the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) Latvia, Vietnam, Russia, and even Singapore (1st) beat American students out in math. Even more telling than recent indicators, this report by AARP speaks of an American education system half a century ago that was second to none. When I was a student Americans consistently ranked in the top two spots on the world stage, today 10th is considerate a success by leadership. We need not argue here about test scores and the exactitudes of America’s education system to understand the impacts of this “cultural hegemony” exacted onto Americans. The disintegration of America’s former ideals grows more apparent as we look at such things as the WJP Rule of Law Index, where the US is currently 18th position behind Singapore and others. And if we look at the “Economic Freedom of the World” results we find the U.S. in 16th position behind even Jordan and Chile. Even in areas where America is perceived to excel, such as in press freedom, the country ranks far below many third world or emerging states. Finally, when we examine such measures as the Global Peace Index we see America running 114th behind Rwanda. Yes, you read that correctly, the same Rwanda infamous for genocide.

“Dumbness, to paraphrase the late senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, has been steadily defined downward for several decades, by a combination of heretofore irresistible forces. These include the triumph of video culture over print culture; a disjunction between Americans’ rising level of formal education and their shaky grasp of basic geography, science and history; and the fusion of anti-rationalism with anti-intellectualism.” – Susan Jacoby, author of The Age of American Unreason

“Sieg Heil” – Hail Stupidity

How many remember the newsreel reruns of Adolf Hitler standing before a multitude of Nazis chanting “Sieg Heil” – the minions of evil thrusting their hands forward in unison to perform the Hitler salute that was obligatory in the Nazi Reich. I remember this as I read the comments in every “Putin bashing” article I read. We have returned to those days, rest assured, for every western media broadcast of Putin hate is emblematic. Putin has a cold, and the new Nazis in America wishes him dead or worse. Most of you probably do not read comments, but you do know the western mainstream versions resonated with a tone we’ve become familiar with. Putin, they said, is either on his death bed or he’d been kidnapped by Pussy Riot fans. Putin is this, or Putin is that, but always Putin is jeered, hated, and detested for reasons that are manufactured. Reading the headlines and the comments underneath, this is was what compelled me to study my country’s malignant stupidity. You’d be amazed how many readers of American or British magazines want Putin dead. Meanwhile, Russia eliminates the same people who killed in Paris, London, Brussels, and even the United States. Can you grasp the meaning in all this? Think about Putin smashing ISIL for humanity, and then superimpose this Wikipedia list of atrocities committed by them. If you’ve a conscience and a brain you are asking; “How can this be?”

“Goose pimples rose all over me, my hair stood on end, my eyes filled with tears of love and gratitude for this greatest of all conquerors of human misery and shame, and my breath came in little gasps. If I had not known that the Leader would have scorned such adulation, I might have fallen to my knees in unashamed worship, but instead I drew myself to attention, raised my arm in the eternal salute of the ancient Roman Legions and repeated the holy words, “Heil Hitler!” – George Lincoln Rockwell, founder of the American Nazi Party

I will tell you how this came to be, if Donald Trump was elected by “deplorables” – the liberal Millennials and other world order minions are mental sodomites, even when compared to the most ignorant and bigoted southern redneck. No wonder dead and displaced Syrians matter not. We are a Titanic shipwreck adrift, adrift until we strike a reef and sink. Looking on from clearer eyes, I see now how Karl Marx was a genius in his theories of cultural hegemony, and how unchecked capitalism is wrecking our world. In America, as was the case in Russia about the time of the Czars, the masses depended on working class intellectuals to insulate/defend them from elitist control. So, George Bush’s NCLB dumbing virtually assured there could be no “working class intellectuals.” Meanwhile, those decent citizens who might have called out the ruling class’ pollical pawns, they’ve been bought off with other aspects of this new dominant ideology of “perceived” empowerment. And in this false empowerment we see domestic and foreign policy goals uncovered. The Tillerson/Exxon war we are about to witness, the utter destruction of traditional values, rampant consumerism taken to new heights, and the myth of American exceptionalism which drugs the high functioning chimpanzees – this is the bitter and stark reality of a once great nation. We must see this, lest we be doomed to it.

