Iraq recaptures landmark Mosul mosque, declares fall of ISIS – By RT

© BBC
Activists accompanied troops as they fought their way into the remains of Mosul’s al-Nuri mosque

Iraqi forces have recaptured the site of Mosul’s landmark Grand al-Nuri Mosque, according to the country’s military. The victory comes three years to the date since Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) declared itself a Caliphate at the iconic building.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said the capture marks “the end of the Daesh state,” Reuters reports.

Referencing IS, Iraqi military spokesman, Brigadier General Yahya Rasool, told state TV: “Their fictitious state has fallen,” according to Reuters.

The mosque and its iconic leaning minaret was destroyed by IS terrorists last week as forces from Iraq’s elite Counter Terrorism Service got within 50 meters (160ft) of the site.

The area will now need to be excavated by engineering teams as members of IS have likely planted explosives, says special forces Maj. Gen. Sami al-Aridi.

Officials had been hoping to recapture the historic 850-year-old Grand al-Nuri Mosque before the end of the holy month of Ramadan.

Iraqi forces are making their way through the last neighborhoods under IS control in Mosul, AP reports. The military expects the eight-month battle to come to an end in a matter of days.

The site has been under IS control since 2014. On June 29 that year, Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, official spokesman for IS, announced the group’s rebranding as the ‘Islamic State’ and declared areas under its control a Caliphate.

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Latest Venezuelan Opposition Coup Attempt Against Maduro Linked to DEA, CIA – By Whitney Webb

More than 80 people miraculously avoided injury or death in a helicopter attack that targeted Venezuelan government buildings this week. The attack may have been part of an attempted coup supported by the U.S. as it seeks to topple Venezuela’s government to gain access to its massive oil reserves.

 

CARACAS– Opposition efforts to topple Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s government are rapidly heating up, as months upon months of opposition protests have failed to make the inroads desired by the more extremist elements of the opposition and their foreign backers, particularly the United States.

With the current government still hanging on to power despite years of economic sabotage and the funneling of millions from the U.S. to right-wing Venezuelan opposition parties, those determined to see Maduro removed from power have now turned to more drastic, violent measures in order to spark a coup.


On Tuesday, one of the more dramatic incidents of the most recent phase of the Venezuelan crisis took place when a stolen police helicopter opened fire on the Supreme Court and the Interior Ministry. At the time the attack occurred – about 5 p.m. local time – there were an estimated 80 people still inside the Interior Ministry and the Supreme Court was in session. No deaths or injuries were reported, a fact that the Venezuelan government attributed to a quick response by national guard forces, who repelled the attacking helicopter before it could do more damage.Maduro condemned the attack soon after it occurred, calling it a “terrorist attack” that “could have caused dozens of deaths.” Ernesto Villegas, Venezuela’s Communications and Information Minister, stated that the attack was intended to be part of an attempted coup led by extremist groups within the opposition, with full U.S. government support said to be behind them.

Villegas’ assertion that the U.S. was involved in this attack is not based on mere speculation. Pérez has been known to work for Miguel Rodríguez Torres, a former general and former minister of Venezuela’s Department of Interior Relations, Justice and Peace who is currently being investigated for his ties to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the CIA. The charges first surfaced when the Venezuelan news agency Últimas Noticias obtained an official DEA document that described Rodríguez Torres as a “key information provider” for the agency and recommended that he be secured as a protected source for the DEA and U.S. government. It also noted that 40 percent of his assets and wealth are held in the U.S. under his wife’s name.

The U.S. has long sought to oust the left-wing, democratically elected government that was brought to power in Venezuela by Hugo Chávez in the late 1990s. Since Chávez’s election, the U.S. is believed to have spent between $50 to $60 million to strengthen the country’s right-wing opposition in the hope that they would win elections. Former U.S. President Barack Obama alone dedicated $5 million to “support political competition-building efforts” in Venezuela.

More recently, the U.S. Senate has been mulling over new legislation that would provide an additional $20 million for “democracy promotion” efforts in Venezuela. However, some of these efforts in the past have led to right-wing politicians and their affiliates paying protesters in cash to violently escalate opposition rallies.

Such rallies have turned increasingly violent in recent weeks, with three people burned alive by opposition protesters just in the last week. Journalists have also been targeted, with some being directly shot at and others threatened with being lynched or set aflame. Despite the violence, the Venezuelan opposition is likely to continue receiving funding from the U.S., which is eager to gain control of Venezuela’s oil reserves – the largest in the world – no matter the cost.

 

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fSYRIAN ARMY CONTROLS BORDER OF DZ AND HOMS; TRUMP’S ROAD TO RUIN; KUSHNER AND ABBAS TALKS FLOP – By Ziad Fade;

 

 

It’s now official, the Syrian military has unchallenged control over the Syrian-Iraqi nexus-point at Al-Dhulay’aat on the outskirts of Hameema Village.  Attacking ISIS from the Third Oil Station to the Second Oil Station, the army has done what nobody expected which is to block any attempt by the American-supported cannibals at Al-Tanf to move northward and establish a rump state designed to impede Iran’s effort to extend its natural gas pipeline all the way to Syria’s coast.  The army, as you all know now, has cleared out all obstacles in the way of the Baghdad-Damascus Highway, essential to moving weapons from Iran to Syria, and, provocatively, to HZB.  As I write this note, SAA engineers are dismantling a network of IEDs and land mines planted by the escaping ISIS rodents to slow down the advance of Syria’s legitimate forces.

Trump’s Zionist-conceived plans in Syria appear to be at a crossroads.  With no strategy in sight, Trump is now relying on his instinct while distancing himself from his senior advisors.  It is also quite  clear that the U.S. is in a mess diplomatically.  Just today, for example, WOG of the YEAR, Nikki Haley expressed some fear about Russia substituting in for China in helping North Korea.  Only an idiot like Haley would say something like that while promoting a sanctions regime against the Kremlin.  You impose sanctions on Russia but expect it to collaborate with you on projects such as destroying North Korea?  It’s just amazing.

أبرز التطورات الميدانية على الساحة السورية

Note also the constant clamor over Rex Tillerson’s fall from grace.  It is evident that his style of leadership at Foggy Bottom is leaving Trump and his Zionist cronies unimpressed.  Tillerson is now on the road to oblivion as he navigates a ship without sails or a rudder.  With a depleted budget, it is hard to imagine the Department of State functioning professionally while Trump is in office.

Jared Kushner reportedly returned from Occupied Palestine with little to show for his efforts to bring about Trump’s trumpeted plan to solve the Zionist-Palestinian conflict.  This slimy “katsa” and his companion, some fellow Zionist dude named Greenblatt, visited the useless “president” of the Palestinian Authority and, reportedly, were given the cold shoulder because they presented nothing but Mileikowski’s (a/k/a Netanyahu’s) conditions.  That the U.S. regime would actually send a duo made up of raving Zionist trash, neither one of whom has a whit of diplomatic experience, not to mention the fact that Kushner is the president’s son-in-law, is testament to the witlessness of the sitting idiot in the White House. How could anyone expect a Palestinian leader, even if he is as criminally corrupt as Abbas, to constructively deal with a gang of Jewish thugs like Kushner and Greenblatt?  More diplomatic disasters from the White House.

Besides his much-ballyhooed visit to Hama City, the president dropped by Russian officers at Humaymeem Airbase just south of Latakia and inspected Russian aircraft used to bomb the living daylights out of America’s prized savages.  He was also given the honor of sitting in the cockpit of a Sukhoi bomber.  Dr. Assad served in the Syrian Army Medical Corps, unlike his father, General Haafizh Al-Assad who was a career pilot in the Air Force.

President Assad, seen here inspecting a Russian tank called the “Terminator” at the Humaymeem Base.  This tank is capable of neutralizing an enemy tank at 6 kilometers distance.   

All in all, it’s been a good year for us.  The SAA is on the verge of reaching Dayr El-Zor to relieve the courageous fighters of the Republican Guards led by the legendary “Mad Druze”, Maj. Gen. ‘Issaam Zhahreddeen.  The army is also bordering on Al-Raqqa where the PKK and YPG are fighting ISIS under the umbrella of a queer looking alliance which tries to balance its commitments between Turkey and the Kurdish establishment.  In the meantime, expect a sudden shift in Saudi policy viz a viz Syria.  Lebanese pro-Syrian entertainer and political columnist, George Qardaahi, has received assurances from the Sudanese president that the new clown prince is intent on changing course.  This is probably to save his bacon (excuse me) when Syria is free to start exterminating the entire House of Saud.

