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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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Gaza children killed by Israeli snipers, air attack – By Maureen Clare Murphy – Rights and Accountability – ELECTRONIC INTIFADA

Men and boys stand or run in front of the Gaza boundary fence with an Israeli military installation on a sand hill behind it
Palestinian protesters gather during confrontations with Israeli occupation forces east of Gaza City on 21 September.

Dawoud Abo Alkas APA images

Israeli forces killed a Palestinian man during protests along the eastern boundary of the occupied Gaza Strip on Friday.

The slain protester, killed east of Gaza City, was identified by Gaza’s health ministry as Karim Muhammad Kullab, 25.

The ministry reported 300 injuries during Friday’s protests, 100 of them requiring hospital treatment. More than 50 people were injured by live fire, four of them seriously and one critically.

One Israeli soldier was reportedly lightly wounded by shrapnel.

Kullab is the sixth Palestinian in Gaza killed by Israeli forces this week.

On Wednesday, Israeli forces shot 15-year-old Muamin Abu Iyada during protests east of Rafah on Wednesday night, killing him.

Two others were shot and killed during protests on Tuesday and two more killed in an airstrike on Monday.

According to Al Mezan, a human rights group based in Gaza, Israeli warplanes launched two missiles at a group of protesters late Monday night when they approached the boundary fence east of Khan Younis in southern Gaza.

The bodies of Naji Abu Assi, 16, and Alaa Abu Assi, 19, were recovered by Palestinian medics hours later. “Both had shrapnel injuries on various parts of their bodies and one of them was torn to pieces,” Al Mezan stated.

Around 140 Palestinians have been killed during demonstrations along Gaza’s eastern boundary since the launch of the Great March of Return series of protests on 30 March.

Those killed during the protests have included nearly 30 children, as well as two journalists and three paramedics, and three persons with disabilities, according to Al Mezan.

Some 5,500 have been injured by live fire during the protests, including 900 children.

Amnesty International has said it has not found any evidence of protesters posing a threat to the lives of soldiers behind the fence that would justify the use of deadly force.

The protests, which have been held every Friday since their launch, have increased in frequency in recent days. Protests have been held on weekdays “and include naval marches and night sit-ins near the separation fence – activities which do not threaten the life or safety of Israeli soldiers,” Al Mezan stated.

The protests are calling for an end to Israel’s blockade on Gaza, now in its 11th year, and in support of the right of refugees to return to their original lands and property on the other side of the Gaza boundary fence.

Two-thirds of Gaza’s population of two million are refugees.

“We will continue”

“We will continue our peaceful marches to fulfill our demands and liberate our lands,” one protester says in this video:

The young man urges leaders in the Arab world, whom he accuses of complicity with Israel, to stand with the Palestinian people in Gaza resisting the siege.

Yahya Sinwar, the leader of the Hamas movement in Gaza, said on Friday the ongoing protests show the world “how the Palestinian people on their land are a model of giving, loyalty, sacrifice and the service of humanity.”

Anticipating a rise in the number of protesters, the Israeli military deployed additional occupation forces along the Gaza boundary ahead of Friday’s demonstrations.

Occupation forces are said to be operating under orders to use live fire against Palestinians launching incendiary kites and balloons, which have landed in southern Israel in recent days.

Collective punishment threat

The head of COGAT, the bureaucratic apparatus of Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, said that collective punishment measures would be used against the general population in Gaza.

Apparently referring to naval protests held earlier this week, Kamil Abu Rukun stated that “The Hamas terror organization is using fishermen and forcing them to participate in riots.”

Abu Rukun said that the Israeli military would “use an iron fist” against such “rioters” and would reduce the permitted fishing area from 6 to 3 nautical miles off the Gaza coast.

People stand on the beach with boats with Palestinian flags on the water in the background
Palestinian protesters sail boats during a demonstration against the Israeli blockade on Gaza along the maritime boundary with Israel near Kibbutz Zikim, north of Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip, on 17 September.

Ashraf Amra APA images

Under the 1993 Oslo accords signed by Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization, Gaza’s fishing zone was supposed to extend 20 nautical miles out from shore. But Israel has never allowed this and the furthest Gaza’s fishers have been able to sail has been 12 nautical miles out.

Over the past decade, Israel has reduced the permitted fishing area to 6 nautical miles, and sometimes less, and has frequently fired on fishing boats.

Israel has killed eight fishers since 2000, according to Al Mezan.

Putin Keeps Cool and Averts WWIII as Israeli-French Gamble in Syria Backfires Spectacularly – By ROBERT BRIDGE – STRATEGIC CULTURE FOUNDATION

Putin Keeps Cool and Averts WWIII as Israeli-French Gamble in Syria Backfires Spectacularly

By initiating an attack on the Syrian province of Latakia, home to the Russia-operated Khmeimim Air Base, Israel, France and the United States certainly understood they were flirting with disaster. Yet they went ahead with the operation anyways.

On the pretext that Iran was preparing to deliver a shipment of weapon production systems to Hezbollah in Lebanon, Israeli F-16s, backed by French missile launches in the Mediterranean, destroyed what is alleged to have been a Syrian Army ammunition depot.

What happened next is already well established: a Russian Il-20 reconnaissance aircraft, which the Israeli fighter jets had reportedly used for cover, was shot down by an S-200 surface-to-air missile system operated by the Syrian Army. Fifteen Russian servicemen perished in the incident, which could have been avoided had Israel provided more than just one-minute warning before the attack. As a result, chaos ensued.

Whether or not there is any truth to the claim that Iran was preparing to deliver weapon-making systems to Hezbollah in Lebanon is practically a moot point based on flawed logic. Conducting an attack against an ammunition depot in Syria – in the vicinity of Russia’s Khmeimim Air Base – to protect Israel doesn’t make much sense when the consequence of such “protective measures” could have been a conflagration on the scale of World War III. That would have been an unacceptable price to achieve such a limited objective, which could have been better accomplished with the assistance of Russia, as opposed to NATO-member France, for example. In any case, there is a so-called “de-confliction system” in place between Israel and Russia designed to prevent exactly this sort of episode from occurring.

And then there is the matter of the timing of the French-Israeli incursion.

Just hours before Israeli jets pounded the suspect Syrian ammunition storehouse, Putin and Turkish President Recep Erdogan were in Sochi hammering out the details on a plan to reduce civilian casualties as Russian and Syrian forces plan to retake Idlib province, the last remaining terrorist stronghold in the country. The plan envisioned the creation of a demilitarized buffer zone between government and rebel forces, with observatory units to enforce the agreement. In other words, it is designed to prevent exactly what Western observers have been fretting about, and that is unnecessary ‘collateral damage.’

So what do France and Israel do after a relative peace is declared, and an effective measure for reducing casualties? The cynically attack Syria, thus exposing those same Syrian civilians to the dangers of military conflict that Western capitals proclaim to be worried about.

Israel moves to ‘damage control’

Although Israel has taken the rare move of acknowledging its involvement in the Syrian attack, even expressing “sorrow” for the loss of Russian life, it insists that Damascus should be held responsible for the tragedy. That is a highly debatable argument.

By virtue of the fact that the French and Israeli forces were teaming up to attack the territory of a sovereign nation, thus forcing Syria to respond in self-defense, it is rather obvious where ultimate blame for the downed Russian plane lies.