I leave you with this from the imminent astronomer, cosmologist, astrophysicist, astrobiologist, author, science popularizer, and science communicator, Carl Sagan:

“The dumbing down of American is most evident in the slow decay of substantive content in the enormously influential media, the 30 second sound bites (now down to 10 seconds or less), lowest common denominator programming, credulous presentations on pseudoscience and superstition, but especially a kind of celebration of ignorance.” Carl Sagan

Phil Butler, is a policy investigator and analyst, a political scientist and expert on Eastern Europe, he’s an author of the recent bestseller “Putin’s Praetorians” and other books. He writes exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”
https://journal-neo.org/2018/02/18/the-problem-is-america-the-malignant-cultural-hegemony/

Arrogance: Former CIA chief Woolsey says US meddles in election of other countries ‘for their own good’ (Video) – By Alex Christoforou – The Duran (SOTT)

James Woolsey

© Roger L. Wollenberg/UPI
Former Director of Central Intelligence R. James Woolsey, Jr.

The hubris is amazing.

Former CIA chief James Woolsey was on Fox News to discuss how those devilish Russians meddled in America’s democracy by posting messages on Twitter and Facebook, forgetting about all the CIA coups, false flags, and election meddlings he oversaw when running the CIA.

The hypocrisy was so thick that when Laura Ingraham asked Woolsey if the US ever meddled in elections, the response (and laughter from both of them) was telling…

Comment: The neocons had Woolsey planted near Trump a the beginning of his term, but he didn’t stick. More Woolsey gems:

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Erdogan Won’t Like It: Netherlands to Recognize 1915 Armenian Genocide – By RT

Rally participants wave Armenian and German flags in front of the Reichstag, the seat of the lower house of parliament Bundestag in Berlin, Germany, June 2, 2016, as they protest in favor of the approval of a symbolic resolution by Germany's parliament declaring the 1915 massacre of Armenians by Ottoman forces a genocide

© REUTERS/ Hannibal Hanschke
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On Thursday, the Tweede Kamer, the lower house of the bicameral Netherlands parliament, approved two motions recognizing the atrocity known as the Armenian genocide of 1915.

One of the motions states that Tweede Kamer “recognizes the Armenian genocide,” while the other motion states that the Dutch minister or Dutch Secretary of State will attend an upcoming genocide commemoration in Armenia in April. 

According to ANP, the motions will likely frustrate an already tense relationship between Turkey and the Netherlands particularly as The Hague prohibited Turkish ministers from campaigning in the Netherlands for a previous Ankara referendum that successfully awarded the increasingly autocratic Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, additional executive powers in the country.

Both of motions in the Netherlands were submitted by Christin Union parliamentarian Joel Voordewind. All four coalition parties in the Netherlands are in support of the motions.

“We cannot deny history out of fear of sanctions. Our country houses the capital of international law after all, so we must not be afraid to do the right thing here too,” Dutch politician Joël Voordewind said Friday. 

In 1915, hundreds of thousands of Armenians, including women and children, were murdered by the Ottoman Empire, the precursor nation to modern-day Turkey. According to Ankara, the genocide was not premeditated, as the Turkish government continues to mount claims that Armenians were a danger because they were fighting alongside Russia, an enemy at the time.

As a result, whenever countries, blocs, organizations or prominent global citizens recognize the Armenian genocide, Ankara cries foul.

According to RTL Nieuws, when Germany officially recognized the Armenian genocide, there were what are now considered to be state-sponsored protests in Turkey.

Pope Francis, the current leader of the Catholic church, recently referred to the 1915 Armenian genocide as the first large-scale massacre of the 20th century, The event resulted in a souring of the relationship between Ankara and the Vatican.

Maslenitsa in Moscow – By Kirill Zykov / Moskva News Agency- (The Moscow Times)

Kirill Zykov / Moskva News Agency

Do you still need convincing that Russian blini are the world’s foremost form of pancake? You will have ample opportunity to sample some fantastic flapjacks during a holiday that honors these sweet and savory snacks. Moscow, not a city to let holidays pass uncelebrated, is not going to let this Maslenitsa go by without ensuring you’ve had at least a few dozen.

Maslenitsa is the last week before the strict Orthodox Lent begins, when everyone goes a bit crazy for the cream, milk, eggs, cheese and butter they won’t see for 40 days. As part of “Moscow Seasons,” the city is organizing spaces all over the city where you can celebrate. Here is a list of where you’ll want to be this Maslenitsa.

Costume parades on Novy Arbat
Masquerade on Moscow’s grand canal

Maslenitsa is, like its cousins Carnival and Mardi Gras, a holiday about being outside and going a little bit wild, and it would not be complete without a costume parade. On Novy Arbat, for ten straight days, you’ll get to see people reveling not just in traditional Russian costumes, but also in Venetian, Hungarian, Dutch, and German garb.