______________________________________

NEWS AND COMMENT:

What! Is the MSM finally changing its tone on Syria?  Maybe. Read this great article from USA Today:

https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2017/06/26/donald-trump-reckless-syria-folly-james-bovard-column/426924001/

Tim Anderson sends us this spectacular article about Trump’s idiotic attack on the Shu’ayraat AB in April.  I sure hope Tulsi Gabbard, Richard Black and Rand Paul are reading it:

https://www.welt.de/politik/ausland/article165905578/Trump-s-Red-Line.html

Samer Hussein analyzes how our government won the war in Syria:

http://www.fort-russ.com/2017/06/how-syria-won-war.html

Brandon adds his views to the trumped up nonsense concerning SAA use of CW:

http://www.activistpost.com/2017/06/trump-syria-strike-red-herring-deep-state.html

Russian-Syrian offensive opens door to Euphrates Valley and Deir ez-Zor – By RUSSIA INSIDER

Syrian army makes dramatic gains in ISIS-held desert, enters Deir ez-Zor province, is now just 90 kilometers from the encircled city.

This one has been reported for days now, but we wanted to wait and make sure it was confirmed by reliable sources: The Syrian army has (again) made dramatic gains in Syria’s southern desert.

Again the Syrian forces have covered great distances in a matter of days. This time however, ISIS offered stiff resistance but the Russian-supplied Syrian army has a vast superiority in tanks which are decisive in open desert to say nothing of Russian air support. Reportedly the Russian-trained 5th Corps spearheaded the advance.

These new gains place the Syrian army just 90 kilometers away from the encircled city of Deir ez-Zor—under siege since 2014. They also put it just 90 miles from the Syrian city of al-Bukamal on the Syrian-Iraqi border which was even just weeks ago still coveted by the US and US-backed rebels in al-Tanf.

Situation before:

The gains also mean supply challenges will only increase for the Syrian army as its supply routes, which are vulnerable to raids and spoiling attacks, are now dramatically extended. Also the closer it actually gets to the densely-populated Euphrates valley the stiffer ISIS resistance will become.

In a sense this has been the easy part, the hardest part of the fight is still to come. Nonetheless, the fact the Syrian advance has finally symbolically crossed into Deir ez-Zor province from which except for the encircled provincial capital it has been absent for so long will be a huge boost to morale.

The relief of the city can now finally be imagined. One complicating factor for the Syrians is that they have now forged a huge salient into ISIS-held territory. It would be a great boon to their efforts if Iraqis could clear ISIS from their side of the border as well and secure the Syrians’ right flank.

Air Strike in Syria: “We got a f***in’ problem!” – By Welt.de

After publishing Seymour Hersh’s exposé on the reality behind the alleged ‘chemical weapon’ attack in Syria in April this year, the German newspaper ‘Welt‘ has followed up with the publication of a chat protocol of a security advisor and an active American soldier on duty at a key base in the region at the time of the bombing. The information from this chat protocol was provided to Hersh and was used as source material in writing his article.

April 6, 2017

American Soldier: We got a fuckin’ problem

Security-Adviser: What happened? Is it the Trump ignoring the Intel and going to try to hit the Syrians? And that we’re pissing on the Russians?

AS: This is bad…Things are spooling up.

SA: You may not have seen trumps press conference yesterday. He’s bought into the media story without asking to see the Intel. We are likely to get our asses kicked by the Russians. Fucking dangerous. Where are the godamn adults? The failure of the chain of command to tell the President the truth, whether he wants to hear it or not, will go down in history as one of our worst moments.

AS: I don’t know. None of this makes any sense. We KNOW that there was no chemical attack. The Syrians struck a weapons cache (a legitimate military target) and there was collateral damage. That’s it. They did not conduct any sort of a chemical attack.

AS: And now we’re shoving a shit load of TLAMs (tomahawks) up their ass.

SA: There has been a hidden agenda all along. This is about trying to ultimately go after Iran. What the people around Trump do not understand is that the Russians are not a paper tiger and that they have more robust military capability than we do.

AS: I don’t know what the Russians are going to do. They might hang back and let the Syrians defend their own borders, or they might provide some sort of tepid support, or they might blow us the fuck out of the airspace and back into Iraq. I honestly don’t know what to expect right now. I feel like anything is possible. The Russian air defense system is capable of taking out our TLAMs. this is a big fucking deal…we are still all systems go…

SA: You are so right. Russia is not going to take this lying down

SA: Who is pushing this? Is it coming from Votel (General Joseph L. Votel, Commander of United States Central Command, editor’s note) ?

AS: I don’t know. It’s from someone big though. . . . This is a big fucking deal.

AS: It has to be POTUS.

AS: They [the Russians] are weighing their options. Indications are they are going to be passive supporters of Syria and not engage their systems unless their own assets are threatened..in other words, the sky is fucking blue.’

April 7, 2017

SA: What are the Russians doing or saying Am I correct that we did little real damage to Russia or Syria?

AS: We didn’t hit a damn thing, thankfully. They retrograded all their aircraft and personnel. We basically gave them a very expensive fireworks display.

AS: They knew where ships were and watched the entire strike from launch to end game.

AS: The Russians are furious. Claiming we have the real Intel and know the truth about the weapons depot strike.

AS: They are correct.

AS: I guess it really didn’t matter whether we elected Clinton or Trump. Fuck.

AS: No one is talking about the entire reason we’re in Iraq and Syria in the first place. That mission is fucked now.

SA: Are any of your colleagues pissed or is everyone going along with it and saying this is OK

AS: It’s a mad house. . . .Hell we even told the Russians an hour before impact

SA: But they clearly knew it was coming

AS: Oh of course

AS: Now Fox is saying we chose to hit the Syrian airfield because it is where the chemical attacks were launched from. Wow. Can’t make this shit up.

SA: They are. I mean, making it up

AS: It’s so fuckin evil

SA: Amen!!!

April 8, 2017

AS: Russians are being extremely reasonable. Despite what the news is reporting they are still trying to deconflict and coordinate the air campaign.

SA: I don’t think the Russians yet understands how crazy Trump is over this. And i don’t think we appreciate how much damage the Russians can do to us.

AS: They’re showing amazing restraint and been unbelievably calm. They seem mostly interested in de-escalating everything. They don’t want to lose our support in the help with destroying Isis.

SA: But I get the feeling are simply trying this approach for as long as they feel it might work. If we keep pushing this current aggressive stance they’re going to hit back.’

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Former Clinton Foundation Donors Flocking To The McCain Institute – By Whitney Webb

In years past, the Clinton Foundation enjoyed significant donations from individuals and countries that sought to purchase influence in Washington. But now, the McCain Institute is their new darling, having received large sums from the likes of George Soros and Saudi Arabia.

U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., greets Saudi Arabia's King, Salman bin Abdul Aziz in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (AP/Carolyn Kaster)

WASHINGTON, D.C.– With the Clinton Foundation standing at the heart of the many scandals that dogged Hillary Clinton’s failed 2016 presidential campaign, it was no small wonder that donations to her family’s controversial charity began to dry up soon after her loss last November. Just weeks after the election, donations to the foundation from foreign governments plummeted, some as much as 87 percent, while donations from the corporate sector dropped by 37 percent.

While this was clearly devastating news for the Clintons – essentially signaling a drastic decline in their political clout – it has now become clear that the foundation of another former U.S. presidential candidate has gained the favor of many of the Clinton Foundation’s former donors. Republican Senator John McCain (R-AZ), current chairman of the Senate’s Armed Services Committee, has seen donations to the McCain Institute surge, particularly donations from ostensibly “liberal” donors such as George Soros and other long-time Clinton backers.

The McCain Institute is meant to serve as the senator’s “legacy” upon his eventual retirement and claims to be “dedicated to advancing human rights, dignity, democracy, and freedom.” Like the Clinton Foundation, the McCain Institute is a tax-exempt, non-profit foundation with approximately $8.1 million in assets.


However, the McCain Institute’s donor list has raised eyebrows among conservative groups due to its uncanny similarity to that of the Clinton Foundation. Among its donors are the neoliberal billionaire and “activist” George Soros, Evelyn and Lynn de Rothschild, and the for-profit company Teneo. Teneo was co-founded by Doug Band, a longtime associate of the Clinton family and counselor to former President Bill Clinton, as well as an instrumental force in the creation of the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI).In addition to these individuals, many of the same foreign governments that were known to donate massive sums to the Clintons have also bestowed their favor on the McCain Institute. For instance, Saudi Arabia, a nation that funded 20 percent of Clinton’s failed 2016 presidential campaign, made a $1 million donation to the McCain Institute, a donation that the both foundation and the senator himself have refused to explain.

Watch John McCain shut down a reporter who asked about the Saudis’ $1 million donation to the McCain Institute:

Foreign governments are forbidden from donating to U.S. politicians and often donate to non-profits in order to gain privileged access to America’s most powerful lawmakers, an arrangement often called “pay-to-play.” For instance, the Clinton Foundation received between $10 and $25 million from the Saudi monarchy, with between $1 and $5 million more originating from the group “Friends of Saudi Arabia,” which was co-founded by a “Saudi prince.”


