All eyes on the Middle East as all-out war between Israel and Iran becomes a greater possibility – By Darius Shahtahmasebi (The Anti-Media) (SOTT)

Middle East war

Over the weekend, Israel used the long-standing adversarial threat of Iran as a pretext to launch a barrage of attacks against targets in Syrian territory. According to the Israeli side, an Iranian drone launched from Syria flew deep into Israeli airspace, which prompted Israel to not only down the drone, but to also target the base the drone was allegedly launched from in Syria.

In turn, Syria activated its air defenses, which saw Israel lose one of its fighter jets soon after. Unhappy with this result, Israel launched a number of retaliatory strikes against Syria’s air defenses, including bases allegedly staffed with Iranian personnel as opposed to Iran’s mere proxy forces. Israel claimed it successfully destroyed half of Syria’s air defenses, and because this is allegedly the first time Israel has actually struck Iranian targets as opposed to Iranian proxies, the weekend’s developments undoubtedly represent an escalation.

We are seeing a renegotiation of the rules of the game with regard to the kind of military activity that each side tolerates in the other,” said Ofer Zalzberg, the senior analyst for Israel/Palestine at the International Crisis Group. “We will see more and more friction between the parties, given that we are seeing more and more this sense that Assad has the upper hand [against Syrian rebels]”, he added.

It’s worth noting that Tehran denied it launched the drone in the first place, stating its forces are in Syria in an advise-and-assist capacity only, yet western media has taken Israel’s claim at face value. Perhaps a drone did violate Israeli territory, but the implication that Iran launched it still requires further proof given the drone almost certainly came from Syria, which has a government and military of its own. Further, a pertinent question worth examining is why Iran would launch a drone into Israeli territory in the first place. As the Atlantic observed:

“The story may well be true. But in the absence of further information, including forensic evidence from the wreckage, one must wonder what would compel Iran to make such an incursion at a time when some in the country are trying to persuade the European signatories of the 2015 nuclear deal to stand by its side and not cave to the Trump administration’s attempt to torpedo it. This would seem an inopportune moment for provocation.”

Israel has already admitted to bombing Syria well over 100 times since the conflict in Syria began in 2011, and that point alone is enough to turn this debate on its head: Why is it okay for Israel to violate Syria (and Lebanon’s) airspace over 100 times over the course of half a decade while it remains largely unacceptable for Syria to do the same a single time? Surely this double standard cannot sustain a workable and civil international community.

Further, the drone itself was reportedly a surveillance drone. It posed no immediate threat to Israeli life compared to, say, Israel’s sophisticated bombers, which routinely violate Lebanon’s (and now Jordan’s) airspace to take out targets in Syria.

In light of the fact that Anti-Media has warned about rising tensions between Israel, Syria, Iran, and Lebanon multiple times, examining what’s still to come has become a necessity.

“Winter is coming from the north where we have a concrete threat,” Orit Perlov, a social media analyst for the Institute for National Security Studies, told the Jerusalem Post in an interview just days before the Israeli jet was downed in Syria.

VICE believes the situation did not escalate even further following the weekend’s activities primarily because of Russia’s diplomatic intervention, which was aimed at de-escalating tensions between the two rival nations. Haaretz observed that the effect of Russia’s intervention showed “once again who’s the real boss in the Middle East.” Even the Atlantic is calling on Russia to broker the peace between the two countries, stating:

“Moscow may be reluctant to assume a political role it has shown little capacity for playing. But as the dominant power in Syria that controls the skies, it has no choice. Unlike any other actor, moreover, it enjoys good relations with all the main actors: Israel, Iran, Hezbollah, and the Syrian regime. There is no reasonable alternative to Russia as balancing power and mediator.”

However, the New York Times noted that even though Russia controls Syrian airspace, Israel received no warning regarding the alleged drone activity.

Despite Trump’s diehard pro-Israeli rhetoric, the U.S. is nowhere to be seen at a time when Israelis would probably value its American counterpart the most. In an op-ed published on Sunday in Haaretz, Barack Obama’s former ambassador to Israel Daniel B. Shapiro noted that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was taking a trip through Jordan, Turkey (which is also currently violating Syrian territory), Egypt, Kuwait and even Lebanon – but not Israel.