“The blame for the downing of the Russian plane and the deaths of its crew members lies squarely on the Israeli side,” Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said. “The actions of the Israeli military were not in keeping with the spirit of the Russian-Israeli partnership, so we reserve the right to respond.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin, meanwhile, took admirable efforts to prevent the blame game from reaching the boiling point, telling reporters that the downing of the Russian aircraft was the result of “a chain of tragic circumstances, because the Israeli plane didn’t shoot down our jet.”

Nevertheless, following this extremely tempered and reserved remark, Putin vowed that Russia would take extra precautions to protect its troops in Syria, saying these will be “the steps that everyone will notice.”

Now there is much consternation in Israel that the IDF will soon find its freedom to conduct operations against targets in Syria greatly impaired. That’s because Russia, having just suffered a ‘friendly-fire’ incident from its own antiquated S-200 system, may now be more open to the idea of providing Syria with the more advanced S-300 air-defense system.

Earlier this year, Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reached an agreement that prevented those advanced defensive weapons from being employed in the Syrian theater. That deal is now in serious jeopardy. In addition to other defensive measures, Russia could effectively create the conditions for a veritable no-fly zone across Western Syria in that it would simply become too risky for foreign aircraft to venture into the zone.

The entire situation, which certainly did not go off as planned, has forced Israel into damage control as they attempt to prevent their Russian counterparts from effectively shutting down Syria’s western border.

On Thursday, Israeli Major-General Amikam Norkin and Brigadier General Erez Maisel, as well as officers of the Intelligence and Operations directorates of the Israeli air force will pay an official visit to Moscow where they are expected to repeat their concerns of “continuous Iranian attempts to transfer strategic weapons to the Hezbollah terror organization and to establish an Iranian military presence in Syria.”

Moscow will certainly be asking their Israeli partners if it is justifiable to subject Russian servicemen to unacceptable levels of danger, up to and including death, in order to defend Israeli interests. It remains to be seen if the two sides can find, through the fog of war, an honest method for bringing an end to the Syria conflict, which would go far at relieving Israel’s concerns of Iranian influence in the region.

Russia Brings Turkey to the Right Side of History – Terrorists and Israel React Badly to Sochi Agreement on Idlib – ByAndrés Perezalonso – Sott.net

Putin erdogan netanyahu

© Fort Russ News

With Turkey’s military presence in northern Syria and its support of militant groups in Idlib, it was to be expected that the Syrian Army offensive in the region would be postponed until a compromise was reached between Erdogan and Assad’s allies, as I explained earlier. Russian president Vladimir Putin held talks with his Turkish counterpart Erdogan, for the third time in less than a month, in Sochi on September 17th. They agreed to establish a demilitarized zone in Idlib; later, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu confirmed to journalists there would not be a large military operation in the province.

According to Russian diplomatic sources who spoke with Al-Watan newspaper, the Russian-Turkish agreement will be implemented in three stages:

  1. The first stage will go into effect by mid October to create a 15 to 20 km weapons-free zone along the contact line between militant groups and government forces. All radical groups, including ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra/Al Qaeda will have to leave this zone, which will be patrolled jointly by Russian and Turkish military units.
  2. In the second stage the heavy weapons will be collected from the region until November 10 and the militants will leave civilian areas.
  3. In the third stage, lasting to the end of this year, state institutions will resume activities in Idlib.

Notice that for the completion of all three stages, the cooperation of militant groups is necessary. This is the point that may result in the partial or complete collapse of the demilitarization efforts – but that is not necessarily a failure.

South Front reports that pro-militant sources claim that Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (the coalition affiliated with Jabhat al-Nusra, Al Qaeda in Syria) and some other groups, including the Islamic Turkistan Party (composed of die-hard Uyghur Muslims from China) have rejected the agreement. (It was originally reported that Jaish al-Izza, a Free Syria Army group, had also rejected it, but now that appears to be incorrect). Furthermore, the Russian Defense Ministry’s Center for Syrian Reconciliation warned after the Putin-Erdogan meeting that the White Helmets and members of Al-Nusra were still preparing a false-flag chemical attack to blame the Assad government. This is not surprising; after all, Syria is dealing with jihadi factions – literally terrorists – not with a mix of “moderate rebels” and a few bad apples as the Western narrative insists. By definition, terrorists are uncooperative to say the least, especially when asked to give up their weapons and let the state do its job.

Uyghur jihadis

© Radio Alwan
Uyghur jihadis: some shy, some not

If the information on the reaction of the terrorist groups is correct, the Turkey-sponsored and FSA-affiliated Jabhat al-Wataniya al-Tahrir (aka the National Front for Liberation) and Jaish al-Izza would be the only parties potentially willing to go along with the plan. In fact, Putin and Erdogan never expected or intended to make deals with groups everyone recognizes as radical – particularly with Al-Nusra, which was singled-out by Putin at the Sochi press conference, while Erdogan vowed to “clear these territories of radical elements”. Therefore, in the context of Idlib, when we hear Russia or Turkey discuss ‘moderate rebels’, they mean Turkish proxies.

Before the latest Sochi summit, Erdogan demanded a political solution to the situation in Syria, ostensibly for humanitarian reasons, when in reality he had three objectives:

  1. To salvage the forces in the area loyal to Turkey.
  2. To minimize the amount of refugees and jihadists crossing the border into Turkey.
  3. To retain as much influence on the future of Northern Syria as he could.
putin erdogan

Clearly, Putin understood that Turkey would not simply leave the region of its own accord, and thus the Idlib offensive would have risked a dangerous direct confrontation between states. So he agreed to proceed via the ‘political route’, fully aware that Turkey would then have to commit to join the fight against groups officially recognized as terrorists – even those Turkey directly or indirectly supported in the past – while pulling the reins on its proxies or even turning its guns against those who rebelled. Furthermore, Turkey takes another step towards Russia, Iran and Syria, and away from NATO and its machinations in the Middle East. Ultimately, the crucial point of the agreement is not how many militants will give up their weapons or not, but that Turkey is now on board with the liberators of Syria. One could say that Putin ‘gently coaxed’ Erdogan into doing the right thing.

Lose The Match, Knock Over The Board

Of course, there is another advantage to calling off a major offensive in Idlib: It makes it harder – though not impossible – for Western countries and their allies to protest, threaten, and retaliate against some imaginary war crime, and for terrorists to stage an attack on civilians, inviting such retaliation.

syria map

Map of the incident on September 17 in Syria provided by the Russian defense ministry.

Some geopolitical players bent on war seem to have taken the news hard enough to make significant mistakes. There are a number of observersincluding an advisor to Erdogan – who believe that Israel’s latest insanely criminal stunt, which resulted in the downing of a Russian Il-20 military plane and the death of 15 Russian servicemen, was a response to the Sochi agreement reached a few hours earlier. Indeed, there are barely any coincidences in politics, although we must not forget that on the same day (Monday, September 17th) the Russian Ministry of Defense presented evidence countering the Dutch report on the MH17 flight tragedy over Ukraine – a non-negligible event that may have inspired Machiavellian Israeli minds to distract the public from such data.