13 Ulitsa Novy Arbat. Metro Arbatskaya. Feb. 13-18, 6-7 p.m.

Kirill Zykov / Moskva News Agency
The Tsar’s Maslenitsa
Take part in folk traditions

Enjoy Maslenitsa like your babushka’s babushka with traditional dancing and folk music. Step up to try your hand peasant games. Chow down on blini. Part immersive show and part just plain fun, Manege Square is the place to be for a full Maslenitsa experience.

Manege Square. Metro Okhotny Ryad. Feb. 13-18, 11 a.m.-8 p.m.

Blini from a Blacksmith
Forge your own souvenir blin

Maslenitsa can make a blini fan out of even the most haughty gourmand, and at the end of this week, you’ll want to have something permanent to remind you of your everlasting love for these flat treats. So put on safety goggles and an apron, and forge your own customized blin with a real blacksmith. And, yes, you can keep it.

Manege Square, Ploshchad Revolyutsii, Tverskoy Bulvar (between Yesenin and Timiryazev monuments), 41 Profsoyuznaya ulitsa 
Feb. 13-18, 11 a.m.-8 p.m.

Kirill Zykov / Moskva News Agency
Maslenitsa at Kolomenskoye
Celebrate at one of Moscow’s most famous parks

If celebrating a folk holiday in the city center seems a bit artificial to you, why not make your way out to one of Moscow’s most beautiful and historic parks? Here you will find dancing, singing, games and also one tradition that you won’t be able to find in Moscow’s more populated areas. To mark the end of Maslenitsa, celebrate as giant effigy is burnt.

Kolomenskoye. Metro Kolomenskoye. Feb. 18, 12 — 5 p.m.

Golden Mask on Maslenitsa
Performances from Russia’s republics

National theaters from the Russian republics of Chuvashia, Mari El, and Yakutia will be performing on three stages around the city. You will have the chance to see dance, concerts, opera, and puppet theater. One event not to miss is a performance of Olonkho, a UNESCO recognized traditional Yakut form of epic poetry, which is part recited, part sung.

2 Kamergersky Pereulok, Ploshchad Revolyutsii, 41 Profsoyuznaya Ulitsa 
Feb 13-18, 3 — 6 p.m.

For more detailed information in Russian, see http://www.mos.ru/city/festivals/seasons/maslenitsa/

Bridges Across Russia Through Instagram – By THE MOSCOW TIMES

With its countless rivers and tributaries, Russia has no shortage of stunning bridges. We asked you to send us your favorite photos of bridges and received submissions from Moscow to Novosibirsk.

Next week, we’ll publish your best shots of Maslenitsa celebrations around Russia. Bonfires, scarecrows, pancakes — show us what you’re up to before Lent begins and vegetarian menus make their way to your table. 

You can submit your picture on Instagram by tagging us @themoscowtimes or using #themoscowtimes hashtag. 

Or check out our favorite views of statues in Russia from last week here.

Can Israel digest Putin’s grand bargain? – By Alastair Crooke Strategic Culture Foundation (SOTT)

Netanyahu and Putin

“Israel is climbing up a high horse,” Alex Fishman (the veteran Israeli Defence Correspondent) wrote in the Hebrew daily, Yedioth Ahronoth, last month, “and is approaching with giant steps a ‘war of choice’: Without mincing words, it’s an initiated war in Lebanon.” In Fishman’s article, he notes: “Classical deterrence is when you threaten an enemy not to harm you in your territory, but here, Israel demands that the enemy refrain from doing something in its own territory, otherwise Israel will harm it. From a historical perspective and from the perspective of international legitimacy, the chances of this threat being accepted as valid, leading to the cessation of enemy activities in its own territory, are slim.”

Ben Caspit also wrote about a fair prospect of a “war of choice,” whilst a Haaretz editorial – explains Professor Idan Landau in an Israeli news blog – noted: “The Israeli government therefore owes Israeli citizens a precise, pertinent and persuasive explanation as to why a missile factory in Lebanon has changed the strategic balance to the extent that it requires going to war. It must present assessments to the Israeli public as to the expected number of casualties, damage to civilian infrastructure and the economic cost of going to war, as compared with the danger that construction of the missile factory constitutes.”

We live dangerous times in the Middle East today – both in the immediate present, and in the mid-term, too.