This reality alone should give some of us hope that at the end of the day, an outright conflict cannot erupt between Iran and Israel without reckoning first with Russia on some level. According to Haaretz, Vladimir Putin intervened during the recent spat and, in a phone call, asked Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to avoid moves that could lead to “a new round of dangerous consequences for the region.”

Haaretz also believes Russia is concerned about the proximity of the Israeli bombings on sites where Russian soldiers are currently stationed. Given reports are emerging that U.S. airstrikes may have killed a significant number of Russian operatives on the ground in Syria, Russia may be much more irked by the recent developments than first imagined.

Right now, Israel sees the conflict differently. Haaretz stated that Israeli airstrikes were part of what the IDF referred to as the “war between the wars,” designed to undermine Hezbollah’s attempts to empower itself. But the added risk now is the fact that Syria and/or Iran believe they can challenge Israeli airstrikes in the future, meaning one wrong move could catapult the tit-for-tat attacks into something far more extensive.

“We need to prepare ourselves operationally and intelligence-wise for the mounting threat,” Brig Gen Amit Fisher, the Israel Defense Forces chief responsible for the Syrian frontier, told troops on Sunday, according to the Guardian. “The big test will be the test of war.”

The Guardian also noted that the IDF has enhanced its defenses in northern Israel, close to the Syrian border, while the Jerusalem Post cited witnesses who claimed a convoy of missile-defense batteries had moved north.

“That’s the price of war. My assessment is that the incident isn’t over and that we’re now only in a timeout,” Maj. Gen Amiram Levin also told a local radio station, according to the Guardian.

Iran, for its part, has issued equally stern threats.

“The Syrian nation proved this time that it will respond to any act of aggression, as the era of hit and run is over,” Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of Iran’s supreme national security council said.

“Iran can create a hell for the Zionists,” Hossein Salami, the deputy head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), also allegedly said.

Right now, the concern for Israel is that the Syrian government might try to reclaim the Syrian side of the disputed Golan Heights region, a former part of Syria that was seized and then occupied by Israel. After the conflict erupted in 2011, Syria lost its side of the Golan Heights to armed rebel groups, which have effectively operated under free air support from Israel – but this might change in the not-too-distant future. However, this would put Israel in a worse off position than it was in prior to the conflict, as the over-extension of Assad’s forces means he may have to rely on Iranian proxies like Hezbollah to retake the area for him. If that happens, it is almost certain that we will see Israel further widen its involvement in Syria to combat this alleged threat.

Whether or not this will eventually lead to an all-out war with Iran is still unclear. Last year, a top Israeli general tasked with writing his country’s defense policy admitted that Israel could not take on Iran’s military alone and would have to rely on assistance from the U.S.

According to Ofer Zalsberg, the risk of “full-fledged war, conventional war, between Israel and Iran, is still very low.” Instead, the real risk is that a war between Israel and Hezbollah, Iran’s proxy on the ground, is “increasing by the day,” according to Zalsberg.

The recent spats came at a time immediately after U.S. troops had arrived in Israel for joint military exercises aimed at preparing to defend Israel from a Hezbollah rocket attack.

In September of last year, Israel held its largest military drill in 20 years. It was specifically designed to simulate an invasion of Lebanon to combat Hezbollah.

Darius Shahtahmasebi has completed a Double Degree in Law and Japanese from the University of Otago, with an interest in human rights, international law and journalism. He’s a fully qualified lawyer in two separate jurisdictions, and writes about foreign policy for Anti-Media. Contact Darius: darius.shahtahmasebi@theantimedia.org. Support Darius’ work on Patreon: patreon.com/thetvsleaking

Tehran’s retaliation will ‘level Tel Aviv to the ground,’ Iranian official warns Israel – By RT

Tehran’s retaliation will ‘level Tel Aviv to the ground,’ Iranian official warns Israel
Israel’s capital will be leveled “to the ground” by an immediate retaliatory strike if Benjamin Netanyahu follows through on his threat to attack the Islamic Republic, an Iranian politician has threatened.

Waving a piece of an Iranian drone, allegedly downed over northern Israel last week, the Israeli Prime Minister last Sunday warned Tehran against testing Israel’s resolve. “We will act without hesitation to defend ourselves. And we will act if necessary not just against Iran’s proxies that are attacking us, but against Iran itself,” Benjamin Netanyahu said at the Munich Security Conference, after Israeli forces conducted a massive cross-border intrusion into Syria to strike Iranian targets.