The tragedy of the Russian Il-20 was the product of typical duplicitous, cowardly Israeli military ‘strategy’. While on an illegal and unprovoked bombing operation against government targets in Syria – of which the Russian MOD was notified with less than a minute’s notice – four Israeli F-16 fighter jets flying at low altitude “created a dangerous situation for other aircraft and vessels in the region… The Israeli pilots used the Russian plane as cover and set it up to be targeted by the Syrian air defense forces. As a consequence, the Il-20, which has radar cross-section much larger than the F-16, was shot down by an S-200 system missile,” an MOD statement said. The reaction of Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu was bitter:

“The blame for the downing of the Russian plane and the deaths of its crew members lies squarely on the Israeli side,” the Russian minister said. “The actions of the Israeli military were not in keeping with the spirit of the Russian-Israeli partnership, so we reserve the right to respond.”

Evidently, the Israelis were intentionally looking to cause trouble for the Russian military. However, judging by the amount of time they took to officially respond to an angry Russia, it appears they miscalculated and did not expect that a Russian aircraft would be lost, nor did they expect Russia blame them. This was Israel’s big mistake: Russia is likely to forcefully make difficult or even obstruct any future Israeli operations in or above Syria. Putin’s words about boosting the safety of Russian personnel in Syria and taking “steps that everyone will notice” point in that direction.

A bad situation was made worse when an arrogant Israeli response finally came. No apologies were offered; all Russia got was an expression of “sorrow” and much blaming of third parties:

To add insult to injury, the Israelis disputed the Russian version of the facts. Somebody is lying here, and I doubt it is the aggrieved party:

There is another interesting fact to this story, that seems to be rapidly slipping out of media reports. The French Navy’s frigate “Auvergne” was in the region at the time, and according to the Russian MOD, several missile launches were detected from that ship. At what were those missiles aimed? What role did the French Navy play in Monday night’s bombing of Syria and/or the loss of the Russian Il-20?

With diplomatic skill, Putin again managed to solve the ‘Turkey problem’ in Syria – at least for now. Unfortunately, it will be much harder to fix the ‘Israel/NATO problem’. The discourse and behavior of neocons and zionists shows that they have no interest whatsoever in a stable, prosperous Syria – or in a peaceful Middle East. While commenting on US politics, Putin once observed that is “difficult to have a dialogue with people who confuse Austria and Australia”. We could add that it is even harder to reason with people who confuse war with peace and truth with lies.

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Andrés Perezalonso

Andrés Perezalonso has been a contributing editor for Signs of the Times in both its English and Spanish versions since 2007. He holds a PhD in Politics, an MA in International Studies, a first degree in Communication, and has a professional background in Media Analysis. He thinks that understanding world events is not unlike detective work – paying attention to often ignored details and connections, and thinking outside of the box. He was born and raised in Mexico and currently resides in Europe.

‘Oslo sold us out’: Young Palestinians on the moment that shaped their generation – By Yumna Patel -MONDOWEISS

Israel/Palestine

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In September 1993 the world celebrated what it thought was the beginning of the end of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The Oslo Accords was supposed to lead to a “comprehensive peace agreement” by 1999, and eventually, a Palestinian state, with the then newly-founded Palestinian Authority (PA) serving as an interim self-government.

Twenty-five years after Oslo, the PA remains in power, and a fair and just peace agreement for the Palestinians remains far out of reach. The dream of an independent Palestinian state even further.

Mondoweiss spoke with two young Palestinians, from the so-called “Oslo generation,” as they looked back at the fateful day 25 years ago that has shaped their lives in more ways than could have been imagined.

‘The people had no say’

“What does Oslo mean to me? For me, Oslo means that the Palestinian people did not get to decide their fate as a whole.”

The words of Yasmin Abu Shakdim, a 22-year-old Sociology student from the city of Hebron, are expressive of a sentiment held by many Palestinian youth.

The Oslo Accords signified, as Abu Shakdim put it, “a decision made by a few members of the Palestinian elite” that did not represent the desires of the Palestinian people.

“The whole idea of Oslo is giving the elite Palestinians the power to control a few areas in the West Bank,” she said, “it was created to have shared benefits between the Israelis and a few Palestinians. A few Palestinians got positions of power, and Israel consolidated its control over us.”

Meras al-Azza, a 25-year-old Palestinian refugee living in the Aida refugee camp in Bethlehem, expressed similar sentiments to Mondoweiss as he sat in his family’s modest courtyard.

“They sold out the Palestinian people,” he said matter of factly, when asked what he thought of the Accords. “Oslo was a great deal for Israel, and Israel alone.”

“Oslo signified the Palestinians giving up the rights to all the lands of pre-1948 Palestine to Israel. That’s two-thirds of our historic lands,” al-Azza, a third generation refugee, said.

One of the biggest faults of Oslo for both al-Azza and Abu Shakdim was the premise on which the Accords were signed.

“Oslo did not change anything except for the worse,” Abu Shakdim told Mondoweiss.

“The negotiators, the few that they were, they did not negotiate on the basis that Israel is an occupier or colonizer,” she continued. “They negotiated as if it was just there and we have to accept it, that Israel is a reality that we cannot change. It normalized the occupation in every way.”

“It was only Fatah that went to the negotiations, and they did not represent all the people,” al-Azza said. “It was shameful for the Palestinians to take this deal.”

“They gave up all of our land against the will of the Palestinian people.”

Under the Oslo Accords, the West Bank and East Jerusalem remained occupied, swaths of land — more than 60% of the West Bank — were transferred into full Israeli control as “Area C”, and within a few years, the Second Intifada broke out, and Gaza was put under Israeli land, air, and sea blockade.

Today, the 26-foot-tall separation wall continues to be built, and military watchtowers continue to spring up across the territory.

Since the signing of the Oslo Accords, Israeli settlement activity has continued unhampered, with the number of settlers increasing from 110,000 on the eve of the Accords in 1993 to an estimated 550-600,000 settlers living in the occupied territory today.

Both al-Azza and Abu Shakdim criticized the decision makers of Oslo, many of whom, remain in power today.

“Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas) had started to rise to the center of power in Fatah around the time of Oslo, and he was one of the major decision makers in the negotiations,” al-Azza said.

“As a result of Oslo, we were given these leaders controlling us, leaders that we did not choose,” Abu Shakdim said. “They didn’t ask the Palestinian people if we should negotiate or not, or what points should we negotiate on.”

She continued: “The Palestinian people had no rights in those accords, but they are still deciding our fate today. Legally, these accords should be null and void.”

‘We have two occupations’

Over the past few years, resentment among Palestinians, particularly youth, towards the PA has grown significantly.

What was supposed to be a temporary government according to the Oslo Accords, has developed into despotic regime, focused more on quashing dissent and policing free speech than achieving liberation and statehood.

The government has become increasingly authoritarian, putting forward controversial decrees like the Cyber Crimes Law, which calls for the imprisonment of anyone found posting things online that disturb “social harmony.”

Earlier this summer, PA forces violently suppressed youth-led protests that criticized the government’s policies in Gaza and its security coordination with Israel.

“We have two occupations, the Israeli occupation and the Palestinian Authority,” al-Azza said. “Anyone that tries to resist or get involved in politics will be arrested by either the PA or by Israeli security forces as part of their coordination. This is a result of Oslo.”

“The PA has not really given Palestinians any authority,” Abu Shakdim said. “we just have these other people controlling things for us.”