Related: Wikileaks Founder Targets Clinton’s Saudi Connection In Scathing Interview


The McCain Institute has also accepted more than $100,000 from the OCP Group, a Moroccan state-run phosphate fertilizer company that operates in territory that it has illegally occupied since 1975. Morocco has been criticized by human rights groups who argue that the Moroccan government consistently violates basic human rights and that its state-owned companies subject their workers to gruesome conditions while exploiting the disputed territory’s natural resources.

The King of Morocco, not so coincidentally, was himself a major donor to the Clinton Foundation. Hillary Clinton personally received a $12 million check from the king in return for holding a CGI regional meeting in the country.

Critics of the McCain Institute have repeatedly pointed out the conflict of interest for the Republican senator while also noting the institute’s similarities to the Clinton Foundation.“This is a very real conflict of interest,” Craig Holman, a government affairs lobbyist at Public Citizen, told the Daily Caller. “This is the similar type of pattern we received with the Clinton Foundation in which foreign governments and foreign interests were throwing a lot of money in the hopes of trying to buy influence.”

Concerns have also been voiced regarding the role of the institute’s donors and McCain’s personal leadership in the organization’s exclusive “Sedona Forum,” which critics say is remarkably similar to the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) in that it hosts an annual gathering of special interests and powerful political figures, resulting in the alleged creation of pay-to-play schemes.

While McCain’s coherence may be fading, his political power in Washington still stands, meaning that the McCain Institute will likely continue to attract the attention and funds of powerful special interests and foreign governments.

 

WASHINGTON, D.C.– With the Clinton Foundation standing at the heart of the many scandals that dogged Hillary Clinton’s failed 2016 presidential campaign, it was no small wonder that donations to her family’s controversial charity began to dry up soon after her loss last November. Just weeks after the election, donations to the foundation from foreign governments plummeted, some as much as 87 percent, while donations from the corporate sector dropped by 37 percent.

While this was clearly devastating news for the Clintons – essentially signaling a drastic decline in their political clout – it has now become clear that the foundation of another former U.S. presidential candidate has gained the favor of many of the Clinton Foundation’s former donors. Republican Senator John McCain (R-AZ), current chairman of the Senate’s Armed Services Committee, has seen donations to the McCain Institute surge, particularly donations from ostensibly “liberal” donors such as George Soros and other long-time Clinton backers.

The McCain Institute is meant to serve as the senator’s “legacy” upon his eventual retirement and claims to be “dedicated to advancing human rights, dignity, democracy, and freedom.” Like the Clinton Foundation, the McCain Institute is a tax-exempt, non-profit foundation with approximately $8.1 million in assets.



However, the McCain Institute’s donor list has raised eyebrows among conservative groups due to its uncanny similarity to that of the Clinton Foundation. Among its donors are the neoliberal billionaire and “activist” George Soros, Evelyn and Lynn de Rothschild, and the for-profit company Teneo. Teneo was co-founded by Doug Band, a longtime associate of the Clinton family and counselor to former President Bill Clinton, as well as an instrumental force in the creation of the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI).

In addition to these individuals, many of the same foreign governments that were known to donate massive sums to the Clintons have also bestowed their favor on the McCain Institute. For instance, Saudi Arabia, a nation that funded 20 percent of Clinton’s failed 2016 presidential campaign, made a $1 million donation to the McCain Institute, a donation that the both foundation and the senator himself have refused to explain.

Watch John McCain shut down a reporter who asked about the Saudis’ $1 million donation to the McCain Institute:

https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/QzLErES1HWA?rel=0&controls=0&showinfo=0

Foreign governments are forbidden from donating to U.S. politicians and often donate to non-profits in order to gain privileged access to America’s most powerful lawmakers, an arrangement often called “pay-to-play.” For instance, the Clinton Foundation received between $10 and $25 million from the Saudi monarchy, with between $1 and $5 million more originating from the group “Friends of Saudi Arabia,” which was co-founded by a “Saudi prince.”


Related: Wikileaks Founder Targets Clinton’s Saudi Connection In Scathing Interview


The McCain Institute has also accepted more than $100,000 from the OCP Group, a Moroccan state-run phosphate fertilizer company that operates in territory that it has illegally occupied since 1975. Morocco has been criticized by human rights groups who argue that the Moroccan government consistently violates basic human rights and that its state-owned companies subject their workers to gruesome conditions while exploiting the disputed territory’s natural resources.

The King of Morocco, not so coincidentally, was himself a major donor to the Clinton Foundation. Hillary Clinton personally received a $12 million check from the king in return for holding a CGI regional meeting in the country.

Critics of the McCain Institute have repeatedly pointed out the conflict of interest for the Republican senator while also noting the institute’s similarities to the Clinton Foundation.“This is a very real conflict of interest,” Craig Holman, a government affairs lobbyist at Public Citizen, told the Daily Caller. “This is the similar type of pattern we received with the Clinton Foundation in which foreign governments and foreign interests were throwing a lot of money in the hopes of trying to buy influence.”

Concerns have also been voiced regarding the role of the institute’s donors and McCain’s personal leadership in the organization’s exclusive “Sedona Forum,” which critics say is remarkably similar to the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) in that it hosts an annual gathering of special interests and powerful political figures, resulting in the alleged creation of pay-to-play schemes.

While McCain’s coherence may be fading, his political power in Washington still stands, meaning that the McCain Institute will likely continue to attract the attention and funds of powerful special interests and foreign governments.

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Two Years After Resounding “No” Vote, Greece Still Says “Yes” To Austerity – By Michael Nevradakis

Privatization, high taxes and the slashing of cherished public-sector salaries and pensions are the price Greece has paid for accepting the loans that have kept the country in the Eurozone. Its citizens are the ones now paying the price for the costly missteps made by its leaders.

A homeless person changes clothes outside a bank in central Athens. Nearly one-in-four Greeks are unemployed and receive no benefits. Poverty rates have surged here since the start of the crisis in late 2009, with nearly 36 percent of the country living in financial distress. (AP/Thanassis Stavrakis)

ATHENS (Analysis)– It has become an increasingly common sight on Greek streets, even in formerly prosperous neighborhoods. Elderly—and sometimes not so elderly—individuals rummaging through rubbish bins in search of scraps of food to eat. Beggars are now practically a universal sighting in Athens and other large cities.

More and more young Greeks are migrating abroad by the day, contributing to a “brain drain” that has totaled approximately 500,000 individuals since the onset of the crisis. In my neighborhood in central Athens, several parked cars are filled to the brim with a life’s worth of possessions, packed in boxes by individuals who have likely lost their homes and livelihoods and who now call their automobiles home. Everywhere, abandoned cars and motorcycles rust away on curbsides and sidewalks.

In another universe, the Greek coalition government comprised of the “leftist” SYRIZA and the “patriotic” Independent Greeks political parties is celebrating. Greece has, at the recently-concluded Eurogroup summit, once again been “saved.” In this latest agreement, an 8.6 billion euro tranche of “bailout” funds—a loan (not a “handout”) which had already been promised to Greece in previous agreements—was released and a long-delayed review of Greece’s “progress” under the austerity mechanisms was finally completed. Quite a cause for celebration!



Or is it? Out of the 8.6 billion, 7.7 billion euros will initially be disbursed, out of which 6.9 billion will be immediately paid back to Greece’s lenders: the European Central Bank, the International Monetary Fund and bondholders. In exchange for the release of these funds, which will be funneled right back to those who are releasing them, Greece’s government has agreed to achieve a primary budget surplus of 3.5 percent of its GDP annually through 2023, and thereafter to maintain primary budget surpluses of 2 percent annually from 2023 until 2060.

Until 2023, the Greek government has agreed to pay 27 billion euros (15 percent of Greece’s GDP) in debt service alone, and that figure increases to a 36 billion euro annual sum until 2060.


Related: Greece’s New Deal From European Lenders Delivers More Neoliberalism


For the uninitiated: what does a primary budget surplus actually mean? It means that the state spends less than it receives in revenue. While this may sound like a fiscally prudent policy direction for Greece or any country to take, what this actually means in plain language is that in an economy that is shrinking, as with Greece, the amount of money being spent by the state each year on investment, social services, salaries, pensions and other vital services will perpetually decrease, furthering the austerity death spiral.

To provide some perspective, the IMF itself considers a primary budget surplus of 1.5 percent “realistic,” while the Central Bank of Greece, 92 percent of whose shareholders are not known, considers 2 percent a “realistic” target. In a study by economists Barry Eichengreen and Ugo Panizza that examined economic performance across 235 countries, it was found that there were only 36 cases in which countries were able to maintain a primary budget surplus of 3 percent of GDP for a five-year period, and only 17 cases where countries maintained a primary budget surplus of 3 percent of GDP across an eight-year period. Germany, often touted for its fiscal prudence, was not one of these countries.

For the SYRIZA-led regime in Greece, this is a cause for celebration. Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras publicly announced that “we got what we wanted” through this deal, which points the way towards Greece’s exit from the “supervision” of its lenders.

