Russia vows to wipe out terrorist-run drone assembly workshops in Idlib – By TASS

September 14, 16:57 UTC+3

The Russian Defense Ministry spokesman said on September 5 that two Russian frontline bombers Sukhoi-34 wiped out a Jabhat al-Nusra workshop in Idlib

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Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov

© Stanislav Krasilnikov/TASS

BERLIN, September 14. /TASS/. Russia has information where the terrorists assemble drones in Idlib and it will be eliminating these underground workshops, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said at a meeting of the German-Russian forum on Friday.

“We have intelligence information where drones are assembled in Idlib from components smuggled there,” he said. “As soon as we get such information, we will be eliminating such underground workshops that make lethal weapons.”

“What some describe as the beginning of a Russia-supported offensive by the Syrian army is malicious distortion of facts. Both the Syrian forces and we merely react to hit-and-run raids from Idlib,” Lavrov said. “It is very hard to detect drones with ordinary air defense weapons. Many of them are made of wood and cannot be seen on radar screens.”

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said on September 5 that two Russian frontline bombers Sukhoi-34 wiped out a Jabhat al-Nusra (outlawed in Russia) workshop in Idlib, where militants assembled attack drones and kept in store ammunition for them.

In the early hours of September 4, air defense systems of the Hmeimim air base shot down two drones the militants hand launched. Both drones were eliminated far away from the base. Over the past month 47 drones have been shot down or neutralized in the area of the Russian base.

More:
http://tass.com/politics/1021676

Rogue Bodyguard Scandal Fouls Macron’s Squeaky-Clean Image – bY Finian CUNNINGHAM – Strategic Culture Foundation

Rogue Bodyguard Scandal Fouls Macron’s Squeaky-Clean Image
Finian CUNNINGHAM | 22.09.2018 | WORLD / Europe

French President Emmanuel Macron’s plummeting popularity received another blow this week with the continuing scandal of an ex-bodyguard who was given elite access to Élysée Palace – even though he had no professional background in the state security services.

What’s more, Macron’s personal security minder, Alexandre Benalla, is accused of impersonating a police officer while beating up two protesters during a May Day rally in Paris earlier this year.

The thuggish behavior of a top Macron aide raises questions about this president’s ethics and politics. It conveys a disturbing image of fascist street brawling entering the very seat of French government.

Benalla has since been dumped from his post as Macron’s bodyguard over the scandal which has become dubbed “Benalla-gate”.

But the affair reinforces growing public anger over what they see as Macron’s self-inflated presidential style. He is increasingly seen as arrogant, aloof, and unaccountable, with delusions of grandeur.

Ironically, the former Rothschild investment banker, with his youthful “fresh face”, was elected in May 2017 on the back of his much-hyped self-proclaimed mission to renew French politics. Macron (40) even started a brand new political party, En Marche, which was billed as transcending “old” Left-Right rigidities and renovating French democracy.

The president’s honeymoon period with the French public has long worn off. His much-touted social policy reforms are seen as draconian cuts in workers’ rights and public services for the benefit of the wealthy. He has even gained the moniker, “president of the rich”.

On several occasions, Macron has shown a galling elitist conceit, such as when he publicly berated a protesting teenager to “show respect”, or when he floated the idea of bestowing a new formal title of “first lady” to his 25-years-senior wife, Brigitte (65), thus attempting to turn the French parliamentary republic into an American-style executive power.

Recently, when he was challenged by an unemployed gardener about lack of jobs in that profession, Macron haughtily told the young man to try his hand at laboring in building construction. His lack of empathy provoked a public outcry over what appeared to be a “let them eat cake” attitude.

This week, the president’s former bodyguard was summoned by the French Senate to answer questions on his exact relationship with Macron. The enquiry could go on for weeks.

But what the Senate hearings point to is a growing frustration with Macron’s self-styled majesty as a leader who sees himself above reproach. He has often talked about how his presidency is aimed at “restoring France’s greatness”, and seems to have a penchant for addressing parliamentarians beckoned to the Versailles Palace, as if they are his subjects.