Last week saw the first ‘game changer’ that almost plunged the region into war: the downing of one of Israel’s most sophisticated aircraft – an F16i. But as Amos Harel notes, on this occasion: “Russian President Vladimir Putin put an end to the confrontation between Israel and Iran in Syria – and both sides accepted his decision … On Saturday afternoon, after the second wave of bombardments … senior Israeli officials were still taking a militant line, and it seemed as if Jerusalem was considering further military action. Discussion of that ended not long after a phone call between Putin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu” (emphasis added).

And that last statement represented the second ‘game changer’: In ‘good old days’, as Martin Indyk called it, it would have been to the US that Israel reflexively would have turned, but not this time. Israel asked President Putin to mediate. It seems that Israel believes that Mr Putin is now the ‘indispensable power’. And in terms of airspace in the north, he is. As Ronen Bergman wrote in the New York Times: “Israel will no longer be able to act in Syria without limitations”; and secondly, “if anyone was not yet aware of it, Russia is the dominant power in the region”.

So, what is all this about? Well for a start, it is not about a drone which may (or may not) have trespassed into what Israel calls Israel, or what Syria sees as ‘occupied Golan’. Let us ignore all that: or, think of it as ‘the butterfly wing effect’ in chaos theory, whose tiny wing changes ‘the world’, if you prefer. Ultimately however, these various warnings of impending war, precipitated out from the Syrian State’s success in defeating the jihadi insurgency mounted against it. This outcome has changed the regional balance of power – and we are witnessing states reacting to that strategic defeat.

Israel, having backed the losing side, wants to limit its losses. It fears the changes taking place across the northern tier of the region: Prime Minister Netanyahu has several times sought guarantees from President Putin that Iran and Hizbullah should not be allowed to gain any strategic advantage from Syria’s victory that might be to Israel’s disadvantage. But Putin, it seems clear, gave no guarantees. He told Netanyahu that whilst he recognized, and acknowledged Israel’s security interests, Russia had its interests, too – and also underlined that Iran was a “strategic partner” of Russia.

In practice, there is no effective Iranian or Hizbullah presence in any proximate vicinity to Israel (and indeed both Iran and Hizbullah have substantially pared their forces in Syria as a whole). But, it seems that Netanyahu wanted more: And to put leverage on Russia to guarantee a future Syria, free from any ‘Shi’a presence, Israel has been bombing Syria on almost a weekly basis, and issuing a series of war-like threats against Lebanon (on the pretext that Iran was constructing ‘sophisticated missile’ factories there), saying, in effect to President Putin, that if you do not give ironclad guarantees vis-à-vis a Syria free of Iran and Hizbullah, we will disrupt both countries.

Well, what happened is that Israel lost an F16: unexpectedly shot down by the Syrian air defenses. The message is this: ‘Stability in Syria and Lebanon is a Russian interest. Whilst, we recognize Israel’s security interests, don’t mess with ours. If you want a war with Iran that is your business, and Russia will not be involved; but do not forget that Iran is, and remains our strategic partner’.

This is Putin’s Grand Bargain: Russia will assume a certain defined responsibility for Israel’s security, but not if Israel undertakes wars of choice against Iran and Hizbullah, or if it deliberately disrupts stability in the North (including Iraq). And no more gratuitous bombing raids in the north, intended to disrupt stability. But if Israel wants a war with Iran, then Russia will stand aloof.

Israel has now had a taste of President Putin’s ‘stick’: Your air superiority in the North has just been punctured by the Syrian air defenses. You, Israel, will lose it completely were our Russian S400s air defenses to be enabled: ‘Think it over’.

In case of doubt, consider this statement in 2017, by the Chief of Staff of the Russian Aerospace Forces, Major-General Sergey Meshcheryakov. He said: “Today, a unified, integrated air defense system has been set up in Syria. We have ensured the information and technical interlinkage of the Russian and Syrian air reconnaissance systems. All information on the situation in the air comes from Syrian radar stations to the control points of the Russian force grouping”.

Two things flow from this: First, that Russia knew exactly what was going on when the Israeli F16 met with a barrage of Syrian air defense missiles. As Alex Fishman, doyen of Israeli defense correspondents, noted (in Hebrew) Yediot Ahoronot on 11 February: “One of the [Israeli] planes was hit by the two barrages of 27 Syrian surface-to-air missiles… which is a huge achievement for the Syrian army, and embarrassing for the IAF, since the electronic warfare systems that envelope the plane were supposed to have provided protection from a barrage of missiles… The IAF is going to have to conduct an in-depth technical-intelligence inquiry to determine: are the Syrians in possession of systems that are capable of bypassing the Israeli warning and jamming systems? Have the Syrians developed a new technique that the IAF is unaware of? It was reported that the pilots did not radio in any alert that an enemy missile had locked onto their plane. In principle, they were supposed to report that. They might have been preoccupied. But there is also the more severe possibility that they were unaware of the missile that had locked onto them – which leads to the question of why they didn’t know, and only realized the severity of the damage after they had been hit and were forced to bail out.”