The newspaper Avgi, an official party organ of SYRIZA, announced for the upteenth time Greece’s impending “exit” from the economic crisis. And the Greek government is publicly touting the upcoming return of Greece to the international financial markets, ironically celebrating the prospect of Greece once again being able to attain more debt via borrowing, likely at usurious terms.

Unfortunately for Tsipras and his government, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble acted as a party pooper, putting a damper on the celebrations. Speaking publicly after the Eurogroup deal was reached, Schäuble stated that the agreement, which followed what were claimed by the Greek government to be fierce negotiations, was reached three weeks prior but was delayed because the Greek government requested additional time for PR reasons—in other words, to claim that hard negotiations took place.

 

Pensions, salaries see cuts as austerity steamrolls ahead

Indeed, if the rhetoric of the SYRIZA-led government is a guide to go by, then the successes have kept on coming. In February, the SYRIZA government reached yet another deal with its lenders to once again release “bailout” loan funds that already had been pledged to Greece from previous austerity agreements.

In this agreement, the government claimed that “not one euro” of new austerity would be enacted, as any austerity measures and cuts (including interventions to the tax system, which were previously claimed by the government to be “red lines” in its “negotiations” with lenders) would be offset by countermeasures in other areas, euphemistically referred to as “neutral fiscal balance” and “zero-sum fiscal interventions.”

In a “read my lips, no new taxes” moment for the Greek government, these declarations of “zero-sum fiscal interventions” and the “end of austerity” had only just barely been uttered when a host of new austerity measures were unveiled. Initially announced at 3.6 billion euros, these austerity measures now total 14.2 billion euros’ worth of cuts.

These include further reductions of 18 percent to already battered pensions, as well as salary cuts, tax increases, a cut in health expenditures, a further reduction of 50 percent to heating oil subsidies (in a country where the majority of households already cannot afford heating oil and have reverted to fireplaces and makeshift furnaces to keep warm), a reduced tax-free threshold and an increase in tax contributions, and the freeing up of home foreclosures and auctions.

Protesting hospital staff sit in front of a wall that they built at the entrance of the Greek Finance Ministry with a banner depicting Greek Prime Minister Alexis Thipras , Deputy Health Minister Pavlos Polakis and Greek Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos wearing ties reading in Greek ''Ministry of broken promises" and " We drown in debt and bailouts" in central Athens. (AP/Petros Giannakouris)

In exchange, “countermeasures” that will be enacted in 2019 will only take place if Greece meets “fiscal targets” up until then, include minor tax cuts (such as a 70-euro reduction to the “unified property tax” which SYRIZA, prior to ascending to power, denounced as “unconstitutional”) and offering school lunches.

The Greek government, along with its bosses in Brussels and Berlin, continue to insist that tax increases will help, despite all economic evidence to the contrary. While revenues from the value-added tax (VAT) were at 16.3 billion euros when the VAT rate was at 19 percent, those revenues declined to 14.4 billion euros when the VAT was increased to 21 percent, and dropped further to 13.7 billion euros when the VAT was increased again to 23 percent. Today, the VAT for most goods and services is at 24 percent amidst an economic depression that has shown no real signs of abating.

While the SYRIZA-led government is congratulating itself for putting an end to austerity, the aforementioned unified property tax, which according to SYRIZA’s pre-election rhetoric was unconstitutional and to be abolished, will remain in effect at least until 2031. One year ago, in June 2016, a 7,500-page omnibus bill ratified by the Greek government without any debate transferred ownership of all of Greece’s public assets (ranging from water utilities to prime beachfront parcels of land) to a fund controlled by the European Stability Mechanism for the next 99 years.


Related: Greece Forced To Sell Public Water Utilities Under EU-Imposed Privatization Plan


The same bill also reduced the parliament to playing a rubber-stamp role, as it annulled the ability of the Greek parliament to formulate a national budget or to pass tax legislation, with automatic cuts to be activated if fiscal targets agreed upon with the country’s lenders are not met. Foreign experts working on the implementation of the austerity measures and privatizations in Greece were also, as of 2016, granted immunity from prosecution. If all of this seems exaggerated or far-fetched, consider a recent remark by the European Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation and Customs Pierre Moscovici, who stated that “[The EU] often decide[s] Greece’s fate, in place of the Greeks.”

 

Move toward cashlessness benefiting “too big to fail” institutions

As all of this is taking place, Greek businesses—particularly small businesses—are being burdened further, required as of July 27 to install “point of sale” (POS) card readers and to accept payments via credit, debit or prepaid cards. Another law, which came into effect on January 1, pushes consumers towards card payments by setting a minimum threshold of spending at least 10 percent of one’s income via card in order to attain a somewhat higher tax-free threshold.

In a country where capital controls restricting withdrawals from bank accounts and ATMs have been in effect since June 2015, cash is being further withdrawn from the marketplace and is being delivered to a banking system that has already been recapitalized three times and is likely on its way towards a fourth taxpayer-funded “bailout,” keeping with the fine tradition of financial institutions that are said to be “too big to fail.” We are told, of course, that this is for society’s own good, in order to combat “tax evasion” and other terrible things.


Related: How Greece Became A Guinea Pig For A Cashless And Controlled Society


As all of this has taken place, 14 profitable Greek regional airports of strategic and economic importance have been privatized—ironically by being sold to Fraport, itself owned by the German public sector. The port of Piraeus, one of the largest in Europe, has been completely privatized; sold for a pittance to Chinese-owned Cosco. Greek water and power utilities, having been transferred to the aforementioned fund controlled by the ESM, are among the next assets slated for privatization.

Foreclosures of homes are slated to be expanded to primary residences, leaving many households at risk of ending up on the streets, while come September, foreclosures are slated to take place electronically, in accordance with the Greek government’s agreements with its lenders. It should be noted that foreclosure auctions that take place in Greek civil courts each Wednesday have become one of the few remaining battlegrounds where citizens are actively, and often quite successfully, pushing back against one of the products of the economic crisis, preventing many foreclosures from occurring. Switching to electronic foreclosures would eliminate this “inconvenience.”

People queue in front of a bank for an ATM as a man lies on the ground begging for change, in Athens. (AP/Thanassis Stavrakis)

Other “inconveniences” are also being done away with in swift fashion. In August 2016, police in the city of Katerini arrested a father of three for selling doughnuts without a license, fining him 5,000 euros for the offense. In another case, a vendor selling roasted chestnuts in the city of Thessaloniki was surrounded by 15 police officers and arrested for the high offense of operating without a license. In the meantime, Greek television and radio stations—almost the entirety of which are vehemently pro-EU and pro-austerity and which greatly impact public opinion—operate without valid broadcast licenses.

The SYRIZA government, elected in part on pledges to “nip oligarchs in the bud” (including taking care of the issue of unlicensed broadcasters), has instead allowed oligarchs to shift their money to offshore tax havens, while collectively treating ordinary citizens and small business owners as being guilty of tax evasion. Former finance minister with the center-right New Democracy political party Gikas Hardouvelis was recently acquitted in court for failure to submit a declaration of assets.

In a December 2015 interview, Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos stated that the SYRIZA-led government “didn’t have time to go after the rich.” Unlicensed chestnut vendors, apparently, are another matter altogether, as are activists against the environmentally destructive and economically dubious gold mining operations in north Greece’s Skouries that are being conducted by Eldorado Gold with a Greek oligarch, Giorgos Bobolas.

In late May, the physically disabled 77-year-old Thodoros Karavasilikos was issued a 12-month suspended jail sentence for, apparently, physically assaulting 10 riot police officers in a protest against the Skouries mining operations. Furthering this war on the elderly, Dimitris Kammenos, a member of parliament with the “patriotic” Independent Greeks party which is co-governing with SYRIZA, stated in a televised interview in April that 100 euros that were being slashed from pensions were “better off being taken by the state” than to be “given by pensioners to their grandchildren to go out and have coffee.”

 

Civil unrest on the rise amid economic uncertainty

It can be argued that being a Greek citizen is a great disadvantage in Greece at the present time. In the blighted Athens suburb of Menidi, an 11-year-old Greek child was apparently killed by a stray bullet, said to have been fired from a residence of a Roma family. Civil unrest has followed in the area between the Greek and Roma populations, to which the SYRIZA-led government has somehow responded by proposing that Roma children be allowed to enter Greek universities and the police academy without taking entrance exams.

A protester reacts next to a flare outside the the Interior Ministry as thousands of striking municipal workers demonstrate in central Athens, June 22, 2017. Union officials want the left-led government to grant full-time, permanent state jobs to municipal workers employed on short-term contracts that have expired or are about to expire. (AP/Petros Giannakouris)

While migrants in Greece are receiving 400euro monthly subsidies (greater than many salaries and pensions in present-day Greece) and free housing, thanks to assistance from the EU and numerous “well-meaning” non-governmental organizations, the same sensitivity has not been displayed to victims of a recent earthquake that severely impacted the island of Lesvos, one of the primary entry points for migrants. Instead, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the leader of the center-right New Democracy, the main opposition party in Greece which is favored to win the next national elections whenever they take place, promised those whose homes were destroyed by the quake a two-year waiver of the unified property tax, should his party be elected.