“Oslo created a whole new level in Palestinian society — that is a new elite, the people in power — that is benefiting from the existence of Israel,” she continued.

In their conversations with Mondoweiss, both al-Azza and Abu Shakdim pointed to the current form of the PA as one of the worst outcomes of Oslo.

One of the arguments they made, was that as a result of Oslo and the PA, the Palestinian people have been subconsciously forced into a dependency on the government in every aspect of life, making it nearly impossible for people to rise up against the regime.

“Before Oslo, it was popular to do everything you can to go out and fight and resist,” Abu Shakdim said, as she discussed the PA’s role in creating a culture of complacency amongst the population.

“As young people, when we discuss these things we always mention how we are so sick of our leaders and so sick of our Palestinian decision makers,” she said. “But we also know the Authority is responsible for the survival of so many Palestinian families.”

“So many people, young and old, are employed by this Authority. In ministries, as security forces, etc. So do we expect them to go against the government?” she asked.

“The way I see it, is that this PA is planting their seeds. They are basically paying people to not revolt against them. So everything stays the way they planned it from 25 years ago.”

Al-Azza says he has been offered on multiple occasions to work with the PA, but has refused.

“I refuse to have any part in the PA. People that are in the PA now only care about protecting the position they hold, and have stopped caring about Palestinian liberation,” he said.

“The PA is part of this control over peoples minds. By giving us this fake government, and making us feel like we had power, Oslo made many Palestinians forget about their morals and their beliefs about the Palestinian cause,” al-Azza continued.

“People used to care about the land and the resistance before Oslo,” he said, as he recounted stories told to him by his father, a former political prisoner in Israel.

“Now, everyone is worried about their next paycheck, how they can put food on the table, how they can educate or provide healthcare for their kids.”

An impossible future

When posed with the question “What do you envision for the future?” both al-Azza and Abu Shakdim couldn’t help but laugh.

They have been asked this question, or some variation of it, countless times before. Yet when faced with it again, they remained unhopeful.

“What I see, with the current situation that we’re living in, there is no future,” al-Azza said.

“For 25 years, the Israelis, with the help of the PA, have made people feel that they have lost their rights and their traditions that they used to live for once upon a time. In my point of view, I see there is no future if we continue on the past we have been on for the past quarter century.”

Abu Shakdim’s sentiments echoed those of al-Azza. “As young people, even if we want to set our own path, or create new opportunities, we are blocked at every turn, controlled by the Israeli occupation,” she said.

“How can we take charge of our own lives when Israel continues to control all of our resources?”

For Abu Shakdim, a Two-State solution is totally out of the question.

“How can two states be possible if one state is controlling the authority of the other state?” she asked.

“I don’t know if it’s realistic but what I hope to happen, what I think the best solution is, is a One-State solution. A single, democratic, secular state for all people who do not support zionism and Jewish supremacy, or the supremacy of any one group over another.”

For al-Azza, before any solution or so-called peace negotiations are put into place, there is hard work that needs to be done within his generation, and the new generation of Palestinian children.

“If I want to make a new plan for the future, we have to work with the new generation to instill in  them their culture and traditions, and a desire for liberation, for freedom, and for returning to their lands of 1948,” he said.

“If I were to put forward a strategy, I say we should help build and shape a new generation of Palestinians that think the way people did before Oslo: That we are a people that want freedom. Nothing less.”

yumnapatel
About Yumna Patel

Yumna Patel is a multimedia journalist based in Bethlehem, Palestine. Follow her on Twitter at @yumna_patel

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Zakharova requires explanations from Israel – Lieberman blames ‘unprofessional’ Syrian military for shooting down Russian aircraft – By Joaquin Flores – FRN -SOTT

Tragedy with Il-20 over Latakia

The tragedy with Il-20, shot down over the Mediterranean Sea in Syria, will require additional explanations from Tel Aviv. Israeli pilots in the current situation acted unprofessionally, Russian MFA spokesperson Maria Zakharova believes, saying:

“For my part, I believe that the Israeli pilots, as a result of whose actions a threat was created and the Russian aircraft was killed, – this is evidenced by the data of our military experts – behaved at least unprofessionally. I want to say that it’s embarrassing to hide behind those who provide including your safety, and, fulfilling your duty, can not deviate from the bullet, which is not addressed to you, ”

According to the diplomat, new data on the crash of the Russian military aircraft will be received in the very near future and will be made public. “The tragedy that took place on September 17 will require additional investigations and, of course, clarification from the Israeli side.” I am sure that they will follow in the near future,” Zakharova summed up.

The Russian Il-20 was shot down on September 17 by a missile from the S-200 air defense complex in Syria, in response to a raid by the Israeli Air Force. As a result of the tragedy, 15 Russian servicemen were killed. According to the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation, Israeli pilots, under the cover of a Russian aircraft, put him under fire. The effective reflecting surface of the IL-20 is an order of magnitude larger than the Israeli F-16, so the Syrian missile fell into the Russian aircraft.

FRN has determined that France is also a likely culprit, however given that French foreign policy in the region, especially under Macron, is largely determined by Israel and Gulf Monarchies, the general Russian claim that ‘Israel is ultimately responsible, even if indirectly’ in fact may be more true than skeptics have hitherto believed.

Comment: The Israeli Minister of Defense Avigdor Lieberman stated on Thursday morning that the ‘unprofessional’ Syrian military was to blame for shooting down the Russian aircraft off the coast of Latakia on Monday evening.

“The plane was shot down by irresponsible and unprofessional Syrian air defense personnel who fired when (our) air force jets had already returned to Israeli territory,” Lieberman told Israel’s Army Radio.

See also: Satellite images show Syria strike as Israeli Air Force chief goes to Moscow to explain Il-20 incident

As Twitter Purges Real Iranians, US-Backed MEK Cult Revealed to Run Anti-Iran Troll Farm – By Elliot Gabriel – MINT PRESS

Iran Social Media Bans
#YouAreBots

 

While “actual” Iranians face social media bans, countless bots and anti-government accounts belonging to the US-backed former terror group, MEK, have been permitted to run rampant across Twitter and other platforms.

TIRANA, ALBANIA – Iran is once again being subject to double standards as part of an ongoing effort to deprive it of access to media platforms where it can influence audiences overseas – in this case, on Twitter.

The effort has seen hundreds of Iranian accounts allegedly tied to Iranian pro-government “propaganda” efforts subject to a massive cull across platforms owned by Twitter Inc., Facebook Inc., and Google parent company Alphabet Inc.

Those purged from the platforms include profiles, channels, and accounts belonging to Iranian nationals who have been accused of involvement in alleged “coordinated manipulation” of information related to Middle Eastern events and ”divisive social commentary.”

 

On YouTube, this has included accounts belonging to media entities owned by Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, the state media corporation that operates such channels as the English-language PressTV and Spanish-language HispanTV.

Watch | Al Jazeera on Albania’s Iranian Regime Change Bot Factory

https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/g-D5s_yCTQM?rel=0&showinfo=0&start=834

Yet while “actual” Iranians face bans from social media, countless bots and anti-government accounts belonging to U.S.-backed opposition groups posturing as the “Iranian people resistance” have been permitted to run rampant across the web.