And the second: that subsequent Israeli claims that Syria was then punished by Israel through the destruction of 50% of her air defense system should be taken with a big pinch of salt. Recall what Meshcheryakov said: It was a fully integrated, unified Russian-Syrian system, which is to say it had a Russian flag flying over it. (And this initial Israeli claim has now been back-peddled by the IDF spokesman; see here).

Finally, Putin, in the wake of the F16 downing, told Israel to stop destabilizing Syria. He said nothing about Syria’s drone patrolling the southern border (a regular Syrian practice for monitoring insurgent groups in the south).

The message is clear: Israel gets Russia’s limited security guarantees, but loses its freedom of action. Without air domination (which Russia already has seized), the assumed superiority over its neighboring Arab states – which Israel long since has folded into its collective psyche – will see Israel’s wings clipped.

Can such a bargain be digested culturally in Israel? We must wait to see whether Israel’s leaders accept that they no longer enjoy air superiority over Lebanon or Syria; or whether, as the Israeli commentators warn in our introductory quotes, the Israeli political leadership will opt for a ‘war of choice’, in an attempt to pre-empt Israel’s final loss of its domination of the skies. There is, of course, a further option of running to Washington, in order to try to co-opt America into adopting the eviction of Iran from Syria – but our guess is that Putin has already quietly squared Trump with his plan beforehand. Who knows?

And would then a preventive war to try to recuperate Israeli air superiority be feasible or realistic from the perspective of the Israeli Defense Forces? It’s a moot point. A third of Israelis are culturally, and ethnically, Russian, and many admire President Putin. Also, could Israel count, in such circumstances, on Russia not using its own highly sophisticated S400 air-defense missiles, stationed in Syria, in order to protect Russian servicemen stationed across Syria?

And the Israeli-Syrian-Lebanese tensions, in themselves, do not bring an end to the present clutch of risks associated with Syria. On the same weekend, Turkey lost a helicopter and its two crew, brought down by Kurdish forces in Afrin. Sentiment in Turkey against the YPG and PKK is heating up; nationalism and New Ottomanism is spiking; and America is being angrily portrayed as Turkey’s “strategic enemy“. President Erdogan asserts forcefully that Turkish forces will clear all the YPG/PKK forces from Afrin to the Euphrates, but an American general says that American troops will not budge from blocking Erdogan’s route, midway – at Manbij. Who will blink first? And, can this escalation continue without a major rupture to Turkish-US relations? (Erdogan has already noted that America’s defense budget for 2019 includes an allocation of $550 million for the YPG. What exactly does America mean by that provision?).

Also, can a US military leadership, concerned to play-out a re-make of the Vietnam war – but with America winning this time (to show that the Vietnam outcome was a wholly unmerited defeat for the US forces) – accept to pull back from its aggressively imposed occupation of Syria, east of the Euphrates, and thus lose further credibility? Particularly when restoring US military credibility and leverage is the very mantra of the White House generals (and Trump)? Or, will the pursuit of US military ‘credibility’ degenerate into a game of ‘chicken’, mounted by US forces versus the Syrian Armed Forces – or even with Russia itself, which views the US occupation in Syria as inherently disturbing to the regional stability which Russia is trying to establish.

The ‘big picture’ competition between states for the future of Syria (and the region) – is open and visible. But who lay behind these other provocations, which could equally have led to escalation, and quite easily slipped the region towards conflict? Who provided the man portable surface-to-air missile that brought down the Russian SU25 fighter – and which ended, with the pilot, surrounded by jihadists, courageously preferring to kill himself with his own grenade, rather than be taken alive? Who ‘facilitated’ the insurgent group which fired the manpad? Who armed the Afrin Kurds with sophisticated anti-tank weapons (that have destroyed some twenty Turkish tanks)? Who provided the millions of dollars to engineer the tunnels and bunkers built by the Afrin Kurds, and who paid for the kitting out of its armed force?