Tourism, however, is said to be saving the day. Greece is said to be receiving record numbers of visitors, and the Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport in Athens is receiving a record number of passengers. These statistics are often repeated by the government and by Tourism Minister Elena Kountoura of the Independent Greeks political party, the minority partner in Greece’s coalition government. What is not said is who these tourists are, or what their real impact on the economy is.

Many of these tourists are visiting the country on package travel deals booked with overseas travel agencies, flying to and from Greece on foreign-owned charter airlines and staying in hotels which themselves are often owned by foreigners. Many of these hotels offer “all-inclusive” hospitality packages, often offering the very lowest-quality imported food and drink products in order to slash costs. While foreigners get to enjoy Greek resorts and sunshine at bargain rates, austerity-hit Greeks, battered by the crisis, cannot afford to—nor are they offered the same low rates provided to foreign visitors.

Most tourists on “all-inclusive” deals rarely venture away from their hotels, and businesses in tourist regions, ranging from convenience stores to restaurants, are seeing business suffer while their tax burden continues to increase. In a recent visit to Rhodes, one of Greece’s pre-eminent tourist destinations, I observed that the Old Town of Rhodes, perhaps the top tourist destination on the island, was almost deserted at 10:30 p.m. on a Friday night in a country that “stays up all night.” Tourists remained largely locked away in their all-inclusive resorts.

Greece’s “boom times” for tourism are evident by the country’s lack of a national air carrier, which has been the case ever since the previously state-owned Olympic Airlines was dismantled at the behest of the EU and purportedly for violating the European Commission’s competition rules. The privately-owned near-monopoly that has replaced it, Aegean Airlines, has somehow managed not to run afoul of such rules.

While Greece, one of Europe’s top destinations, does not possess any wide-body aircraft, countries such as Serbia and Rwanda do and are running nonstop flights to the United States. Aegean Airlines may not have long-haul flights, but it has delivered much-vaunted “foreign investment”—often touted as the cure-all for Greece’s economic ills, despite a major privatization push since the 1990s, which did not stop the crisis—as 25 percent of the airline is reportedly being purchased by Hainan Airlines of China.

Tourism Minister Elena Kountoura, apropos of nothing, recently brought us back to 2015 and to the referendum which took place that year, where 62 percent of voters rejected an EU-proposed austerity plan—only for the result to be overturned within days, as the SYRIZA-led government turned around and agreed to an even harsher austerity package, known as the third memorandum agreement, than the one voters had rejected.

The SYRIZA-led government has since agreed to a fourth memorandum agreement, but according to Kountoura, the negotiation that occurred in 2015 that led to the third memorandum—chock-full of austerity measures and the privatization of profitable assets—prevented 16 billion euros’ worth of austerity measures from being enacted.

 

No end in sight for bleak austerity

Unfortunately, two years after the “triumphant” referendum and rejection of austerity—which was promptly overturned and replaced with even harsher austerity—there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel for the beleaguered nation. Nor does a political “savior” appear to exist. The aforementioned New Democracy party is part and parcel of the corrupt political duopoly, along with PASOK, which ruled Greece for 40 years after the fall of the military junta in 1974, and is vehemently pro-EU and pro-austerity (as long as they are the ones implementing the austerity and pro-Europe policies, instead of SYRIZA).

In previous elections, political “renegade” Vasilis Leventis and his Centrists’ Union political party were elected to parliament—likely as a protest vote. Leventis is famous for his supposed crusades against corruption and the two-party system, and for wishing cancer upon former Prime Ministers Kostantinos Mitsotakis (father of the current New Democracy leader) and Andreas Papandreou (father of George Papandreou, prime minister when Greece was led into the IMF-EU “bailout” and austerity regime) on live television in 1993.

A motorcyclist looks on as he drives next to a pile of garbage in Piraeus, near Athens, on Monday, June 26, 2017. Municipality workers have been on strike for almost a week , hindering trash collection across the country. (AP/Petros Giannakouris)

Today, Leventis is calling for the installation of a “government of technocrats” (much like the non-elected government led by banker Loucas Papademos in late 2011 and 2012, which passed the second memorandum agreement with no popular mandate) and who has also stated recently that Greece “does not deserve to have its debt restructured.”

In reality, the entirety of parliament—despite the eight political parties which comprise it and which create the facade of political pluralism—can be described as being pro-austerity, pro-euro, and pro-EU. The same can be said of smaller political parties, currently outside of parliament and vying to gain public support.

These include parties founded by Panagiotis Lafazanis and Zoe Konstantopoulou—who as part of the first SYRIZA government of January-September 2015 voted in favor of numerous pro-memorandum and pro-austerity pieces of legislation and in favor of the pro-Europe corrupt former government minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos as president of the Hellenic Republic, who recently stated that Greece will remain in the EU “indefinitely and irrevocably.”

Two years after saying “no” to austerity, this is the state of affairs in Greece today. Poverty, fear, unemployment and a continued brain drain, as well as corruption, lies, and above all, an undying attachment to the EU and the Eurozone, at least on the part of the almost complete entirety of the country’s political class. That’s life today in a modern-day EU debt colony.

 

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MOSQUE; SYRIAN ARMY ENTERS EAST DAYR EL-ZOR; SAA CRUSHES NUSRA-ZIONIST ATTACK ON GOLAN; SAA SEPARATES EAST DER’AH FROM THE WEST – By Ziad Fadel

image: https://i2.wp.com/www.essential-architecture.com/ASIA-WEST/WA-IQ/MFD10-05.jpg?w=700

You have all heard the news. The 800-year old Grand Al-Nuri Mosque whence the Caliph of Cockadoodledoo announced his ascension to the throne of his imaginary Islamic asteroid has been deliberately destroyed by either the Islamist nihilists of ISIS or the boneheaded nihilists of the American-led coalition.  We don’t know, yet.  However, the Pentagon, as always, denies anything that smacks of American war crimes or unsavory activity.  If you believe the Pentagon, only a few hundred Iraqi and Syrian civilians have been killed by its air strikes when almost all groups monitoring the carnage attest that the U.S. has killed over 5,000 non-combatants.

Like the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy, this particular mosque has gained popularity because of the minaret’s attitude; it leans about 9 feet away from its idealized vertical position.  It might be of interest to some of you that the mosque was ordered built by the 12th Century Seljuq Atabegh of Mosul, Nooreddeen Al-Zangi, whose name has been borrowed by the head-slicing savages who were annihilated by the Syrian Army in Aleppo recently.  While they remain active as terrorists allied with Ankara, they have found little peace or success in recent months.

I have already told you that Al-Baghdaadi was killed by the Syrian Air Force 2 years ago near Mayaadeen.  His death has been kept a secret in the same manner as that of Mullah ‘Umar of the Taliban.  Iraqi officers leading the ISIS security services feared a mass desertion if the death was announced.  There was also a fear that his death would be viewed by some as proof of his human failings and disapproval by the deity himself.  Pure nonsense?  It is, but, so is the entire militant Islamist experiment.

Russia is announcing is own responsibility for the death of the freak Caliph because ISIS terrorist channels are discussing how to announce his demise.  The Russians, for good reason, interpreted the chatter as proof of their success in killing the master rodent only because it coincided with their own bombing runs over Al-Raqqa.

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QUNAYTRA:  There is no better proof that the Zionist Settler State is awash in war crimes and violations of international law than its support for Alqaeda, in the former disguise of Jabhat Al-Nusra, n/k/a Hay`at Tahreer Al-Shaam.  Yesterday, in what appeared to be another fouled-up Zionist military operation against SAA positions near Al-Ba’ath City, the Syrian Army repelled a frontal attack by Alqaeda vultures just as Zionist helicopters fired missiles at civilian residencies killing over 25 with many in critical condition.  The stinking rat Khazar Zionist cockroaches couldn’t hit the wall of a barn if they had to.  As they fired at Syrian Army tanks, they were shocked, evidently, to see how effective new Russian armor was and how effective the Sarab 1 anti-rocket system was in deflecting American-made TOW rockets.  The attack was a disaster.  Over 17 Alqaeda rodents were killed with scores seen evacuated to noisome clinics operated by Warsaw Ghetto scum near Al-Hameediyya.

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HAMA:

image: https://i2.wp.com/jpnews-sy.com/ar/images/news/big/122320.jpg?w=700

الرئيس الأسد يؤدي صلاة عيد الفطر المبارك في رحاب جامع النوري بحماة.. خطيب العيد: الأزمة شدت أواصر السوريين The president of the republic, joined with other Muslims to celebrate the end of the Holy Month of Ramadan at the Al-Noori Mosque in the City of Hama.  He was flanked by the Grand Mufti, Ahmad Badreddeen Hassoon, and the Minister of the Islamic Charities (Awqaaf).  Western propaganda machines are having some kind of field day with this event because as they,wrongly, claim, the president rarely leaves Damascus.  Their suggestion is that he remains cloistered in his home as the war supposedly rages on.  One article in the MSM argued the president, Dr. Assad, is showing a new confidence in the way the war is evolving, hence, his unexpected visit to Hama.