His former appointment of Benalla (27) as personal bodyguard raised eyebrows. It smacked of political favoritism towards a personal friend. Benalla has no professional background in the French police or military which is the normal career path for someone appointed to be the president’s top security official. It is said that the former bodyguard’s only experience in security work was being previously employed as a bouncer in a nightclub. How he came to know Macron is an intriguing question, and it is this relationship that lawmakers want to find out about in their ongoing questioning.

Their relationship became a scandal when Benalla was videoed by May Day protesters beating up a man and woman on the streets of Paris earlier this year, while demonstrating against Macron’s social reforms. In the video, Benalla is seen wearing a police helmet and an armband purporting to identify him as a member of the police force. He is also seen viciously punching the man on the head and stomping on his stomach as he fell to the ground. It appears to be a shocking display of gratuitous, sadistic violence.

One can only imagine how Western news media would explode with sensational front page headlines if, somehow, a similar event took place in Moscow, in which an aide to President Putin was filmed being involved in assaulting protesters. You would never hear the end of that in Western media.

Why President Macron’s personal security guard would take time off to go to a rally and beat up protesters is a troubling question. Did Benalla get some perverse pleasure from his violent conduct? It is also a serious offense under French law to impersonate a law enforcement officer, which could result in a prison conviction.

When French media finally identified Benalla from the amateur video footage in mid-July, the accusation was then leveled at Macron of engaging in a cover-up. Hence the term “Benalla-gate” was coined.

Macron at first ignored the furore in typical supercilious mode. Under mounting public pressure, he then eventually broke his silence. Though he reacted in a petulant manner as if the media were picking on him, which only served to underline the perception that this president views himself as some kind of regal figure above the fray of “commoners”.

Bizarrely, Macron riposted to the media questions about Benalla’s seeming privileged employment with a sarcastic quip: “He’s not my lover!”

Was it a Freudian slip? It’s not the first time that Macron’s sex life has been rumored to be secretly gay.

During the presidential campaign, Russian news media carried a report quoting French political opposition sources claiming that Macron’s private life was more nuanced than his marriage to a much older woman suggests. Macron then hit back defensively, accusing Russia of interfering in the French election, based on one throwaway gossip story.

Whatever the precise relationship is between Macron and his rogue bodyguard, one thing does seem clear however. This president has a Napoleon complex, or perhaps a Bourbon Sun King complex. He seems to think exceedingly highly of himself, as being a ruler who is above the rule of law and public accountability.

Just over a year in office, the supposed squeaky-clean Emmanuel Macron is showing himself to have the whiff of the same old corruption that has marred so many of his predecessors in Élysée Palace.

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.

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.

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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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.

After Peace Talks Fail, Saudi Coalition Reverts to Scorched-Earth Campaign Against Civilians in Yemen – by Ahmed Abdulkareem – MINT PRESS

The Forgotten War

Yemen Hodeida

After UN-brokered peace talks between Yemen and the Saudi coalition in Geneva failed last week, the Saudi-led coalition renewed its offensive to capture Yemen’s strategic port of Hodeida, leaving scores of dead civilians in its wake.

HODEIDA, YEMEN — Not long after UN-brokered peace talks between Yemen and the Saudi coalition in Geneva failed last week, the Saudi-led coalition renewed its offensive to capture Yemen’s strategic port of Hodeida. The attacks targeted internally displaced persons, vital facilities and infrastructure– continuing a scorched earth campaign that has left scores of dead civilians in its wake.

“Please doctor, save my mother, she will die!” begged nine-year-old Mohammed as he and his brother Amran stared at their dead mother, who died from injuries sustained when a Saudi airstrike hit their family car Friday on the highway between Hodeida and Sana’a in the Kilo 16 district on the outskirts of Hodeida. The family was attempting to flee to Sana’a.

Lying in blood-stained clothing on a bed in Hodeida Hospital’s emergency room, Mohammed, who hung on to his mother’s purse despite the shrapnel in his hand, recounted the events which led him there:

 

We were moving furniture from our home in Kilo 16 to the truck. When a bomb suddenly hit us. My mother was killed and I, my brother and sister were wounded.”