 

#YouAreBots

Last month, nearly 800 accounts based in Iran were suspended by Twitter for allegedly violating the network’s policies, per an investigation alongside “industry peers” that allowed the social media giants a better “understanding of these [Iranian] networks.” Twitter hasn’t been forthcoming about the methods it used to investigate the networks tied to such alleged “Iranian interference,” but users including patriotic university student SeyedMousavi7 and Press TV journalist Waqar Rizvi were among those suspended.

On Sunday, Foreign Minister Zarif directly addressed Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey in a tweet aiming to highlight the contradiction:

Hello @Jack. Twitter has shuttered accounts of real Iranians, incl TV presenters & students, for supposedly being part of an ‘influence op’. How about looking at actual bots in Tirana used to prop up ‘regime change’ propaganda spewed out of DC? #YouAreBots”

Another tweet by Iranian legislator Amirhossein Ghazizadeh Hashemi addressed to the Twitter chief said:

You suspended my official account as MP of Iran for my violation of not determined twitter rules, but why you have not blocked bots of MEK in Tirana, a group that killed 17000 Iranian people, used to prop up ‘regime change’ propaganda? #YouAreBots”

The tweet followed a report by Al Jazeera English which detailed how monitors and researchers were able to pinpoint a sharp uptick in a trend of actual social media manipulation.

 

The Wizard Behind the “Resistance” Curtain – Maryam Rajavi and the MEK Cult

The report connected the growing phenomenon to the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK) or People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI), a cultish group of Iranian exiles that was listed as a terrorist organization by the U.S. until 2012 and have been based in a camp outside the Albanian capital, Tirana, since the U.S. began openly backing it in 2013.

The group has long enjoyed the backing of the Iranian government’s enemies, ranging from toppled dictator Saddam Hussein to Israel and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Hiding behind various front groups like the France-based “parliament-in-exile,” The National Council of Resistance of Iran, the MEK has sought to depict itself as a representative, democratic coalition that speaks for all of Iran’s religious, ethnic, and political groups proportionately” and is committed to a secular, pro-market, and free Iran.

MEK Maryam Rajavi and Rudy Giuliani

The group has paid a number of top Trump administration officials to speak at its functions and echo its calls to enact a “regime change” in Tehran, including former New York City Mayor and top White House lawyer Rudy Giuliani, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, and National Security Advisor John Bolton, among a long list of U.S. lawmakers and officials.

Yet the group, which have also been described as “skilled manipulators of public opinion,” are said by ex-members to tolerate little internal dissent and are seen by many as little more than a well-funded, mafia-style cult commanded by self-styled “Iranian President-in-Exile” Maryam Rajavi and backed by her friends across Western and Gulf capitals.

Some who escaped the MEK and remain stranded in Tirana spoke to Al Jazeera and described the manner in which the cult orchestrated what appeared to be a trending wave of support for the group and its anti-regime message toward the end of last year, when Iranians took to the streets to protest adverse economic conditions largely caused by a mixture of domestic legislation and intense pressure by Washington.

Much of this trend was clearly fueled by bots – accounts that are often fraudulent and behave in an automated fashion, amplifying messages through swarm-like behavior such as retweeting, liking, and republishing videos and articles posted alongside hashtags such as #FreeIran and #IranRegimeChange.

In many cases these trends – which sought to focus, variously, on the plight of Iran’s national or religious minority groups ranging from Kurds to Christians, women’s rights groups, and dissidents –grew as a direct result of work by MEK members toiling away in an Albanian troll farm to boost their group’s online propaganda.

Former MEK militant Hassan Heyrani told the outlet:

Overall I would say that several thousand accounts are managed by about 1,000-1,500 MEK members … It was all very well organized and there were clear instructions about what needed to be done.”

Another former “keyboard warrior,” Hassan Shahbaz, added:

Our orders would tell us the hashtags to use in our tweets in order to make them more active … It was our job to provide coverage of these protests by seeking out, tweeting and re-tweeting videos while adding our own comments.”

 

Useful Tools in the Age of Trump

Journalist, writer and scholar Azadeh Moaveni told Al Jazeera that the 2016 election of former real estate mogul Donald Trump, who surrounded himself during his campaign with a range of zealous anti-Iran and pro-Israel hawks, was a turning point in such anti-IRI media operations.

“Once it became clear that there would be heightened hostility with Iran, there was a profusion of new accounts, anonymous accounts who were single-mindedly and purposefully going after people who wrote about, talked about Iran with nuance,” she noted.

Whether the report, or Iran’s demands, will have any impact on the continued backing of MEK by Iran’s opponents remains yet to be seen. In the last year alone, a bevy of U.S. figures including late Senator John McCain, former FBI Director Louis J. Freeh, and various senators have visited the Rajavi cult’s compound in Albania as U.S. rhetoric against Iran’s “regime” has escalated and the U.S. has unilaterally withdrawn from the six-party Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or nuclear accord.

In the meantime, social media networks like Twitter and Facebook have squirmed as the same U.S. lawmakers have sought to crack down on alleged Russian and Iranian “interference” online.

Without a doubt, the troll farms of the MEK will remain an important weapon in the arsenal of those seeking to manufacture the illusion of widespread anti-government fervor in an Iran under the gun of economic sanctions, media terrorism, and the low-intensity warfare of sustained “regime change” efforts.

Top Photo | Iranians surf the Internet at a cafe in Tehran, Iran, Sept, 17, 2013. Ebrahim Noroozi | AP

Elliott Gabriel is a former staff writer for teleSUR English and a MintPress News contributor based in Quito, Ecuador. He has taken extensive part in advocacy and organizing in the pro-labor, migrant justice and police accountability movements of Southern California and the state’s Central Coast.

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The West Hates Peace in Syria: From De-Escalation to Almost World War III in Just Two Hours -By Federico Pieraccini – STRATEGIC CULTURE FOUNDATION

The West Hates Peace in Syria: From De-Escalation to Almost World War III in Just Two Hours

On the 17th of September, an important meeting was held in Sochi between Erdogan and Putin to discuss Syria, in particular Idlib. A few hours after the agreement between the two leaders was reached, there was a French-Israeli strike on Syria’s coastal area of Latakia, causing the loss of a Russian Air Force Il-20 aircraft and bringing the world to the brink of a thermonuclear war.

The agreement between Erdogan and Putin over the province of Idlib was reached after five hours of discussions and proposals. Ultimately, as explained by RT, the agreement concerns a 15-20 kilometer demilitarized zone, the identification of terrorist groups to fight, and combined patrols by Turkish and Russian soldiers on the borders of Idlib to monitor the situation and the opening of main roads between Hama, Damascus and Aleppo over the next few months.

RT specifies: “[Erdogan and Putin] We’ve agreed to create a demilitarized zone between the government troops and militants before October 15. The zone will be 15 to 20 kms wide, with full withdrawal of hardline militants from there, including the Jabhat Al-Nusra. As part of solving the deadlock, all heavy weaponry, including tanks and artillery, will be withdrawn from the zone before October 10. The area will be patrolled by Turkish and Russian military units. Before the end of the year, roads between Aleppo and Hama, and Aleppo and Latakia must be reopened for transit traffic. The agreement has received general support from the Syrian government.”