The threat seems to have struck a nerve in Tehran. Iranian conservative politician, Mohsen Rezaee, who is also secretary of the Expediency Discernment Council, warned that the Islamic Republic stands ready to retaliate and strike Tel Aviv before the Israeli PM even gets a chance to flee the capital.

“About Netanyahu’s unwise words, I should say that if they carry out the slightest unwise move against Iran, we will level Tel Aviv to the ground and will not give any opportunity to Netanyahu to flee,” Rezaee told al-Manar news channel on Monday, according to Fars News Agency. “The US and Israeli leaders don’t know Iran and don’t understand the power of resistance and therefore, they continuously face defeat.”

READ MORE: Israel threatens to ‘bite hard’ after downing of its fighter jet in Syria

Tel Aviv has repeatedly warned Iran against meddling in Israeli affairs by supplying advanced missiles to Hezbollah in Lebanon. Israel also remains very concerned over the foothold the Islamic Republic has in Syria. Netanyahu, who branded the milestone nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers a “historic mistake” and a threat to Israel’s survival, also continues to argue that that the deal is flawed and allows Iran to potentially produce hundreds of nuclear weapons that can strike Israel.

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The Big Pharma Family that Brought Us the Opioid Crisis – By Sam Pizzigati (MINT PRESS)

Pills persciption pharma OpioidPills prescription pharma Opioid

We’re not talking El Chapo or any of his drug-running buddies. We’re talking about the mega-billionaire family behind one of America’s most profitable drug-industry empires, the privately held Purdue Pharma.

If the devil wears Prada, what do America’s most destructive drug pushers wear? They wear smiles. The drug pushers we have in mind here have caused hundreds of thousands of deaths, enough fatalities to decrease overall U.S. life expectancy at birth for the last two years running. Yet no police SWAT teams have pounded down any doors hunting these drug pushers down.

These particular drug pushers have devastated millions of families across the United States. Yet some of America’s most honorable institutions, outfits ranging from Yale University to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, have spent decades lauding their philanthropic generosity and benevolence.

We’re obviously not talking El Chapo or any of his drug-running buddies here. We’re talking about the mega-billionaire family behind one of America’s most profitable drug-industry empires, the privately held Purdue Pharma.

Last week, flacks at Purdue announced that the company will no longer be flooding doctors’ offices with sales representatives hawking OxyContin, the now-notorious opioid painkiller. This move may be the closest admission of guilt we will ever see from Purdue Pharma — or the patriarchs of the Sackler family that gave it birth.

The roots of Purdue’s criminal profiteering, as Patrick Radden Keefe has chillingly related in the New Yorker, stretch all the way back to three brothers in mid-20th century Brooklyn. All three — Arthur, Mortimer, and Raymond Sackler — became doctors. All three had an entrepreneurial bent. Arthur had entrepreneurial genius.

Arthur Sackler saw that the pharmaceutical industry of his day had no clue to the marketing magic — and magical profits — that modern Madison Avenue advertising approaches could fashion. He linked the two. His ad agency pioneered tactics that would revolutionize prescription drug marketing.

Stories published in our Daily Digests section are chosen based on the interest of our readers. They are republished from a number of sources, and are not produced by MintPress News. The views expressed in these articles are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect MintPress News editorial policy.

SYRIAN ARMY TO ENTER AFREEN; GEARING UP FOR WAR; U.S. IN THE CROSSHAIRS – by David Fadel

SYRIANCITIES

Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s able foreign minister, has formally accused the U.S. of supporting Jabhat Al-Nusra (Alqaeda), an organization considered terrorist by every nation on earth except the Zionist Apartheid Entity.  Not only does the UN consider Nusra a terrorist organization, but, also, the American Department of State.  Lavrov stated that it was obvious the U.S. was not willing to fight Nusra in Syria based on their inaction whenever opportunities arose to strike that terrorist group.  Just as the U.S. created Alqaeda, so did the U.S. create Nusra.  Remember some of my old articles about this subject:  Nusra which means “assistance” in Arabic was created by Robert Ford and Bandar bin Sultaan when they realized that the Syrian Army was not falling apart – that there were insufficient deserters to fight the Syrian Arab Army, and, thus, there was a need for assistance.  Nusra is plain and simple Saudi Arabia.  To what extent Muhammad bin Salmaan, the reigning clown prince,  is willing to continue to finance that organization is anybody’s guess at this stage.  Notwithstanding the finance issue, it appears clear that the U.S. is prepared to do all that is necessary to preserve the terrorism in Syria through the offices of Nusra.  This is a shameful day in American history.