At least 10 civilians, including women and children, were killed and dozens injured by Saudi-led coalition airstrikes in Hodeida and Sadaa on Friday. Just two days prior, coalition aircraft bombed Hodeida’s Kilo 16 district, killing 15 civilians and injuring dozens more, most of whom were hit when they were forced to flee down the only road that links Sana’a and Hodeida.

The deadly attacks come after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo defended the Saudi coalition following international pressure after the coalition targeted a school bus full of children.

In a written memo, Pompeo ‘certified’  that the Gulf monarchies waging the war in Yemen were taking “sufficient steps to protect civilians.”

The governments of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are undertaking demonstrable actions to reduce the risk of harm to civilians and civilian infrastructure resulting from military operations of these governments.”


Read | Pompeo’s unclassified memo on US Military aid to the Saudi coalition


Despite Pompeo’s statements, attacks on civilians show little sign of abatement.

In another fresh attack by the U.S.-backed coalition, ten civilians including women and children were killed when Saudi airstrikes targeted their family home in the village of Hwara in the Ganiyah district on Monday. Three journalists and a guard were also killed when Saudi airstrikes targeted the Hodeida Radio building Sunday, and two were people were killed and one severely injured after a fishing boat off the island of Al-Sawaba was targeted on Saturday.

 

The worst may be yet to come

Five hundred meters south of Kilo 16, where Mohammed family was hit, local mercenaries employed by the Saudi coalition shelled a United Nations World Food Program (WFP) food silo inside the Yemen Company for Flour Mills and Silos (YCFMS).

The UN food storage facility held large quantities of wheat for the WFP and was responsible for milling about a quarter of the wheat flour the agency distributes to some of the hungriest people in the country, according to the UN.

Speaking to reporters in Geneva on Friday, WFP spokesman Herve Verhoosel said:

Humanitarian workers, infrastructure and food supplies have been targeted in recent days, as clashes are still ongoing near the Red Sea Mills silos, a critical facility for WFP operations. A mortar shell launched by an unidentified armed group also hit a WFP warehouse in Hodeida city, holding enough food to assist 19,200 people, wounding a guard at the warehouse. The fighting could impact WFP’s ability to supply up to 3.5 million people in dire need in northern and central Yemen for a month.”

Earlier, the chairman of Ansar Allah`s (Houthi’s) Supreme Revolutionary Committee, Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, warned in a Twitter post that Riyadh had plans to attack food storage facilities and silos across Hodeida under the false pretext that they were being used to store weapons.

The Ministry of Public Health and Population, based in Sana’a, also warned in a statement that the Saudi-led coalition wanted to target UNICEF food stores and World Food Program grain silos in Hodeida, to “push Yemenis to starvation by various means.”

This comes amidst a worsening famine in Yemen which has left thousands of families in many provinces, including Hodeida, with nothing to eat, leaving some to resort to eating the leaves off of trees in an attempt to stave off starvation.

 

Fleeing becomes almost impossible

Like hundreds of families, Mohammed lost his mother when they were driving the Kilo 16 thoroughfare linking the port city of Hodeida to the capital, Sana’a. Serving as the only major road to Sana’a, the thoroughfare has left civilians exposed to deadly coalition attacks as they attempt to flee the fighting in Hodeida.

Houthi Yemen Kilo 16

The road has been difficult to traverse since June 13, when forces from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates launched a wide-ranging operation to capture Hodeida’s strategic seaport. With airports closed thanks to a coalition blockade, there are no humanitarian corridors to allow civilians to flee or ambulance crews to transport the wounded to Sana’a. The coalition has also blocked internet access across most of Hodeida, making it almost impossible for residents to contact the outside world.

The coalition claims its attacks on the Kilo 16 thoroughfare are intended to cut off the Houthis’ main supply route but have provided no evidence to back their claim. The Houthis likely do not rely on the asphalt road where they could easily be spotted and targeted by coalition aircraft.

The fighting for Hodeida has effectively shut down the main artery linking the port city to the rest of the country, Save the Children charity said Thursday.