There were manifold goals for the talks between Erdogan and Putin. For the Kremlin there were innumerable points to be clarified and points of tension to be softened. One of the reasons why Russia and Turkey decided to sit around a table and discuss the imminent Syrian offensive in Idlib was the shared concern surrounding possible Western reactions. Moscow wants to avoid offering France, the UK and the US a pretext to strike Syrian forces in response to the umpteenth false-flag chemical attack. This would once again raise tensions, risking a direct confrontation between Russian and Western armed forces. In the unfortunate event of Russia exchanging fire with such aggressor countries, relations between Moscow and the European capitals would be further damaged, perhaps this time irremediably.

Moscow would thus be reluctant to press Damascus to pursue an offensive in Idlib. It is even probable that Xi Jinping and Putin discussed the best solution for Idlib during their recent meeting, perhaps imagining an agreement with Turkey in order to avoid an escalation of international tensions at a time when sanctions and tariffs have already upset the economic environment as well as relations between countries. Putin and Xi Jinping must consider factors beyond Syria alone, finding workable solutions to contain the chaos of the US-led world order.

Damascus of course does not shy away from an offensive on Idlib but understands the needs of its allies. Moreover, it is well aware that it will be able to take advantage of this pause to resupply and allow its troops some rest as well as engage in military planning for new offensives in other areas of the country, perhaps in Al-Tanf.

The reason why Turkey has accepted the agreement on Idlib stems from Erdogan’s weak position. After having antagonized his European and American allies, he can only rely on Russia and Iran (as well as Qatar) as his remaining lifeline. The defense of Idlib and its terrorists would have put Erdogan in direct opposition to Russia and Iran, forsaking his last remaining sources of political support.

Had there been a failure to reach an agreement on Idlib between Ankara and Moscow, then the risk of Russia and Syria going to war with Turkey, or with Israel, France, the UK and the US would have been quite possible, though one trusts cooler heads would have prevailed given the stakes. With Trump in office and the midterm elections in November 4, 2018, it is better not to take excessive risks, especially with a wag-the-dog scenario being a part of the American foreign-policy playbook.

For Turkey, a failed agreement would have had disastrous consequences, with potentially millions of refugees fleeing from Idlib into Turkey, provoking a possible civil war. Moreover, Syria and Russia would have liberated the territory, eliminating Turkish influence in Syria. The chances of a confrontation between Moscow and Ankara, even beyond the military sphere, would have become high, with enormous repercussions for the stability of Turkey and its ambitions as a leading country in the region. A hot war would have destroyed the last three years of rapprochement with Moscow, the good economic and political relationship with Iran, and a potential source of financial diversification in Beijing. It would have been unprecedented disaster, which could easily have resulted in a coup by thousands of jihadists returning home from Syria, angry at Turkey not protecting them from the advancing Syrian Arab Army.

If there was any doubt that some factions in the West were unhappy with the agreement between Turkey and Russia, it was enough to wait a few hours after Putin and Erdogan met to see the West’s reckless war machine in action. Four Israeli F-16 jets and a French frigate (possibly also a US presence) launched a missile attack on Syria. This time, unlike previous times, there was no justifying reason offered, such as an alleged use of chemical weapons. They were in reality protesting implicitly against the agreement just reached between Turkey and Russia that should guarantee Assad control over the whole territory of Syria, something unacceptable to all of Syria’s enemies.

It is also possible that under the direction of the US, France and Israel hoped that by attacking a Russian aircraft, a disjointed reaction from Moscow would have been provoked, escalating the conflict and providing the US and her allies the opportunity to enter the Syrian conflict directly. The downing of the Russian II-20 would therefore have been a planned provocation. Fortunately for the rest of the world, Moscow maintained a calm attitude at that moment, and together with Syrian systems, virtually knocked down or diverted all the missiles fired. Israel used the larger radar cross-section of the Russian Il-20 to screen its F16s, thus deceiving the Syrian S-200 defense systems and causing the downing. As TASS reported, Israel did not respect the agreements reached with Moscow regarding the rules of engagement. Tel Aviv warned Moscow only one minute before attacking, leaving little time for the Il-20 to move to safety and land in Latakia. Specifically, the words reported by official Russian sources leave little room for interpretation:

The Israeli warplanes approached at a low altitude and created a dangerous situation for other aircraft and vessels in the region. The Israeli pilots used the Russian plane as cover and set it up to be targeted by the Syrian air defense forces. As a consequence, the Il-20, which has a radar cross-section much larger than the F-16, was shot down by an S-200 missile system. 15 Russian military service members have died as a result. The Israelis must have known that the Russian plane was present in the area, but this did not stop them from executing the provocation. Israel also failed to warn Russia about the planned operation in advance. The warning came just a minute before the attack started, which did not leave time to move the Russian plane to a safe area. We consider these provocative actions by Israel as hostile. Fifteen Russian military service members have died because of the irresponsible actions of the Israeli military. This is absolutely contrary to the spirit of the Russian-Israeli partnership. We reserve the right for an adequate response.

The Russian reaction will be measured and strategically effective. It is even possible that the consequences of this attack will lead Moscow to change its assessment of weapons systems sold abroad. The worst scenario for Tel Aviv and her allies could be Syria being armed with S-300s and Iran with S-400s. As often happens, the considered Russian response will eventually improve the global environment in which the Moscow and her allies operate. The Russian Federation is not ruling anything out, and has the political right to equip its closest allies with game-changing technology in order to deter possible conflicts in the future.

The United States and her allies were hoping that the Russians and Syrians would advance on Idlib, thereby providing them with the opportunity to implement their well-rehearsed routine. There would be a false-flag chemical attack allegedly committed by Assad’s troops, which would provide justification for a massive attack to try and degrade the performance of the Syrian air defense with a view to facilitating future attacks. Without the Syrians and Russians advancing on Idlib, the need for a fake chemical attack disappears, and with it the excuse to attack the country. This increases the frustration of Western countries, who lose their justifying reasons to launch their missiles. The actions off the coast of Latakia of the French and Israelis should therefore be understood as an agitated reaction to unexpected developments that were frustrating their plans.

As this latest attack showed, the West’s actions are a lashing out with no possibility of changing events on the ground or advancing their goals in Syria. The missiles launched were directed against the agreement made by Putin and Erdogan.

For Turkey, the next possible steps are very much based on the American presence in the northeast of Syria alongside SDF troops as well as on American monetary and financial attacks against the country. The US and Turkey are clearly on a collision course. Putin and Assad’s gambit was done in order to avoid attacking Idlib, thereby forcing Erdogan to an agreement with the US. But in this way, the agreement between Trump and Erdogan remains impossible, as Ankara cannot reconcile with Washington. Erdogan cannot grant the release of Pastor Bronson, and the pastor happens to be an excellent excuse for Trump to energize his evangelical base, critical to the midterm elections in November. Moreover, Ankara considers the US presence on the border between Syria and Turkey to be illegal, because the US favors the SDF, which Turkey considers to be a terrorist group that threatens the territorial integrity of Syria and Turkey.

The situation does not change immediately for the US. There is no intention to move away from the northeast of Syria, given that this presence is considered strategic in a country where the US does not have direct relations with the central government and aims to prolong the chaos as long as possible in lieu of being able to control the country. In this sense, the SDF are essential for allowing the US a presence on Syrian territory. Erdogan’s unofficial proposal to replace the SDF with their preferred FSA in the area under US control north of the Euphrates will not be taken seriously. Although the US does not intend to betray the Kurds for now, it is nevertheless clear that some branches of the SDF are in contact with Damascus to lay the groundwork for a Syria without the US. It could be said that in the very short term the Kurds are aligned with US interests, but in the medium to long term, there is no possibility of a prolonged US presence in Syria, and the Kurds are aware of this. It is therefore not surprising that draft negotiations between the SDF and the central governing authority in Damascus are already underway.