Al-Salamiyya:  At the axis of the oil pipeline and the ruins of Al-Deeba, the Russian navy fired off 6 Kaliber cruise missiles from 2 frigates and a submarine in the Mediterranean while the Syrian Army joined in by unloading tons of ordnance on the remaining ISIS refuse infecting the Hamawi countryside.  According to all sources on the ground, ISIS suffered heavy losses in rats and materiel.

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DER’AH: The Syrian Army has successfully sealed off the Eastern side of Der’ah from the partially-infested Western side. In doing this, the SAA has essentially isolated pockets of Saudi-and-Zio-supported terrorists and prevented them from infiltrating into the east to conduct trade or to replenish their supplies.  This is the end of the terrorist occupation of Der’ah. A large SAA force from the 5th Mechanized Armored Division is preparing to launch the final offensive to exterminate the cringing rodents.

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DAYR EL-ZOR:  Short and sweet: The SAA has finally crossed the Euphrates River and entered the Eastern side of DZ.  ISIS defenses are collapsing as news from Mosul continues to arrive indicating a major military catastrophe there along with leaked news of the “Caliph’s” demise.

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ROBERT FORD’S INTERVIEW WITH SHARQ AL-AWSAT (courtesy of Sharmine Narwani)

 

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NEWS AND COMMENT:

Moon of Alabama discusses the emerging rift in the Gulf and the Saudi-Zionist ultimatum.  Poorly edited article is worth revisiting for some syntactical improvements:

http://www.moonofalabama.org/2017/06/saudi-qatar-spat-an-offer-to-be-refused-.html?t=1&cn=ZmxleGlibGVfcmVjcw%3D%3D&iid=a98644936e92424cbd061e176ae8f909&uid=1179929389&nid=244+277352456

Brandon quotes Vanessa in this fabulous denunciation of the White Helmets:

http://www.activistpost.com/2017/06/stay-strong-london-firefighters-al-qaeda-supports.html

John Esq. sends this introduction of a new German group dedicated to the plight of the Syrian Arab Republic:

Read more at https://syrianperspective.com/2017/06/isis-nihilists-destroy-iconic-mosul-mosque-syrian-army-enters-east-dayr-el-zor-saa-crushes-nusra-zionist-attack-on-golan-saa-separates-east-derah-from-the-west.html#26x49f0mOaEKfBkL.99

Sott.net Interview with Father Daniel in Syria: “There Never Was a Popular Uprising in Syria” – By Bahar Azizi & Fr. Daniel Maes

© Father Daniel Maes
Father Daniel: “This is a very recent picture with Fadia (4.5 years old) who was born when her mother was in danger and when we were heavily attacked by terrorists. We took her mother in safety when she was pregnant. Fadia is, I think, normal and lively, but she hasn’t spoken yet. She survived the shootings and bombardments in the basement together with us. Meanwhile, the family is reunited and has a home in Qara, but the mother and Fadia still visit us now and then to say hi.”

Since 2010, Father Daniel Maes (78), from the monastery of Postel in Belgium, has been a resident of Syria’s sixth-century Mar Yakub monastery in the city of Qara, 90 kilometers north of the capital Damascus. He has returned to his home country several times in the intervening years to give seminars, but remains living in Syria.

I interviewed Father Daniel recently. The following is his story. He told me why he went to Syria in 2010, and how he experienced a culture shock when he first arrived there. He also explained that there never was a civil uprising in Syria, touched on the propaganda surrounding chemical attacks, relayed heartbreaking stories from Syrians themselves and praised the great support they receive from Hezbollah, the Syrian Army, and Russia.

A harmonious society

During one of the international ecumenical gatherings, I met Mother Agnes-Mariam, the founder of the Mar Yakub monastery – which once was one of the most famous monasteries of the Middle East. I was very impressed by her modesty and work, and I invited her to come to speak in Belgium several times after that. Her talks were very successful. At one point, she asked me: “I have visited you so many times. When will you visit us?” And that’s when I decided to go to Syria.

I had never had any contact with an Arabic country, so I had many prejudices. I thought that one had to be very careful in a Muslim country. To describe my experience in just a few words: It was nothing less than a culture shock to me. The hospitality that I experienced there was amazing, and the majority of youth, and the different kinds of people, from all walks of life and religions – Shiite, Sunni, Orthodox, Catholic, any possible religion – were all united. Regarding the country as a whole, life was harmonious; I have never seen such a harmonious society.

Hospitality was not only shown to Christians; there was no distinction made between Muslims and Christians. In all of Damascus, I think, there was not even one door that was locked. On a certain evening, I met a Christian woman who has a tourist office in Damascus. She told me: “I’ve been in many countries, and places. I’ve been in Brussels, I’ve been in Paris, and there is no other city like Damascus, where you can go out at night in safety.”

She was a beautiful lady, and she could safely walk the streets. In addition, treatment at hospitals was free, except medicines (all made in Syria!), and following a program of study at the university cost around 20 euros. On the whole, I witnessed a prosperous, safe, hospitable, and harmonious society. And refugees, about one million from Iraq and some from Bosnia, were treated as their own citizens.

© Daniel Demeter/Syria Photo Guide
Monastery Deir Mar Yaqoub in Qara, Syria

No civil uprising took place in Syria

As soon as the lies started pouring in, I started my fight against those lies with the truth. One journalist claimed that when he was in Syria, he “asked for bread, but received bullets instead” – as if to prove that there was a civil uprising. Let me tell you, when I was in Syria before the war, 10 loaves cost 10 cents – a tenth of a euro. What nonsense this journalist was spouting. That has been my battle; against those lies. The West was trying to ‘find’ any reason to murder that country.

On a Friday evening we went to the priest in Qara. We would occasionally go out here and there to Christian families to pray for those who were ill. At some point we went to the presbytery to get food, we were walking, and on the street there was the main mosque, where we saw a group of young people.

They were screaming, yelling and held anti-Assad and anti-Syria banners. The priest told us later on that they were not Syrians. They came from abroad. They were filming their ‘demonstration’ and were paid generously by Al Jazeera for that. That was the so-called civil uprising. Thankfully, that was still at the very beginning, otherwise we would not be alive today. It was a very unpleasant feeling as we walked by those people to go to the presbytery.

At the time we didn’t know it was so organized. We heard from friends that the same occurred in other places. Since troublemakers are not wanted in any of our villages, this group of young people were not supported by anyone in the village. Still, they managed to grow. It grew to arson attacks and armed violence. The priest was also attacked, robbed, and was able to barely escape from strangulation by masked men with strange accents.

The organized and armed ‘opposition’ were now calling the shots. In Homs and Quosseir, children from Christian families and moderate Muslim families were threatened or even killed if they refused to participate in anti-government demonstrations. As the local archbishop, Jean-Clément Jeanbart, said: “If the people of Aleppo had not resisted these armed gangs energetically, and helped the army, the city would’ve been taken by rebels in a single day.

There was NO uprising, or so-called ‘civil war’; from within, there was no reason for it.

The great majority of Syrians continue to support their democratically elected President, as well as the Syrian Army.

Chemical attack propaganda

The story surrounding the chemical gas attack in August 2013 was a disgrace. Not a single journalist reported on the irregularities, and didn’t ask any critical questions. In early August 2013, 11 villages were attacked in Lattakia. People were killed and homes destroyed, and many children were kidnapped. We tried to help find them. A list was compiled with their name, gender, and a note on whether they were missing, had been kidnapped or were murdered. There was not a word on this from the media.

Obama had announced in 2012, under intense media interest, that the use of chemical weapons was a ‘red line’. In other words, a reason to invade or attack Syria militarily, which the ‘international community’ was impatiently waiting for. Syria gave the UN and its agencies dozens of letters with evidence of chemical attacks by rebels, which was confirmed by nuns at a hospital in Aleppo. Not one letter has been answered and not a single attack has been investigated.

An official commission of inquiry was sent to Damascus and, while they arrived safe and sound, a massive chemical poison attack took place in nearby Ghouta under their noses. Western heads of state immediately expressed their horror at the atrocity, which they assumed had been ordered by Assad, and before the commission even began investigating it. In addition, the heads of state gave very different figures, ranging from 200 to 1,000 deaths. Apparently, they were better at agreeing amongst themselves who the culprit was (Assad) than they were regarding the number of victims.

The 35 professional videos, published right after the attack, showing a great number of dying children, went around the world. Left out was key context; that region had long been abandoned by families because of the fighting. And nowhere was a mother or an elder to be seen! Parents from Lattakia recognized their kidnapped children. Some were lying in different positions in the pictures.