Tamer Kirolos of Save the Children said “it’s quite literally a matter of life and death” for the main road linking Hodeida to the capital Sana’a to remain open adding”

This year alone we expect some 400,000 children under five to suffer from severe acute malnutrition … Unless supply routes remain open this figure could increase dramatically, putting the lives of thousands of children at risk from entirely preventable causes.”

For its part, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) has called for the port of Hodeida and the arteries that lead to and from it to remain open. NRC spokesman Jan Engelan said:

Hodeida is not a trophy and its citizens are not toys … A single act of force to disrupt the flow of supplies from Hodeida would be a deadly blow for millions.”

Aid agencies in Yemen have identified close to 500,000 people who had fled their homes in Hodeida between June and August, the NRC said. So far in September, 55,000 people have been displaced across Hodeida, it added, but a large number of civilians are still trapped in their homes.

 

In Hodeida, No guarantee of safety 

UN humanitarian coordinator, Lise Grande, said in a statement on Thursday:

The situation has deteriorated dramatically in the past few days. Families are absolutely terrified by the bombardment, shelling and airstrikes, as the lives of 300,000 inhabitants hang in the balance in the port city.”

“People are struggling to survive,” said Grande. “More than 25 percent of children are malnourished; 900,000 people in the governorate are desperate for food; and 90,000 pregnant women are at enormous risk.”

Indeed, a family who refused to flee Hodeida were targeted by a Saudi coalition airstrike on Friday, leaving one family member dead and many others wounded. The family, who resided in Hodeida’s al-Zurah district, didn’t have the means to escape the fighting and feared airstrikes targeting the roads leaving Hodeida.

International human rights groups say Saudi Arabia has committed war crimes by using unconventional weapons, conducting hundreds of airstrikes on residential areas, and hitting civilian targets across Yemen.

 

Death from above & everywhere else

Back in Hodeida Hospital’s emergency room, doctors struggle to save Mohammed and Amran after their family car was targeted in a coalition airstrike while trying to flee Hodeida via the Kilo 16 thoroughfare. The boys, both in a great deal of pain owing to serious injuries to their heads, hands and back, risk death from the chronic shortage of medical supplies in Yemen owing to a complete Saudi coalition blockade of the countries airports, seaports and roads.  The blockade has been in effect since the coalition campaign began in 2015.

To make matter worse, over 1,250 days of near-constant airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition have reduced Yemen`s hospitals and clinics to rubble and short-circuited its electricity service, while the ruinous blockade has depleted the country’s supply of food and life-saving medicine.

Yemen Famine

Hopes of a UN-brokered agreement to lift the blockade were crushed last week when peace talks between Yemen and the coalition fell through after the UN refused to facilitate the transfer of wounded patients to hospitals outside of Yemen for treatment and to guarantee the safety of a Houthi delegation attending the talks slated to take place in Geneva.

“If the Sana’a negotiating delegation had been allowed to travel to Geneva, I could have saved my father,” said Ahmed Abdul Qadeer. His father, who required a kidney transplant not available in Yemen, was one of several patients scheduled to travel with the Sana’a delegation on September 5.

The United Nations said on Saturday that the situation of children in Yemen is getting worse, not better. Globally, Yemen ranks first in the number of children in need of humanitarian aid. Over 11 million children — 80 percent of the country’s children — are in desperate need of assistance. Social services are barely functioning as the country is on the verge of collapse.

The U.S.-backed military campaign has not only affected children. Civilians across Yemen have suffered immensely from the campaign, which has left thousands of civilians dead, destroyed the country’s infrastructure, and created the conditions for the world’s worst cholera epidemic.

 

Yemen’s resistance shows no sign of surrender

Despite Saudi-led coalition claims of complete control over the Kilo 16 district, including to the main road, Mohammad al-Bukhaiti, a top figure in the Houthi Supreme Political Council, appeared on video Thursday on the Kilo 16 thoroughfare denying that claim.

In June, coalition forces tried to overrun Hodeida but were blocked by fierce resistance put up by Houthi fighters as well as local residents, who took up arms against coalition incursion.