Undoubtedly the agreement between Erdogan and Putin puts the US on the spot, with Damascus considering an advancement towards Al-Tanf or other areas illegally occupied by US troops. The offensive against Idlib would have, among other things, given more time to the US and her allies to cement their presence in Syria.

Ultimately, Syrians and Russians have plenty of time to proceed with the liberation of Idlib and the rest of the country. Erdogan is increasingly isolated and without allies, under siege from multiple directions and by multiple means, namely, financial, economic, political and diplomatic.

Russians and Syrians will be able to patrol the demilitarized zone, gather intelligence, strike terrorists, and Erdogan will be left with little option than to register his protest but nothing more. This time, the agreement will allow Russia and Syria to gather all the information necessary for precision strikes, with the primary objective of wiping out the jihadist command center.

It is worth remembering the previous example of an agreement between Turkey, Russia and Iran. The ceasefire of more than a year ago, with the creation of deconfliction zones, was interpreted with skepticism by many friends of Syria. There were assumptions at the time that Syria would be partitioned. But a year and a half later, the reality is completely different. The areas of deconfliction no longer exist, and only one is left in Idlib itself.

With the diplomatic, economic, military and political skills and astuteness of China, Russia, Iran and Syria, Idlib will also be freed from the jihadist plague, in spite of Western and Israeli interventions to protect their proxies in the country.

STUNNING DOUBLE AMBUSH BY AF INTEL IN HOMS REVEALS AMERICAN CRIMINAL CONDUCT; ATTACK ON LATAKIA STILL MUDDLED – By Ziad Fadel

HOMS:

If you want proof of American criminal conduct in Syria, look no further than the events of yesterday when a group of ISIS grubs set off from American-occupied Al-Tanf on motorcycles in the direction of the Western Plantations with their goal being to reinforce ISIS positions near Al-Raqqa (via the Abyadh Al-Tuwaynaan Valley) where the other pro-American SDF is located.  Talk about playing two sides against the other!  The ambush was sprung about 30 kms west of Palmyra (Tadmur) by elements of Air Force Intelligence-Special Operations Units.  The terrorist rodents were especially vulnerable on their motorcycles as expertly positioned commandos opened light arms fire at them killing two instantly and forcing another two to wipe out on the road.  The two taken into custody started warbling like nightingales explaining their relationship with American officers at Al-Tanf.

http://wikimapia.org/#lang=en&lat=33.437888&lon=38.835554&z=14&m=w&search=al-tanf

The second ambush took place in the area of Al-Furoo’ east of Palmyra by about 70 kms.  There, the terrorists were not so interested in confrontation.  They surrendered to the Security Services commando units and gave up 10 motorcycles, weapons and ammo, 146 rolls of hashish, 14 bags of Captagon which amounted to 10,000+ tablets.  I guess they were going to cater a party. They are now warbling like starlings.

Now that a new prime minister in Iraq is in office, we are hoping the Baghdad government stops affording the U.S. privileged status permitting it to supply and occupy the Al-Tanf base.  The Hashemites in Jordan are a lost cause, but, Iraq is not yet that far gone.  There is still hope that Muqtadaa Al-Sadr and his allies will re-assume their mantles as Iraq’s only truly populist movement.  The U.S. has been truly injured by the fall of Al-‘Abbaadi’s government after so many lobbying efforts – efforts to intervene in Iraqi elections.

___________________________________________

LATAKIA:

The night before yesterday, somebody fired some rockets at a military research-and-development center in Latakia.  Syrian radar picked up the approaching missiles and fired Pantsir anti-missile rockets at them, bringing most down, according to sources in Latakia.  Yet, the atmosphere is still somewhat murky.

That evening, amidst the melee, an Ilyushin aircraft carrying 14 crew members and enlisted men was downed in the Mediterranean near the coast of Syria.  A search and rescue operation is now in progress.

This is what happened.  Nobody was expecting any attack by the Zionist Settler State.  There were no weapons being transferred to HZB from any research center in Latakia City.  The Humaymeem AB was on alert, as usual, but, as I wrote, there were no causes for concern.  A French missile boat was in the international waters outside Syria’s coastline and there was no expectation it would fire at any target, especially where there was a danger of striking Russia’s military.

Russia detects missile launches from French frigate off Syria’s coast in Mediterranean

(Photo:  French Navy)

The French ship was the Auvergne, an Aquitaine Class ship.  If any of you remember your history, it was at Aquitaine (then northwards to Poitier and Tours) where Charles Martel blunted the Umayyad Caliphate’s effort to conquer Europe from Andalusia in 732 AD. Well, anyways, there is a lot of history behind that name.

Zionist military planners noted that the Il-20 aircraft was scheduled to depart Humaymeem at around 5 p.m.  It would be the perfect cover.  The attack on the research center was approved by Prime Minister Mileikowski (a/k/a Netanyhu).  When the Il-20 was in the air, so were 3 F-16s.  The idea was to shadow the transport aircraft and fire at the base.  But, what happened became a nightmare.

Syrian air defense units were not told about the Russian airplane.  When Zionist aircraft appeared on their screens, they perfunctorily fired at the targets.  It is evident from the swift Zionist retreat that there was realization that Syrian air defense missiles could hit the Russian aircraft.  And they did, causing the Ilyushin to crash into the Mediterranean.

Initial Russian reaction was to blame the French who were accused of firing cruise missiles at Latakia even though the “false flag” CW event had not taken place.  This could mean that the CW event was scheduled to take place on Monday, but, that the Turkish-Russian agreement at Socchi aborted that.  It is possible and it is an indication of just how incompetent the French really are.

It is also obvious now that the Kremlin is fuming over this.  Mileikowski constantly crows about how much coordination exists between Russian and Zionist forces in Syria.  This was an example of how treacherous these Zionists really are.

Syrian-Russian victory Only way to avenge Israeli-French strikes – By Tony Cartalucci Near Eastern Outlook – SOTT

Russian II-20 reconnaissance aircraft

Western and Russian media sources have reported an alleged joint Israeli-French strike on Syria on September 17. The attack included Israeli warplanes and French missile frigates operating in the Mediterranean off Syria’s coast. Amid the attack, a Russian Il-20 reconnaissance aircraft with 14 service members aboard disappeared.

The attack immediately prompted commentators, analysts, and pundits to call for an immediate retaliation to the unprovoked military aggression, warning that a failure to react would leave Russia looking weak. Some commentators even called for Russian President Vladimir Putin to step down.

Not the First Provocation

Yet the attack is reminiscent of the 2015 Turkish downing of a Russian warplane – after which similar calls for retaliation were made, coupled with similar condemnations of Russia as “weak.” And since 2015, Russia’s patient and methodical approach to aiding Syria in its proxy war with the US-NATO-GCC and Israel has nonetheless paid off huge dividends.