The Tiger Division, led by Maj. Gen. Suhayl Al-Hassan, is massing at the borders of the East Ghouta.  I have been informed that the division comprised of over 11,000 soldiers which also fields improved T-72 tanks with Saraab 2 anti missile equipment is preparing for the last push to eradicate Jaysh Al-Islam, Nusra and Faylaq Al-Sham once and for all.  The battle could start at any moment.  I suspect that once Jaysh Al-Islam has been vanquished, General Al-Hassan will be tasked with wiping out Nusra and allied terrorists in Idlib.  How the U.S.will help Nusra will be most indicative of Washington’s dirty hands.

Syria’s vaunted Popular Defense militia is entering ‘Afreen as I write.  The Turks, who have no experienced field commanders, (Erdoghan having jailed or cashiered almost all of them) have threatened to strike Syria’s pro-government militias since, by Turkish logic,  they will be protecting PKK fighters.  This is an interesting development seeing ‘Afreen is Syrian territory.  Now we will see how Russia reacts if Syrian forces are hit by the Turk army.  Of interest also is how Iran, which has a mutual defense pact with Syria, will respond if the Turks trigger the pact.  So far, Iran has been extremely critical of Ankara’s actions in the north of Syria.  We at SyrPer do not believe the Turks have the muscle for a new war to their south.  While we have deep suspicions about the Kurds, they are, after all, Syrian citizens who look to Damascus for help and protection.

It is a virtual certainty that Donald Trump has no idea about what is going on in Syria or Iraq, for that matter.  He is consumed by a narcissistic obsession with how he is perceived globally.  As of today, the CIA is running foreign relations for the United States without any involvement by Rex Tillerson who seems clueless, rudderless, at sea.  These are the same CIA spooks who bet their world on overthrowing Dr. Assad.  They are now back with even more vitriol, pushing a Zionist neo-con agenda despite the radical changes on the ground.

The United States, as I wrote before, is in a fallback position in Syria.  With a large number of special operations soldiers helping the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces, they are especially vulnerable today.  Planning in Moscow and Damascus has shifted substantially from fighting a defeated ISIS to now extirpating U.S. forces from the country.  A lot will depend on Iraq’s cooperation with Damascus.  If the Iraqis deny the U.S. rights to fly over its territory, Washington will have to scrub any agreements with the Kurds in order to use Incirlik in Turkey.  It’s a mess.  The only other alternative, is the Zionist Terrorist State’s airbases which will bring about a potential WWIII or something truly horrible.  The U.S. has cornered itself.  It is trapped between a rock and a hard place with no perceivable way out.  Just as Afghanistan is sucking American energy, so will this latest adventure in Syria.  And it’s just beginning.

________________________________________________
NEWS AND COMMENT:

Mattis appears to be honest. Get this from my friend, Marcos Cruz Garcia:

https://www.mintpressnews.com/us-finally-admits-no-evidence-assad-used-sarin-gas/237615/

John Esq. sent me this great article from Newsweek, of all places, casting doubt about Syrian government’s use of CW:

http://www.newsweek.com/wheres-evidence-assad-used-sarin-gas-his-people-810123

Another fabulous article sent by John Esq. regarding the details of the encounter with the Zionist F-16:

 

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Here’s how Mueller’s latest indictment further discredits the Trump Dossier – By Alexander Mercouris (THE DURAN)

Trump Dossier alleges collusion between Trump Campaign and Russia but fails to report events which actually took place

As the days since Mueller’s latest indictment have passed, the failure of his investigation to make any claim of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia has begun to sink in, even amongst some of Donald Trump’s most bitter enemies.