Although the coalition has received substantial intelligence, logistical aid and advanced weaponry from United State, it has continued to plow ahead blindly. More than three years and hundreds of thousands dead and injured later, the coalition is no closer to achieving its goals than it was when it began its bloody campaign.

For their part, the Houthis, who comprise a major component of Yemen’s resistance movement Ansarullah, show no sign of surrender and still control Sana’a and most other major cities, thwarting Saudi Arabia’s efforts to dislodge them in favor of a government more amenable to Saudi policy.

In light of the stalemate and the horrific destruction and loss of life, the Geneva peace talks between should be rekindled. “At least, let Mohammed along with millions of children live in safety as America’s children do, and save what can be saved,” Mohammed and Amran’s father told MintPress.

Top Photo | A girl and her family stand in a school where she and her family were evacuated amid fighting in Hodeida, Yemen. Abdul Jabbar Zeyad | Reuters

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Forget Putin, Trump is Acting in Every Way Like Netanyahu’s Manchurian Candidate – By MIKO PELED – MINT PRESS

Donald Trump, Benjamin Netanyahu, Melania Trump, Sara Netanyahu
Foreign Meddling

Moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem; pulling out of the Iran agreement; defunding UNRWA, and closing the PLO mission in D.C.: every Trump administration move satisfies the objectives of the Israeli government while not benefiting the United States in the least.

WASHINGTON — (Analysis) In the months leading up to the 25th anniversary of the Oslo Accords, the U.S. has colluded with Israel in a string of policies and decisions that completely undermine the legitimacy of the agreement, not to mention Palestinian claims to justice, freedom and ultimately peace. As these policies unfold, one cannot help recalling the words of the great Palestinian writer Ghassan Kanafani, who said that talking with the Israelis is “a conversation between the sword and the neck.”

There is a clear common thread that binds several of the U.S. policies enacted by President Donald Trump since last December. Moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem; pulling out of the Iran agreement; defunding UNRWA, and closing the PLO mission in D.C. all satisfy the objectives of the Israeli government while not benefiting the United States in the least. One might imagine that the United States is executing Israel’s policy, reading as it were from a menu that was provided by Benjamin Netanyahu. In fact, the Trump administration is every Israeli prime minister’s dream.

 

 

Jerusalem

Moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem was reckless, dangerous and absurd. The occupation and annexation of Jerusalem by Israel was in violation of UN resolution 181 from November 1947, which states in “Part III, City of Jerusalem” that:

The City of Jerusalem shall be established as a corpus separatum under a special international regime and shall be administered by the United Nations. The Trusteeship Council shall be designated to discharge the responsibilities of the Administering Authority on behalf of the United Nations.”

Resolution 194 from December 1948 — in other words, more than a year after Resolution 181 was passed and the eastern half of Jerusalem was occupied and subjected to a total full ethnic cleansing, where not one Palestinian was permitted to remain — reiterates this:

8 | Resolves that, in view of its association with three world religions, the Jerusalem area, including the present municipality of Jerusalem plus the surrounding villages and towns, the most eastern of which shall be Abu Dis; the most southern, Bethlehem; the most western, Ein Karim (including also the built-up area of Motsa); and the most northern, Shu’fat, should be accorded special and separate treatment from the rest of Palestine and should be placed under effective United Nations control …

For this reason all diplomatic missions to Israel are situated in Tel Aviv and not Jerusalem. The diplomatic missions in Jerusalem mostly pre-date the establishment of the State of Israel and are considered sovereign and independent of their countries’ embassies in Tel Aviv. Even the U.S. consulate until recently reported directly to Washington, and the consul general was in fact an ambassador. This was not unlike placing the U.S. embassy to France in Berlin and — according to sources I spoke to at the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem — now that the ambassador’s office was moved to Jerusalem, the place is in a state of confusion and it is not at all clear who is responsible for what.