And who was behind the swarm of drones, with explosives attached, sent to attack the main Russian airbase at Khmeimim? The drones were made to look outwardly like some simple home-made affair, which an insurgent force might cobble together, but since Russian electronic measures managed to take control and land six of them, the Russians were able to see that, internally, they were quite different: They contained sophisticated electronic counter-measures and GPS guidance systems within. In short, the rustic external was camouflage to its true sophistication, which likely represented the handiwork of a state agency. Who? Why? Was someone trying to set Russia and Turkey at each other’s throats?

We do not know. But it is plain enough that Syria is the crucible to powerful destructive forces which might advertently, or inadvertently, ignite Syria – and – potentially, the Middle East. And as the Israeli defense correspondent, Amos Harel, wrote, we have already this last weekend, “come a hair’s breadth from a slide into war”.

Alastair Crooke: Former British diplomat, founder and director of the Beirut-based Conflicts Forum.

Syrian War for Dummies – Three Versions – By Chris Kanthan (Sott.net)

Weapons flow to Syria

Although the Syrian war is almost over, many Americans still don’t understand what transpired over the last seven years, because the mainstream narrative has been an embarrassing mix of propaganda, half-truths and lies. Three versions of the conflict are presented here and the reader can choose the one that makes the most sense to them.

Disney Version

Once upon a time, a country called Syria was ruled by a ruthless dictator named Bashar Al-Assad. He was a cruel man who gassed his own people. His actions caused a civil war in Syria. America and Europe tried their best to stop the devastating civil war, and even generously accepted many Syrian refugees. Eventually America went to Syria, defeated ISIS, and is now trying to restore stability.

This above version is quite popular among many Americans and Europeans and the Western mainstream media.

High School Version

Oppressed by Assad’s brutal regime, the Syrian people longed for freedom and democracy. One day, people started protesting in a small city. In response, Assad killed many peaceful protesters. However, this backfired and the entire country was engulfed in protests. Soon a civil war broke out, which led to millions of refugees fleeing Syria.

America was appalled and, for humanitarian reasons, decided to help the Syrians who were fighting Assad. When Assad gassed his own people, America intervened and removed all his chemical weapons. Unfortunately, Assad managed to gas innocent civilians again after a few years. Then, America went to Syria, defeated ISIS, and is now trying to restore stability.

The above version is presented in most of the global mainstream media.

College Version

Simply put, the Syrian “civil war” is an illegal, proxy war waged against Syria. In defiance of international laws, many countries have been sending weapons and terrorist mercenaries into Syria for the last seven years (if you want to gain a deeper understanding of who wants to topple Assad and why, please read my article: “Chaos in Syria: Part 1 – Three Motives and Seven Countries“).

2011

In early 2011, US/UK special forces used Jordan’s military base to organize protests against Assad in a border town called Daraa. With Muslim Brotherhood’s organizational skills and Saudi Arabia’s deep pockets, violent protests spread thru Syria. Soon, an organized and armed militia known as Free Syrian Army (FSA) was created by the outsiders.

After the fall of Gaddafi in late 2011, the US State Department and US intelligence agencies organized the shipment of tons of deadly weapons such as Stinger missiles and Sarin gas from destroyed Libya to Syria, via Turkey. Even with all this help, the American proxy force known as the FSA couldn’t win the war. At this point, NATO and Neocons wanted to bomb Syria, but Russia and China vetoed the motion in the UN, so the imperial war by deception moved on to the next phase.

2012

In early 2012, someone dialed Al Qaeda (referred to as AQ or AQI in government documents). Zawahiri, AQ’s top leader, called for help and experienced Islamic terrorists from all over the world rushed into Syria by way of Saudi Arabia’s international jihadist recruitment agency. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, received an email from her chief adviser, saying that “Al Qaeda is on our side” .

Al Qaeda rebranded itself as Al Nusra, and fearsome weapons such as grenade launchers, mortars, tanks and anti-tank missiles started pouring into Syria via Turkey and Jordan.

Syria weapons

The CIA spent $100,000 to train each rebel. Billions of US taxpayers dollars were wasted once again on supporting the same terrorist groups that attacked the USA on 911 .

Watching the western media, the average person had no idea that we were supporting Al Qaeda or how heavily armed these “rebels” were.

Western media and politicians also stuck to their talking points and referred to all these fighters as “moderate rebels.” However, many of them are ruthless Islamists who use suicide bombers, behead even children, and commit unspeakable atrocities. They are also religious fanatics who seek out and kill Christians and Shiites. I describe this in detail in my book, Deconstructing the Syrian War.