Even the Guardian – arguably the most fervid of Donald Trump’s British media critics, and the most vocal supporter of the Russiagate conspiracy theory – has grudgingly admitted that Special Counsel Robert Mueller has “once again failed to nail Donald Trump”

There will be understandable disappointment in many quarters that the latest indictments delivered by Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election, once again failed to nail Donald Trump. Although the charges levelled against 13 Russians and three Russian entities are extraordinarily serious, they do not directly support the central claim that Trump and senior campaign aides colluded with Moscow to rig the vote.

The Times of London meanwhile has admitted that the latest indictment contains “no smoking gun”

The Department of Justice, however, offered no confirmation to those still smarting from the election in Nov­em­ber 2016, who believe that, in the absence of Russian interference, Hillary Clinton would be in the White House today. Friday’s allegations offered no evidence that the outcome had been affected. Sir John Sawers, former head of MI6, said yesterday that Donald Trump’s victories in the key swing states were his own.

There was further comfort for Mr Trump, which he was quick to celebrate with a tweet. The investigation uncovered no evidence “that any American was a knowing participant in the alleged unlawful activity”. That includes, so far, anybody involved in the Trump campaign. If there is a smoking gun it has yet to emerge, though Robert Mueller’s investigation will grind on. Presi­dent Vladimir Putin is a malign and dangerous mischief maker. It has not been proved that he is an evil genius with the ability to swing a US election.

In fact the latest indictment when considered properly is a further huge nail in the coffin of the Russiagate conspiracy theory and in the already disintegrating credibility of the Trump Dossier, which is the foundation document for that theory.

Notwithstanding claims to the contrary, the Russiagate conspiracy theory is laid out in its most classic form in the Trump Dossier, and it is the Trump Dossier which remains the primary and indeed so far the only ‘evidence’ for it

This theory holds that Donald Trump was compromised by the Russians in 2013 when he was filmed by Russian intelligence performing an orgy in a hotel room in Moscow, and he and his associates Paul Manafort, Carter Page and Michael Cohen subsequently engaged in a massive criminal conspiracy with Russian intelligence to steal the election from Hillary Clinton by having John Podesta’s and the DNC’s emails stolen by Russian intelligence and passed on by them for publication by Wikileaks.

Belief in this conspiracy dies hard, and an interesting article in the Financial Times by Edward Luce provides a fascinating example of the dogged determination of some people to believe in it.  Writing about Mueller’s latest indictment Luce has this to say

……Mr Mueller’s report hints at more dramatic possibilities by corroborating contents of the “Steele dossier”, which was compiled in mid-2016 by the former British intelligence officer, Christopher Steele — long before the US intelligence agencies warned of Russian interference. Mr Steele, who is in hiding, alleged that the Russians were using “active measures” to support the campaigns of Mr Trump, Bernie Sanders, the Democratic runner-up to Hillary Clinton, and Jill Stein, the Green party nominee. Mr Mueller’s indictment confirms that account.

……Likewise, Mr Mueller’s indictment confirms the Steele dossier’s claim that Russia wished to “sow discord” in the US election by backing leftwing as well as rightwing groups. Among the entities run by the IRA were groups with names such as “Secured Borders”, “Blacktivists”, “United Muslims of America” and “Army of Jesus”.

What is fascinating about these words is that none of them are true.

Christopher Steele is not in hiding.

The actual Trump Dossier does not allege “that the Russians were using “active measures” to support the campaigns of Mr Trump, Bernie Sanders, the Democratic runner-up to Hillary Clinton, and Jill Stein, the Green party nominee”.

Bernie Sanders is mentioned by the Trump Dossier only in passing.  By the time the Trump Dossier’s first entries were written Bernie Sanders’s campaign was all but over and it was already clear that Hillary Clinton would be the Democratic Party’s candidate for the Presidency.

Jill Stein is mentioned – again in passing – only once, in a brief mention which refers to her now infamous visit to Russia where she attended the same dinner with President Putin as Michael Flynn.

Nor does the Trump Dossier anywhere claim that “Russia wished to “sow discord” in the US election by backing leftwing as well as rightwing groups”.

On the contrary the Trump Dossier is focused – exclusively and obsessively – on documenting at fantastic length the alleged conspiracy between the Russian government and the campaign of the supposedly compromised Donald Trump to get him elected US President.