In addition to all of the above, the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital city of Israel legitimizes the crime of ethnic cleansing and destruction which Israel has perpetrated in Jerusalem since 1948. This move did not benefit the U.S. in any way but it boosted Benjamin Netanyahu’s political power, and can be viewed as nothing less than a personal political gift from the president of the United States to Netanyahu.

US President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu embrace at the Israel museum in Jerusalem, May 23, 2017. (AP/Sebastian Scheiner)

 

Iran Deal

Israel, and Netanyahu, in particular, have been against the nuclear deal with Iran from the very beginning. Needing a diversion from its own war crimes and violations of international law, Israel has for many years pointed to Iran as a threat to itself and the rest of the world. This was a point of serious disagreement between the Obama administration and Israel and then Donald Trump put the disagreement to rest and the U.S. withdrew from the agreement.

According to a piece in Rand.com, Trump withdrew the U.S. from the agreement “despite a lack of evidence that Iran is violating the agreement. To the contrary, the International Atomic Energy Agency has verified Iran’s compliance numerous times.” The article continues by saying, “the implications of this decision could be disastrous for the Middle East under any conceivable scenario.”

Trump Netanyahu Iran Deal Mintpressnews

A piece in the British Independent bluntly claims that:

The president’s foreign policy has so far been marked by a significant ratcheting of tensions with Iran, driven by his administration’s noted friendliness towards Israel, which opposes the [Iran nuclear] deal.”

According to a report from August 2018 by the IAEA, the International Atomic Energy Agency:

“Since Implementation Day, the Agency has been verifying and monitoring the implementation by Iran of its nuclear-related commitments under the JCPOA.” The report states that among other things:

Since 16 January, 2016 [JCPOA Implementation Day], the Agency has verified and monitored Iran’s implementation of its nuclear-related commitments in accordance with the modalities set out in the JCPOA.”

The report states clearly that Iran was and continues to be compliant in all areas of the agreement. All the other countries that are signatories to the agreement remain committed to it, and they all insisted that a U.S. withdrawal was a mistake. Only one person insisted the U.S. must withdraw, and that is Benjamin Netanyahu, and he is the one person whose claims President Trump decided to accept. Once again, the United States had nothing to gain and everything to lose from the withdrawal and once again Netanyahu personally gained political strength as the sole voice to which the president of the United States listens.

 

UNRWA

The United States can see no benefit whatsoever in denying UNRWA funding; yet this is what the Trump administration decided to do. The very agency responsible for providing relief, albeit inadequate, to the refugees of Palestine was receiving $300 million per year, which is a drop in the bucket in terms of relief and of course in terms of the U.S. government’s total budget. In an open letter to Palestine refugees and UNRWA staff, dated September 1, 2018, Pierre Krähenbühl, UNRWA Commissioner-General, writes,

The need for humanitarian action … in the case of Palestine refugees, was caused by forced displacement, dispossession, loss of homes and livelihoods, as well as by statelessness and occupation. … [T]he undeniable fact remains that they have rights under international law and represent a community of 5.4 million men, women and children who cannot simply be wished away.”

“The attempt to make UNRWA somehow responsible for perpetuating the crisis is disingenuous at best,” the commissioner said, responding to claims made by Netanyahu that “UNRWA is an organization that perpetuates the problem of the Palestinian refugees.” Netanyahu also stated that UNRWA “perpetuates the narrative of the so-called ‘right of return,’” which the state of Israel fears — and therefore, according to Netanyahu, “UNRWA must disappear.”

According to The New York Times, this move was pushed hard by Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, “as part of a plan to compel Palestinian politicians to drop demands for many of those refugees to return.”  The right of the refugees to return is enshrined in UN Resolution 194, and one wonders why the U.S. should object to Palestinian demand for return of the refugees to their homes? Once again this is a gift to Netanyahu, who wants to see the refugee issue disappear.

Trump Kushner Netanyahu

 

PLO Mission

A product of the Oslo Accords, the PLO mission in Washington is the de-facto embassy of Palestine, the face and the voice of the Palestinian Authority in the U.S. Now, almost exactly on the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Accords, the Trump administration announces the closing of the mission. It could have come as no surprise when Netanyahu, who fiercely opposed the Accords, applauded the U.S. administration decision. This was yet one more insignificant step for the U.S., and one giant gift to Benjamin Netanyahu.