A Pentagon memo warned against this reckless policy and precisely predicted the rise of groups such as ISIS. Obviously the memo was ignored (or even happily accepted) by the White House and other officials.

2012 was also the year when the refugee crisis became a serious international problem. By the end of the year, almost 200,000 people had fled Syria. In the coming years, it would swell to five million.

2013

When FSA and AQ failed to oust Assad, the powers-to-be started recruiting Sunni extremists in Iraq. In April 2013, ISIS was officially created. In the next year, these barbaric mercenaries would capture much of eastern Syria.

Syria jihadists

This was also the year when Obama’s red-line was crossed – the use of chemical weapons by Assad. UN experts who went to the site soon found that it was actually the rebels who had likely used the chemical weapons. The report was quickly drowned by the western propaganda machine.

2014 – 2016

The next two years were just repetitions of the daily brutality of war, with ISIS making huge gains in the east. Whenever the rebels started to lose, either more weapons would flow in, or Israel would fly into Syria and bomb the Syrian army.

In late 2015, the Syrian government sought Russia’s help. Within a month, the Russian air force weakened ISIS by destroying most of the oil tankers that ISIS was using to transport oil to Turkey. By the end of 2016, the Syrian government had the upper hand – Aleppo was liberated from Al Qaeda, and ISIS was running out of cash and morale.

Assad visits Western countries

2017

2017 was turning out to be a great year for Assad. By March, ISIS had lost over three hundred towns to the Syrian army.

Al Qaeda was facing a similar demise, losing one big city after another.

Furthermore, Trump had stopped arming the rebels in February. In late March, Trump and Tillerson dropped the slogan “Assad must go”.

Finally, Assad was getting ready for a EU-UN peace conference on April 4-5.

This was the moment – when events had turned in favor of the Syrian government – that the alleged chemical attack occurred in an area controlled by the rebels. Plus it happened on the very day that the peace conference began.

Without any investigation, within an hour after the pictures and videos came out, Western warmongers declared that Assad was responsible. No independent doctors or experts were sent to the site. Anyone who took the time to critically analyze the situation could see that the chemical attack was was either a hoax or a false flag attack.

2018

After Russia had effectively defeated ISIS, the US didn’t just leave Syria, since the real goal is to Balkanize Syria and prepare for a war against Iran. Thus the globalists are now trying to use Kurds as a proxy tool in this effort. It’s likely that the US will have military bases in Syria for a long time. As long as the US government can keep borrowing money, such wild adventures will continue.

In their quest for hegemonic geopolitical goals, the elites are sowing more chaos around the world and irreparably damaging the western moral compass. The global mafia’s rule seems to be this: if you play by our rules, we will be nice to you. If you don’t…

Those are the three versions of the Syrian civil war. Which one will Americans choose to believe?

P.S. Here are some links to read if you would like to gain a Ph.D. version of the Syrian conflict:

a. 1956: CIA plot to overthrow the Syrian government

b. 1983: CIA document on plans to obliterate Syria to enable an oil pipeline

c. 1986: CIA document on how to use Muslim Brotherhood to fuel a sectarian (Sunni v. Shiite) civil war in Syria

d. 2001: Wesley Clark told that USA will take out 7 countries in 5 years (Libya, Syria etc.)

e. 2005: CNN Interview. Christiane Amanpour tells Assad that the western governments are plotting a regime change in Syria

f. 2006: State Dept cable: Detailed discussion of various strategies to enable regime change in Syria

g. 2009: State Dept Email: Saudi Arabia is worried that a Shiite crescent is turning into a full moon (referring to a possible Iran-Iraq-Syria-Lebanon coalition)

h. 2009: State Dept Cable: Saudi Arabia is the #1 source of funding of terrorism worldwide

i. 2012 State Dept Email: Conquest of Syria means a weakened Iran and this is important for Israel

j. 2012: State Dept Email: Use Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey to arm/train rebels

k. 2014: Hillary Clinton admits in an email that Saudi Arabia and Qatar fund ISIS

l. 2015: Joe Biden says Saudi Arabia and Qatar arming/funding Al Qaeda in Syria

m. 2016: John Kerry in a leaked audio recording explains how the US trained/armed the opposition and was hoping to use ISIS to force Assad into negotiation

n. Israel’s Mossad chief admits helping Al Qaeda and says that it’s because Al Qaeda never attacks Israel

Chris Kanthan

Chris Kanthan is the author of a new book, Deconstructing the Syrian war. Chris lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, has traveled to 35 countries, and writes about world affairs, politics, economy and health. His other book is Deconstructing Monsanto.. Follow him on Twitter: @GMOChannel

Damascus may be about to deploy Syrian Army in Afrin – To repel ‘Turkish invasion’, or ‘Kurdish uprising’? – By RT (SOTT)

Kurds dance during a protest

© Rodi Said / Reuters
Kurds dance during a protest against the Turkish attacks on Afrin in Qamishli, Syria January 30, 2018

The Syrian government reportedly rejected a request by the Kurdish self-government in Afrin to deploy troops to the area against an ongoing Turkish military operation, after the Kurds refused to lay down their weapons.