Supporters of the Russiagate conspiracy theory need to start facing up to the hard truth about the Trump Dossier.

At the time the Trump Dossier was published in January 2017 little was known publicly about the contacts which actually took place between members of Donald Trump’s campaign and tranisiton teams and the Russians during and after the election.

Today – a full year later and after months of exhaustive investigation – we know far more about those contacts.

What Is striking about those contacts is how ignorant the supposedly high level Russian sources of the Trump Dossier were about them.

Thus the Trump Dossier never mentions Jeff Sessions’s two meetings with Russian ambassador Kislyak, or the various conversations Michael Flynn is known to have had with Russian ambassador Kislyak, some of which apparently took place before Donald Trump won the election.

The Trump Dossier never mentions Jared Kushner’s four conversations with Russian ambassador Kislyak, including the famous meeting between Kislyak and Kushner in Trump Tower on 1st December 2016 (which Michael Flynn also attended) over the course of which the setting up of a backchannel to discuss the crisis in Syria is supposed to have been discussed (Kushner denies that it was).

The last entry of the Trump Dossier is dated 13th December 2016 ie. twelve days after this meeting took place, and given its high level a genuinely well-informed Russian source familiar with the private ongoing discussions in the Kremlin might have been expected to know about it.

Nor does the Trump Dossier mention the now famous meeting in Trump Tower between the Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya and Donald Trump Junior – which Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner also attended – which took place on 9th June 2016.

This despite the fact that the Trump Dossier’s first entry is dated 20th June 2016 i.e. eleven days later, so that if this meeting really was intended to set the stage for collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia – as believers in the Russiagate conspiracy theory insist – a well informed Russian source with access to information from the Kremlin would be expected to know about it.

Nor does the Trump Dossier have anything to say about George Papadopoulos, the Trump campaign aide who had the most extensive contacts with the Russians, and whose drunken bragging in a London bar is now claimed by the FBI to have been its reason for starting the Russiagate inquiry.

In fact George Papadopoulos is not mentioned in the Trump Dossier at all.

This despite the fact that members of Russia’s high powered Valdai Discussion Club were Papadopoulos’s main interlocutors in his discussions with the Russians, and Igor Ivanov – Russia’s former foreign minister, and a senior albeit retired official genuinely known to Putin – was informed about the discussions also, making it at least possible that high level people in the Russian Foreign Ministry and conceivably in the Russian government and in the Kremlin were kept informed about the discussions with Papadopoulos, so that a genuinely well-informed Russian source might be expected to know about them.

By contrast none of the secret meetings between Carter Page and Michael Cohen and the Russians discussed at such extraordinary length in the Trump Dossier have ever been proved to have taken place.

Now Special Counsel Mueller has provided further details in his latest indictment of actual albeit unknowing contacts between members of the Trump campaign and various Russian employees of Yevgeny Prigozhin’s Internet Research Agency, LLC, apparently both in person and online.

The Trump Dossier has however nothing to say about these contacts either, just as it has nothing to say about the Internet Research Agency, LLC, Yevgeny Prigozhin, or the entire social media campaign set out in such painstaking detail by Special Counsel Mueller in his indictment.

The only conclusion possible is that if the Trump Dossier’s Russian sources actually exist (about which I am starting to have doubts) then they were extraordinarily ignorant of what was actually going on.

That of course is consistent with the fact – recently revealed in the heavily redacted memorandum sent to the Justice Department by Senators Grassley and Lindsey Graham – that many of the sources of the Trump Dossier were not actually Russian but were American.

John Helmer – the most experienced journalist covering Russia, and a person who has a genuine and profound knowledge of the country – made that very point – that many of the Trump Dossier’s sources were American rather than Russian – in an article he published on 18th January 2017, ie. just days after the Trump Dossier was published.

In that same article Helmer also made this very valid point about the Trump Dossier’s compiler Christopher Steele

Steele’s career in Russian intelligence at MI6 had hit the rocks in 2006, and never recovered. That was the year in which the Russian Security Service (FSB) publicly exposed an MI6 operation in Moscow. Russian informants recruited by the British were passed messages and money, and dropped their information in containers fabricated to look like fake rocks in a public park.   Steele was on the MI6 desk in London when the operation was blown. Although the FSB announcement was denied in London at the time, the British prime ministry confirmed its veracity in 2012.Read more on Steele’s fake rock operation here, and the attempt by the Financial Times to cover it up by blaming Putin for fabricating the story.