How is it possible that no parents were present in those photos and footage? How could they even publish all that documentary evidence so soon after the attack? Why were the bodies of those innocent children neatly put together in one room? And that in a Middle Eastern village which was already emptied – how could there have been children there to begin with? Instead of asking these questions, accusations were thrown around before any investigation took place, making it clear to me that it was a set-up.

In my efforts against the lies, I try to make it clear that what people say or think is not neutral. It is important to ask: Are you standing side-by-side with the murderer or do you stand on the side of truth and the innocent victims?

Also, everybody should know by now that the WMDs story of Iraq was nothing but a lie: there were no WMDs. Now they’re telling us that Assad is killing his people? Everyone who has even a bit of a brain will understand immediately that all this is a set-up, that these allegations do not hold water.

The Syrian people know who their killers are; the terrorists – and they know who their protectors are, the Syrian army and their allies. So I can’t help but ask journalists: are you so stupid to think that the people here are too stupid to know who the murderers and saviors are?

To this day, there are posters and pictures up all over Syria praising Assad and Putin – that is the reality.

While Western nations continue to lie, Russia tells the truth


Heartbreaking stories

I have many stories from Syria. I will tell you a couple. In early May 2016, dozens of Syrians and Lebanese came together at a festive meeting for martyrs. There were such touching stories. A woman with a baby in her arms was there, with a tear in her eye and a smile. Her loved one was killed by the terrorists. These people greeted me kindly as a European foreigner, but you can’t help but feel ashamed.

There was also the Muslim family of Fawad. The Christian neighborhoods of Homs were the first ones the media reported as ‘freed’ by the so-called rebels, who had murdered, plundered, and destroyed. 130,000 Christians were expelled, and Muslims also suffered a lot due to the horrors of the ‘liberation’. Fawad’s father told how his only son was a student at the University of Homs. On a certain day, he didn’t come home; he had been kidnapped. All searches were in vain.

After some time, the parents received a phone call: “Would you like to see your son again?” The father promised to give everything or do anything in order to get his son back. A couple of days later, someone rang their doorbell. They opened the door and they saw a picture of their son on a plastic bag, after which a car drove away quickly. In the bag was the body of their son, in pieces. At first the father was furious. Later he was present at the Musalah meeting. The father continues to speak with great conviction: “We forgive those who killed our son. Let us forgive on behalf of Fawad and on behalf of God. That is the price we have to pay for peace.

They felt so lost, and so tired of suffering.

Before and after pictures of Syria. Do people truly think ‘rebels’ have Syria’s best interests at heart?

Our experience in Qara, liberated by Syrian Army and Hezbollah

Since 2012, our town of 25,000 residents quickly grew to 80,000 with strange bearded and heavily-armed men. Tens of thousands of armed terrorists attacked Qara and used it as a base from which to carry out attacks. However they were only able to carry out two or three small attacks from there.

Together with Muslim families, including children, we hid in the basement of the church, not giving away any signs of life. Muslims took care of us and we took care of them, while we entertained their children as best we could. We all had our hands full to keep them busy. Also, to keep them from being afraid, while for us there was no time to be afraid.

We moved some furniture inside, and behind the furniture the Muslim women slept. We slept on the other side. For a whole week, we had no water, but luckily there was snow. We had a garden which provided us with some almonds, cherries, figs and grapes. We also had bags of corn in the basement, which we ate from. It was an eye-opening experience, living together.

On a Sunday morning, the door was opened, a man came in and said, “It’s over“. His name was Ruah Allah, i.e. ‘Spirit of God’!

Hezbollah helped a lot in fighting off those terrorists in Qara. They were the first to provide help; along with the Syrian army, they protected and saved the people of Syria. The fact that we’re still alive is otherwise inexplicable. Qara was very dangerous in November 2013.

Hezbollah was originally set up because Zionists murdered their wives and children and destroyed their homes. They’re young idealists who joined Hezbollah as resistors, who want to serve and protect their people, but also, as it were, have sworn to help those who are similarly being threatened by the same kind of brutal aggression. And, if Syria would fall, then Lebanon wouldn’t survive more than a few days after that, either. The idealism of those young people was inspiring. As Shiites they work together with Syrian soldiers, most of whom are Sunni. They also work well together with Christians. It was a pleasant experience. They continue to protect the population and therefore us.

Near the end of 2013, the army and Hezbollah cleared the town of terrorists. One after another terrorist group fled. We don’t know how exactly it happened, but the Syrian army and their allies had the upper hand. There were still some small groups of rebels left at the time. But, soon after, some residents returned, shops and business re-opened and the spirits of the people were lifted. Some residents came back to help to rebuild. Our garden has been more or less damaged, but we are working on restoring it.

Brave Hezbollah soldiers, putting their lives in danger to protect the Syrian people.

Enter Russia

We are also very thankful to Russia. If Russia didn’t come in 2015, then we would not be here today and Syria would not exist anymore. Russia says what it does and does what it says. We haven’t had direct interaction with Russians. Northern Aleppo had more contact with them. But we have seen trucks full of humanitarian supplies from Russia. A lot was organized.

Certainly, the Russians have their own reasons for being there. Just as the US is there to serve its own agenda, which wants to achieve it by destroying Syria and putting puppets in charge there, as they have done to other countries in the past 25 years, with 20 million deaths as a result. Russia on the other hand wants to do anything it can to create stability for the country, and also for its own safety.

They support the idea that the country itself should choose its own government and president. They want to protect the stability, integrity and sovereignty of the country. And if Russia has some kind of an agenda in all of this as well, well, then my choice regarding whether I’d want the US or Russia here has been made quickly. We have nothing more than appreciation for the Russians. As I said, we didn’t have personal contact with them. But based on what I’ve seen and heard from Syrian citizens, I know enough.

And you have to admit, Putin sure is an artist. Russia put up no-fly zones, against the US! It is exactly the opposite of what the US wanted to do: to provide no-fly zones in favor of the terrorists, not in favor of the Syrian army. And, while the so-called international coalition has more military power, Russia manages to do so much more. Russia is four times better than all those who protect and transport ISIS puppets to serve their political interests.

Syrians feel immense gratitude towards Russia and President Putin.


Situation now in Qara: Help from the community and the church

Since the beginning, Mother Agnes-Mariam established three centers: in Jerama (Damascus), Qara (the Monastery) and Tartous. We’re receiving many containers, but you can’t do anything with those supplies if they aren’t organized. There are a lot of medical supplies for many hospitals, everywhere people need medical help. We work day and night on organizing these supplies, and other kinds of supplies. We receive medical supplies, clothes, and food at our storage room, then we select and organize them. We quickly first take food out from the containers (due to their expiration date). We put everything neatly in boxes, and write down what and how much is in each box. These boxes are then sent out.

It’s tragic. The terrorists are very well cared for and armed by their sponsors, while Syrians are in need of medical help. Terrorists destroyed many hospitals, a whole series of hospitals in fact. Thankfully, in cooperation with the Red Crescent, Sweden has offered us a big hospital including all equipment. It’s a perfect and modern clinic, which we are very thankful for. And since the beginning, we received very great help from the Dutch organization Dorcas.

In addition, Mother Agnes-Mariam, with the help of hundreds of volunteers and some paid workers, have been providing warm meals in Aleppo since September last year. 25,000 warm meals, five days a week, for two months, using products from the region – which also supports the work of the region. The miracle is that it was foreseen happening for two months but continues to this today!

There’s been much emphasis on rebuilding. This month I went back to help do that. Families with children have moved elsewhere, they said they want a future, certainty and safety. However, others have stayed, especially a group of enthusiastic young people, who have many ideas and provide much work and effort in rebuilding Qara. And every day, one of our sisters sets up creative knitwork for 35 women in the village, which the women receive an income from. The knitwork is sold, given or sent to friends abroad. Many have thanked us for our work.

We also grow mushrooms, and there are many other small activities that help people earn an income. There were people with a handicap in the town because they had isolated themselves, but we invited them to the monastery for Easter; it was a unique experience for all of us. They then felt part of the community and have started working also; they have now been integrated into society. We’re also working on a carpet factory, where people can work on making carpets. The population is probably not waiting for carpets! But we will try to sell them outside to help citizens gain an income. We have to truly be thankful for what we have.

We’ve also worked on restoring our gardens and orchards. This area has the best cherries in the whole world. They used to sell containers full of cherries to Saudi Arabia. Unfortunately, much have been destroyed. But we have planted thousands of tiny plants and small trees.

© Monastery of Mar Yakub
‘If ye walk in my statutes, and keep my commandments, and do them; Then I will give you rain in due season, and the land shall yield her increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit.’ (Lev 26:3-4) – Cherry trees in Qara.