Top Photo | President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara Netanyahu at the White House, March 5, 2018. Evan Vucci | AP

Miko Peled is an author and human rights activist born in Jerusalem. He is the author of “The General’s Son. Journey of an Israeli in Palestine,” and “Injustice, the Story of the Holy Land Foundation Five.”

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Target Syria Will a new war be the October Surprise? – By Philip Giraldi – THE UNZ REPORT

BlogviewPhilip Giraldi Archive

Syrian Army

It’s official. The Syrian Army assisted by Russian air support is closing in on the last major pocket of terrorists remaining in the country in the province of Idlib near Aleppo. The United States, which has trained and armed some of the trapped gunmen and even as recently as a year ago described the province as “al-Qaeda’s largest safe haven since 9/11,” has perhaps predictably warned Syria off. The White House initially threatened a harsh reaction if the Bashar al-Assad government were to employ any chemical weapons in its final attack, setting the stage for the terrorists themselves to carry out a false flag operation blamed on Damascus that would bring with it a brutal response against the regime and its armed forces by the U.S., Britain and France.

In support of the claims relating to chemical weapons use, the Trump Administration, which is itself illegally occupying part of Syria, is as usual creating a bogus casus belli. U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley said in a news conference that “This is a tragic situation, and if they [Russia and Iran] want to continue to go the route of taking over Syria, they can do that. But they cannot do it with chemical weapons. They can’t do it assaulting their people and we’re not going to fall for it. If there are chemical weapons that are used, we know exactly who’s going to use them.” As with all Haley commentary, the appropriate response should be expressing wonderment at her ability to predict who will do something before it occurs followed by “Not quite Nikki.” She should familiarize herself with her own State Department’s travel warning on Syria which states explicitly that “tactics of ISIS, [al-Qaeda affiliate in Idlib] Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, and other violent extremist groups include the use of…chemical weapons.”

Setting the stage for a false flag provoked attack on a country that does not threaten the United States was bad enough, but now Washington has apparently hardened its line, indicating that any use of the Syrian Army to clear the province of rebels will “…not be tolerated. Period.” Haley again spoke out at the United Nations, saying “…an offensive against Idlib would be a reckless escalation. The regime and its backers must stop their military campaign in all its forms.” In support of its inflexible stance, the White House has been citing the presence of a large civilian population also trapped in the pocket even though there is no evidence whatsoever that anyone in Washington actually cares about Syrian civilian casualties.

And there is always Iran just waiting to get kicked around, when all else fails. Haley, always blissfully ignorant but never quiet, commented while preparing to take over the presidency of the U.N. Security Council last Friday, that Russia and Syria “want to bomb schools, hospitals, and homes” before launching into a tirade about Iran, saying that “President Trump is very adamant that we have to start making sure that Iran is falling in line with international order. If you continue to look at the spread Iran has had in supporting terrorism, if you continue to look at the ballistic missile testing that they are doing, if you continue to look at the sales of weapons we see with the Huthis in Yemen — these are all violations of security council resolution. These are all threats to the region, and these are all things that the international community needs to talk about.”

And there is the usual hypocrisy over long term objectives. President Donald Trump said in April that “it’s time” to bring American troops home from Syria -once the jihadists of Islamic State have been definitively defeated. But now that that objective is in sight, there has to be some question about who is actually determining the policies that come out of the White House, which is reported to be in more than usual disarray due to the appearance last week of the New York Times anonymous op-ed describing a “resistance” movement within the West Wing that has been deliberately undermining and sometimes ignoring the president to further Establishment/Deep State friendly policies. The op-ed, perhaps by no coincidence whatsoever, appeared one week before the release of the new book by Bob Woodward Fear: Trump in the White House, which has a similar tale to tell and came out on Amazon today.