Given that Steele was outed by Russian intelligence in 2006, with his intelligence operation in Russia dismantled by the FSB that year, it beggars belief that ten years later in 2016 he still had access to high level secrets in the Kremlin.

What we now know in fact proves that he did not.

I only remembered Helmer’s 18th January 2017 article about the Trump Dossier after I wrote my article about Senator Grassley’s and Senator Lindsey Graham’s memorandum to the Justice Department on 6th February 2018.

This is most unfortunate, not only because Grassley’s and Lindsey Graham’s memorandum resoundingly vindicates Helmer’s reporting, but because it shows that a genuine expert about Russia like Helmer was able to spot immediately the holes in the Trump Dossier, which only now – a whole year and months of exhaustive investigations later – are starting to be officially admitted.

For my part I owe Helmer an apology for not referencing his 18th January 2017 article in my article of 6th February 2018.  I should have done so and I am very sorry that I didn’t.

I have spent some time discussing the Trump Dossier because despite denials it remains the lynchpin of the whole Russiagate scandal and of the claims of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Heroic efforts to elevate Papadopoulos’s case and the meeting between Donald Trump Junior and the Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya into ‘evidence’ of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia which exists supposedly independently of the Trump Dossier fail because as I have discussed extensively elsewhere (see here and here) they in fact do no such thing.

Despite Edward Luce’s desperate efforts to argue otherwise, Mueller’s latest indictment far from corroborating the Trump Dossier, has done the opposite.

With the Trump Dossier – the lynchpin of the whole collusion case – not just unverified and discredited but proved repeatedly to have been completely uninformed about events which were actually going on, why do some people persist in pretending that there is still a collusion case to investigate?

The Duran

 

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Russian senators list 100 examples of US meddling in foreign nations’ affairs – by RT

Russian senators list 100 examples of US meddling in foreign nations’ affairs
A Russian parliamentary commission has prepared a report that lists over 100 cases of US interference in other nations’ internal affairs since the end of World War Two.

We have counted approximately 100, about 101 or 102 absolutely verified and recorded facts of American involvement in the sovereign affairs of over 60 UN member-nations since the approval of this organizations’ charter that bans any such involvement – since 1946 till this day,” the head of the upper house Commission for Protection of State Sovereignty, Senator Andrey Klimov, was quoted as saying on Monday by TASS.

The senator named one particular example from the list – the 1973 coup d’état in Chile that installed Augusto Pinochet as a military dictator and as a result of which the country’s parliament was dissolved and numerous human rights violations were committed. “Every such fact has a multitude of episodes of the US interference,” he noted.

Klimov told TASS that the annual report would be finalized and released at the end of the month, and added that senators were preparing a different edition which would be distributed among a “closed circle of persons” and which would not be released to the wider public in the foreseeable future.

At the same time, Klimov noted that not all cases of US involvement in other nations’ affairs could be formally described as such and thus were not included in the report. As an example, he named Donald Trump’s inauguration speech, in which the US president said that Washington was constantly meddling in other nations’ affairs and called for an end to such practices. “And these were the words of an inaugurated president, the commander-in-chief of the US military forces, who had been briefed through all files,” he said.

Another example was the 2003 speech of George W. Bush in which the then-US president urged change in political regimes in between 40 and 50 foreign countries.

The upper house commission for monitoring and countering foreign nations’ attempts to influence internal Russian politics was formed in mid-2017. Back then, upper house Speaker Valentina Matvienko said that attempts to meddle in Russia’s internal affairs had been ongoing for years and that up to $100 billion was sent to Russia from abroad annually to sponsor “political activities.” “We know the consequences of such meddling… and will not allow anyone to threaten Russia’s sovereignty,” she said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Author: Phil Butler

 

 

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

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

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

We Are the Enemy

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

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

The Rotten Seed of Mediocrity

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

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

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

“Sieg Heil” – Hail Stupidity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

James Woolsey

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

The hubris is amazing.

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

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

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

See Also:

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

Kurds dance during a protest

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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