The proposed deal between Syrian authorities and Kurdish militias, who asked Damascus for military support against the Turkish invasion, derailed after Kurdish forces refused to comply with a precondition set by Damascus, an RT Arabic correspondent in Syria reported, citing a military source.

After the People’s Protection Units (YPG) refused a request to hand over arms to the Syrian state, the negotiations were cut short before any deal could be reached, the source said.

Lebanese Al-Masdar News also stated that “according to reports from Aleppo,” the deal, which could potentially become a tipping point in the conflict, was called off because the Kurds refused to part with weapons they use to fend off the Turkish offensive.

Conflicting media reports, however, allege that the deal was indeed secured, but they lack any details on the conditions of the deployment.

Arab TV network Al Mayadeen reported on Thursday that it had confirmed with “exclusive field sources” that the Syrian army had agreed to move into Afrin to repel the Turkish offensive.

A source cited by Sputnik also appeared to confirm the report, saying that the Syrian troops are going to be sent to the Syrian-Turkish border “in the next few days.”

Damascus has yet to comment on the reports. On Wednesday, Syria’s Deputy Foreign Minister Fayssal Mikdad called on the Kurds and Arabs in the area of the Turkish offensive to pool their forces in the face of Turkish aggression, calling Afrin “an integral part of the Syrian Arab Republic.”

“We affirm that the Syrian Arab Army defends every inch of the Syrian territory and Syria will return as unified as it has been throughout history,” Mikdad said, as cited by SANA. However, he stopped short of elaborating if the Syrian armed forces would move to counter the offensive.

Rumors that Damascus could step into the conflict were fueled by YPG commander Sipan Hamo, who said on Monday that the Kurdish militias “don’t have a problem with the entry of the Syrian army to defend Afrin and its border in the face of the Turkish occupation.”

In January, the self-administration in the Kurdish-held enclave in northern Syria had urged Damascus to dispatch its own forces to “protect its borders with Turkey from attacks of the Turkish occupier.” The self-administration noted Turkey’s Operation Olive Branch infringes on Syria’s sovereignty and reiterated the Kurds’ commitment to the country’s territorial integrity.

The Turkish operation in Afrin, which has been ongoing since January 20, has strained relations between Ankara and its major NATO ally, the US. Turkey demands that Washington withdraw its support of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the backbone of which is formed by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG). The Turkish government believes YPG to be an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), outlawed in Turkey as a terrorist organization.

The row has deepened over the US decision to sponsor the creation of a 30,000-strong security border force in Syria, half of which would be recruited from SDF. Turkey added to the tension by announcing plans to extend its military offensive to Manbij, which is used by the US military to support Kurdish operations against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS, ISIL).

The US military said it had no plans to leave Manbij, warning the Turkish forces of a “sharp response.” In his rebuke, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that “those who say they will give a sharp response if hit, have clearly never got the Ottoman slap in their lives.”

“They tell us, ‘Don’t come to Manbij.’ We will come to Manbij to hand over these territories to their rightful owners,” Erdogan said in February.

Comment: The Kurdish militias and the Syrian government have reached an agreement on the deployment of the Syrian Armed Forces in Syria’s district of Afrin, Lebanese media reported on Thursday.

The decision was made in order to protect the district and counter the attacks of Turkey or its allies in Afrin, Mayadeen broadcaster reported, citing a source with a knowledge of the situation.

A source familiar with the situation told Sputnik on Thursday that the Syrian Armed Forces would enter the territory near the border with Turkey in the district of Afrin in the next few days.

“The agreement has been reached on the deployment of the Syrian Armed Forces at the Syrian-Turkish border in Afrin in the north of Aleppo in the next few days. The agreement was reached between the Syrian government and the Kurds,” the source said.

See also: Desperate Fuzzy Alliance: Damascus to deploy forces in Afrin – Reports

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