Hope for Syria

The country has become much more united. During the festive meeting of martyrs, one could clearly see the unity of the people, between Alawites, Catholics, Shiites, Sunnis, Christians… We have become one family, that continues to become bigger and stronger. Certain people can murder, kill, destroy infrastructure, but bringing a country to its knees will not happen.

Figure this: Alawites are probably ‘worse’ for Muslims than Christians, as the Alawites haven’t taken anything from Islam. And it is this man, President Assad, who is being supported by all, including the 70% Sunni Syrian population. We live together as one family. We work together towards the same society – and that is very strong.

There is hope. Solidarity will grow, and the harmonious connection is still there. Every country has its shortcomings, but in all of the misery, there are heroes. There are heroes and there are holy men. Amongst Muslims and others.

We can also see that there is a move from a unipolar world to a multipolar world, and I hope that for Syria this year we’ll continue to make progress. We’ve been through many years of war, but our unity has only become stronger.

Father Daniel lastly thanked me for the opportunity to speak about what he has experienced in Syria. He recalls two journalists who visited him in Qara. One of them started with the question: “Are you a fan of Assad?” To which he answered: “If I publicly say that I am against terrorists killing our Belgian Prime Minister Michel, then does that make me a fan of Michel or a paid fan of the Belgian regime?” Journalists also tend to ask about the ‘civil war’, to which he replies that there never was one. “They want to paint a certain picture. They want to hear stories of the brutal dictator. I’m pretty certain those interviews were never broadcasted,” he told me with a laugh. He didn’t give the answers they wanted to hear. He told the truth.

Father Daniel Maes

Consider a donation to help the Monastery of Mar Yakub in Qara, Syria, through which Father Daniel and others continue rebuilding what was destroyed by Western-backed terrorists. Father Daniel is also the author of a book (in Dutch) on natural family planning.

Bahar Azizi

Originally from Afghanistan, Bahar Azizi lives in Europe, holds an MA in psychology, is an instructor in Éiriú Eolas meditation, and is a keen animal lover. Bahar has been a contributing writer and editor at SOTT.net since 2012 and occasionally co-hosts the ‘Behind the Headlines’ show on ‌the Sott Radio Network.

Victorious Syria: A new dawn of resistance against imperialism – By Bruno Guigue – Translation by Vanessa Beeley

© Vanessa Beeley

As on a calm, still morning, the landscape of Syria is gradually emerging from the shadow. Everywhere, the advances of the Syrian Arab Army have reconquered thousands of square kilometers of territory in East Aleppo, Homs and Damascus. The army is on the verge of retaking full control of the Syria-Jordan and Syria-Iraq borders, traditional rat runs for the foreign mercenaries intent on destroying the cradle of civilization for a fistful of petrodollars.

Restoring the sovereignty of the Syrian state on its national soil, this courageous army of conscripts, inflict shame upon all those who dreamed of destroying this recalcitrant state, upon all those who wanted to dismember Syria because it dared to foil their neocolonialist plot.

© Vanessa Beeley
Maaloula, Christian village where Aramaic is still taught in the schools. Invaded by Nusra Front in 2013, liberated in 2014.

Victorious on the military front, since the liberation of Aleppo, the sovereign state of Syria is also making huge advances politically. In the distant past, Le Monde “diplomatique” was able to predict, without fear of ridicule, the ‘golden’ exile of the Assad family in the wilds of Siberia. The Syrian president has watched his adversaries file past, chanting the same ridiculous mantras against a country they knew nothing about. According to the West, President Bashar al Assad’s departure was a pre-requisite for the crisis to be resolved. The reality was the opposite. The resistance of the Syrian state, for which the president is the touchstone, required his steadying hand. Where so many others would have fled the battlefield, the commander stayed at his post and did a good job.

President Bashar Al Assad walking around a local Damascus market where food and essential supplies are sold at subsidized prices for the people who cannot afford full price. June 2017.

Fervent admirer of Al Qaeda, Laurent Fabius told us that the head of the Syrian state did not deserve to be upon this earth. Bad call! While Fabius practices his worldly ethylism in the Constitutional Council, President Assad still leads his country from Damascus. The Syrian army is eliminating the plague of sectarian groups, whose triumph Fabius had envisaged and the Syrian people can taste the rising hope from the last stages of the war. What is most startling from western leaders, is their tendency to speak too soon. For six years, their echo chamber media recycled the headline that the Syrian government was about to fall. Luckily for those journalists, they are not paid on the result.

© Vanessa Beeley
Aleppo, after full liberation from Nusra Front-led extremist occupation in December 2016. Photo taken in April 2017.

To fully understand the reasons for the Syrian resistance against an unprecedented international offensive, one only had to consult reliable sources and to employ critical thinking. Even though the propaganda merchants would have us believe that the people had unanimously risen up against a “tyrant”, overwhelming popular demonstrations in favor of the Syrian government and its reforms actually flooded the streets in March and October 2011, as shown on Al Mayadeen’s TV channel. These popular rallies proclaimed their allegiance to the nationalist, secular state and vociferously rejected the Wahhabi sharia law. These crowds poured onto the streets of Damascus, Aleppo, Tartous and elsewhere. Western media stubbornly kept their cameras trained only on the ‘bearded’ gatherings, depicting them as the popular uprising.

© Al Jazeera
October 2011 – Tens of thousands of Syrians have rallied in central Damascus in show of support for President Bashar al-Assad.

The primary facts, indispensable to the understanding of the unfolding events were not given any coverage by mainstream media, that, instead, presented only the pre-fabricated ‘facts’ that served the ’cause’. The “moderate rebels” massacring the families of the Baathist civil servants, for example, were transformed into the security forces “firing upon civilians”. Of course we could have predicted this sequence of events, knowing the extent of the involvement of the Washington neocons.

While you speak of the reality we are creating, we will create a new reality” said Karl Rove, advisor to George W Bush and distinguished apostle of “constructive chaos”.

© Vanessa Beeley
Children from East Aleppo who lived for five years under extremist/terrorist occupation, now back at school and beginning the healing process. April 2017.

Fortunately, there comes a time when the factual evidence cannot fail to dispel even the most insidious of lies. It is difficult to maintain the universal nonsense when entire populations are clearly fleeing the “rebel” areas, when the army is reconquering, bit by bit, every inch of its sovereign territory, and the Syrian government is indubitably benefiting from the unfailing support of its allies. Having renounced the habitual formula of the “regime on its last legs”, western media has also been forced to abandon its customary skepticism regarding the “trompe-l’oeil victories” of the Syrian state. For sheer amusement value, I hope they have kept their archives of articles informing us that the Russians and Iranians were about to desert Bashar al Assad and that the “despot was finished”. Only Jean Pierre Filiu, like a cracked record, persists in denying the existence of the Syrian Arab Army but one wonders what planet he is living on.

© Vanessa Beeley
The liberation of East Aleppo. December 2016.

Victorious militarily against the takfiri militants, supported by the huge majority of the Syrian people who want to see an end to the tragedy, fortified by alliances who strengthen the resistance, sovereign Syria can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. Imperialism is not accustomed to loosening its grip so the road will still be long and treacherous but the favorable evolution of the desert warfare augurs an acceleration of events. The military provocations of the US will change nothing, they are merely the rear-guard actions of the declining power. The latest aggression, the shooting down of a Syrian SU-22 by an F-16 close to Raqqa, had the sole effect of torpedoing Russian-US cooperation against DAESH with Moscow announcing that any foreign aircraft would now be considered a target for the Russian DCA.

This US provocation also incited Iran to conduct their first mid-range missile launch against DAESH inside Syrian territory. Up until this moment, Tehran had maintained a discrete military involvement in Syria but the Washington muscle flexing forced its hand to a more critical use of force. In fact, this rise in tensions serves Damascus, and their strong condemnation of western presence on its sovereign territory. It also serves their ally, Russia, whose credibility goes up a notch, with every US provocation.

Even if they succeed in taking Raqqa, the Kurdish-Arab allies of the US will discover it is a hollow victory and the Syrian Arab Army will soon be back in control. DAESH will shortly be driven out of their pseudo-capitals, Mosul and Raqqa, deprived of the supply routes and caught in the pincer movement of the Syrian and Iraqi forces.

But that’s not all. A Wall Street Journal investigation has provided valuable information about Israel’s support for the Syrian “rebels” who, in return, assure they maintain custody of the Golan Heights. With scant concern for this kind of additional information, the New York financial journal does however recognize the irony of the “cash” received by the militant leaders. When Damascus has dealt with DAESH, these collaborators with the occupier will have cause for concern. As for the pseudo-defenders of the Palestinian cause who demanded weapons for the “Syrian revolution” their malicious intent is clear.

“To provoke the fall of Bashar Al Assad is the best way to protect Israel”, wrote Hillary Clinton. After six years of lies the masks are falling. Syria confronted the Zionist invader in 1948-49, 1967, 1973 and 1982 and it never capitulated. Today, the hour of truth is fast approaching, but we already know who has won the war.

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