Russia would later aid Syria in retaking the northern city of Aleppo. Palmyra would be retaken from the so-called Islamic State in Syria and Iraq (ISIS) – Homs, Hama, Eastern Ghouta, and the southern city of Daraa would also be retaken – leaving virtually everything west of the Euphrates River under the control of Damascus.

In fact, the near precipice of total victory was achieved by Russia and its allies ignoring serial provocations carried out by the US-NATO-GCC and Israel, and simply focusing on the task of systematically restoring security and stability to the conflict-ridden nation.

Russian-backed Syrian forces are now staged at the edge of Idlib. So far tilted has the balance of power tipped in Damascus’ favor that even Turkey has found itself seeking negotiations with Russia over the last remaining territory still held by the West’s proxy forces.

The Reality of Western Provocations

Syria and its allies were winning the proxy war for the nation’s future before Israel and France attacked, and they are still winning the proxy war in the aftermath of the joint strike. Syria has weathered hundreds of such attacks – big and small – throughout the past 7 years.

Israeli warplanes have been operating at a distance, using standoff weapons. French missiles launched from frigates also constitute a standoff strategy, avoiding the risk of overflying Syrian territory and being targeted or shot down by Syrian air defenses.

Modern warfare doctrine admits that no war can be won with air power alone. This means that a nation flying sorties over a targeted nation cannot achieve victory without ground forces coordinating with air power from below. If air power alone over a nation makes it impossible to achieve victory, standoff air power makes victory even more futile.

But there is another possible motive behind the West’s serial attacks. Modern electronic warfare includes the detection and countering of air defense systems. Each time an air defense system is activated, its position and characteristics can be ascertained. Even if air defense systems are mobile, the information they provide during a provocation while attempting to detect and fire at targets is invaluable to military planning.

Should Russia engage its most sophisticated air defense systems during provocations, affording the West a complete picture of both its technology in general and the disposition of its defenses in Syria specifically, should the West decide to launch a knock-out blow through a full-scale air assault, it could do so much more effectively.

This is precisely what the US did in 1990 during Operation Desert Storm when taking on Iraq’s formidable air defenses. The initial air campaign was preceded by the use of some 40 BQM-74C target drones used to trick Iraqi air defenses into turning on their equipment which was being monitored by US electronic warfare aircraft flying along the Iraqi-Saudi border. It was the disclosure of the disposition and characteristics of Iraq’s anti-aircraft systems more than any sort of “stealth” technology that allowed the US to then overwhelm Iraqi air defenses.

Considering that hundreds of provocations have been launched against Syria, we can assume that somewhere among them, serious attempts at electronic surveillance and reconnaissance have taken place. We can also assume that competent Russian military leadership has been aware of this and has taken measures to safeguard the disposition and capabilities of its premier air defense systems until it is absolutely essential to reveal them.

The Best Revenge Will Be Victory Over NATO

Downed Syrian and Russian aircraft, or casualties inflicted upon Syrian forces and their allies on the battlefield are difficult as human beings to watch without stirring desires for immediate revenge. Yet it must be kept in mind that immediate revenge rarely serves well long-term strategies toward victory.
Ancient Chinese warlord and strategist Sun Tzu in his timeless treatise, “The Art of War,” would warn contemporary and future generals about the dangers of caving to emotions at the expense of sound strategy. He would state (emphasis added):

Move not unless you see an advantage; use not your troops unless there is something to be gained; fight not unless the position is critical.

No ruler should put troops into the field merely to gratify his own spleen; no general should fight a battle simply out of pique.

If it is to your advantage, make a forward move; if not, stay where you are.

Anger may in time change to gladness; vexation may be succeeded by content.

But a kingdom that has once been destroyed can never come again into being; nor can the dead ever be brought back to life.

Hence the enlightened ruler is heedful, and the good general full of caution. This is the way to keep a country at peace and an army intact.

It is not to Russia’s advantage to sink French frigates or expose the full capabilities of its air defense systems to shoot down a handful of Israeli warplanes to satisfy public desires for immediate revenge or to protect nonexistent notions of Russian invincibility.

Instead, it is to Russia’s advantage to simply win the proxy war in Syria. Just as in 2015 when calls for immediate revenge were made regarding a Turkish-downed Russian warplane, Syria, Russia, and Iran will continue moving forward – slowly and methodically – to secure Syrian territory from foreign proxies seeking to divide and destroy the country, springboard into Iran, and eventually work their way into southern Russia.

Avenging serial provocations is infinitesimally less important than overall victory in Syria. The fate of Syria as a nation, Iran’s security and stability as a result, and even Russia’s own self-preservation is on the line. The awesome responsibility of those who have planned and executed Syria’s incremental victory over proxy forces backed by the largest, most powerful economies and military forces on Earth could greatly benefit from a public able to understand the difference between short-term gratification and long-term success and how the former almost certainly and recklessly endangers the latter.

The greatest possible “revenge” to exact upon those who inflicted this war upon the Syrian people, is their absolute and total defeat.

Comment: See also:

Russia blames Israel for the shooting down of her EW aircraft (UPDATED 2x)- By RUSSIAN DEFENCE – THE SAKER

It is pretty clear what took place yesterday night.  Even if you don’t read Russian, the following chart released by the Russian Ministry of Defense says it all:

Basically, 4 Israeli aircraft were sent on a bombing mission against targets near the Russian facilities in Khmeimim and Tartus (which, by itself, is both stupid and irresponsible).  The Israelis *deliberately* did not warn the Russians until less than a minute before the attack took place, thus the Russians did not have the time to tell the crew of the Il-20 electronic warfare aircraft, which was on approach for a landing, to take evasive action.  When the Syrian S-200 fired their missiles to intercept the incoming missiles, the Israelis F-16 used the Il-20, which has a much bigger radar cross section, to hide themselves resulting in the loss of 15 lives and one aircraft.

Typical Israeli “cleverness”.

The Russian MoD placed the full blame on the Israelis and declared that this attack was “dastardly”, the Israeli actions as “hostile” and said that Russia “reserves the right” to respond with “adequate counter-actions”.

This is one of these rare opportunities when there is, I believe, a viable and logical option to respond: tell the Israelis that from now on any of their aircraft approaching anywhere near the Russian forces will be shot down.

Will the Russians do that?

I doubt it.  Why?  Because of the very powerful pro-Zionist 5th column in Russia.

I am pretty sure that the Russian military would love to take such an measure but, unfortunately, they are limited in their actions by the 5th columnists in the Russian government.

We shall see.  If Russia does nothing, it will be interesting to see how those who deny the existence of a pro-Zionist 5th column in Russia will explain this.

The Saker

PS: the only positive effect from this tragedy is that this will go a long way to trash the image of Israel in the Russian public opinion (which is constantly subjected to pro-Zionist propaganda in much of the Russian media).

UPDATE1: there we go: Putin is already “downgrading” the gravity of what happened.  He has just declared thatthe Israeli jet didn’t down our aircraft” and spoke of “tragic circumstances“.  True, he did add that the Russians will take measures that “everyone will notice” but I am personally dubious about these “steps”.  I hope that I am wrong.  We will find out soon.

UPDATE2: I am watching the Russian media and I have to report that Zionist propagandists (Russian liberals and Jewish commentators) look absolutely *terrible*: they are desperately trying to blame everybody (the Syrians, Hezbollah, and even the Russians) except for Israel.  This will not sit well with the Russian public.

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