The book and op-ed mesh nicely in describing how Donald Trump is a walking disaster who is deliberately circumvented by his staff. One section of the op-ed is particularly telling and suggestive of neocon foreign policy, describing how the White House staff has succeeded in “[calling out] countries like Russia…for meddling and [having them] punished accordingly” in spite of the president’s desire for détente. It then goes on to elaborate on Russia and Trump, describing how “…the president was reluctant to expel so many of Mr. Putin’s spies as punishment for the poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain. He complained for weeks about senior staff members letting him get boxed into further confrontation with Russia, and he expressed frustration that the United States continued to impose sanctions on the country for its malign behavior. But the national security team knew better – such actions had to be taken to hold Moscow accountable.”

If the op-ed and Woodward book are in any way accurate, one has to ask “Whose policy? An elected president or a cabal of disgruntled staffers who might well identify as neoconservatives?” Be that as it may, the White House is desperately pushing back while at the same time searching for the traitor, which suggests to many in Washington that it will right the sinking ship prior to November elections by the time honored and approved method used by politicians worldwide, which means starting a war to rally the nation behind the government.

As North Korea is nuclear armed, the obvious targets for a new or upgraded war would be Iran and Syria. As Iran might actually fight back effectively and the Pentagon always prefers an enemy that is easy to defeat, one suspects that some kind of expansion of the current effort in Syria would be preferable. It would be desirable, one presumes, to avoid an open conflict with Russia, which would be unpredictable, but an attack on Syrian government forces that would produce a quick result which could plausibly be described as a victory would certainly be worth considering.

By all appearances, the preparation of the public for an attack on Syria is already well underway. The mainstream media has been deluged with descriptions of tyrant Bashar al-Assad, who allegedly has killed hundreds of thousands of his own people. The rhetoric coming out of the usual government sources is remarkable for its truculence, particularly when one considers that Damascus is trying to regain control over what is indisputably its own sovereign territory from groups that everyone agrees are at least in large part terrorists.

Last week, the Trump White House approved the new U.S. plan for Syria, which, unlike the old plan of withdrawal, envisions something like a permanent presence in the country. It includes a continued occupation of the country’s northeast, which is the Kurdish region; forcing Iran plus its proxies including Hezbollah to leave the country completely; and continued pressure on Damascus to bring about regime change.

Washington has also shifted its perception of who is trapped in Idlib, with newly appointed U.S. Special Representative for Syria James Jeffrey arguing that “. . . they’re not terrorists, but people fighting a civil war against a brutal dictator.” Jeffrey, it should be noted, was pulled out of retirement where he was a fellow with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), an American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) spin off. On his recent trip to the Middle East he stopped off in Israel nine days ago to meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The change in policy, which is totally in line with Israeli demands, would suggest that Jeffrey received his instructions during the visit.

Israel is indeed upping its involvement in Syria. It has bombed the country 200 times in the past 18 months and is now threatening to extend the war by attacking Iranians in neighboring Iraq. It has also been providing arms to the terrorist groups operating inside Syria.

And Netanyahu also appears to be preparing his followers for a bit of bloodshed. In a recent ceremony, he boasted that “the weak are slaughtered” while “the strong” survive — “for good or ill.” Commentators in Israel noted that the words were very close to those used by Adolf Hitler in Mein Kampf in a chapter describing the historical inevitability of domination by the Aryan race. They also observed that Netanyahu, like Trump, also needs a war to free himself from his legal problems.

Taking the president, the U.N. Ambassador, the Israeli Prime Minister and the U.S. Special Representative for Syria at their words, it would appear that the Washington Establishment and its Israeli manipulators have narrowed the options for dealing with Syria and its regional supporter Iran to either war or war. Add to that the closing time window for doing something to ameliorate the Trump Administration’s panic over the impending midterm election, and it would seem that there is a certain inevitability regarding the process whereby the United States military will again be on the march in the Middle East.

Philip M. Giraldi, Ph.D., is Executive Director of the Council for the National Interest, a 501(c)3 tax deductible educational foundation that seeks a more interests-based U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. Website is www.councilforthenationalinterest.org, address is P.O. Box 2157, Purcellville VA 20134 and its email is inform@cnionline.org.

 

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