Iran Attack: Azerbaijan Throws Israeli Air Force Out After VT Exposes Plot – by Gordon Duff, Senior Editor – VT

Prelude to World War III Outlined

Press TV just announced that Azerbaijan has assured Iran no Israeli attack would occur from their territory.  This is their announcement, from Tehran, moments ago:

OCTOBER 2, 2012 TEHRAN

Press TV – Azerbaijan’s ambassador to Pakistan says Baku will not allow Israel to use its airspace or land to carry out a military attack on Iran or any other country.

“AZERBAIJAN HAS BEEN FOLLOWING A POLICY OF NON-INTERFERENCE IN THE [INTERNAL] AFFAIRS OF OTHER COUNTRIES,” BAKU’S AMBASSADOR TO PAKISTAN DASHGIN SHIKROV SAID IN AN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH THE PAKISTANI DAILY THE NEWSON MONDAY.

THE AMBASSADOR STRONGLY REJECTED RUMORS IN WESTERN MEDIA OUTLETS ABOUT HIS COUNTRY’S READINESS FOR PROVIDING ISRAEL GROUND FACILITIES FOR ATTACKING IRAN’S NUCLEAR SITES. “AZERBAIJAN IS MEMBER OF THE ORGANIZATION OF ISLAMIC COOPERATION (OIC) AND NOBODY SHOULD HAVE ANY DOUBT THAT IT WILL NOT PERMIT THE USE OF ITS TERRITORY FOR COMMITTING ACTS OF AGGRESSION AGAINST ANOTHER OIC MEMBER,” THE AMBASSADOR ADDED.

ISRAEL HAS RECENTLY STEPPED UP THREATS OF CARRYING OUT A STRIKE AGAINST IRAN’S NUCLEAR ENERGY FACILITIES. THE THREATS ARE BASED ON THE UNFOUNDED CLAIMS THAT THE PEACEFUL NUCLEAR ACTIVITIES OF THE ISLAMIC REPUBLIC INCLUDE A MILITARY COMPONENT.

IRANIAN OFFICIALS HAVE REFUTED THE ALLEGATION AND HAVE PROMISED A CRUSHING RESPONSE TO ANY MILITARY STRIKE AGAINST THE COUNTRY, WARNING THAT ANY SUCH MEASURE COULD RESULT IN A WAR THAT WOULD SPREAD BEYOND THE MIDDLE EAST

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Earlier this week, Reuters confirmed through two Azeri officers that Israeli forces were in place in Azerbaijan and that the president was weighing options of supporting their attack.  That text is now below from Reuters.  Their unedited full text  is at Addendum I:

REUTERS – YET DESPITE OFFICIAL DENIALS BY AZERBAIJAN AND ISRAEL, TWO AZERI FORMER MILITARY OFFICERS WITH LINKS TO SERVING PERSONNEL AND TWO RUSSIAN INTELLIGENCE SOURCES ALL TOLD REUTERS THAT AZERBAIJAN AND ISRAEL HAVE BEEN LOOKING AT HOW AZERI BASES AND INTELLIGENCE COULD SERVE IN A POSSIBLE STRIKE ON IRAN.

“WHERE PLANES WOULD FLY FROM – FROM HERE, FROM THERE, TO WHERE? – THAT’S WHAT’S BEING PLANNED NOW,” A SECURITY CONSULTANT WITH CONTACTS AT AZERI DEFENSE HEADQUARTERS IN BAKU SAID. “THE ISRAELIS … WOULD LIKE TO GAIN ACCESS TO BASES IN AZERBAIJAN.”

It doesn’t take a genius to see that Azerbaijan was “caught with their pants down” and is now trying to lie their way out of this.

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In an explosive turn of events, Press TV announces Azerbaijan has “turned chicken” after receiving a chastising based on receiving an early distribution of this  Veterans Today document through Russian sources.

Additional VT staff were, while at the Pentagon, responsible for drawing up the war plans, not just for the initial invasion of Iran but the American invasion of Azerbaijan, slated for 2008, as part of a Bush administration military takeover of the entire Caspian Basin.

The map for that attack by US troops from Iran is below:

US Army 2006 “exercise” plans predicated on a 2005 successful invasion of Iran, confirmed by direct Pentagon sources. (the author)

The cover sheet for the War Plans/Exercise Plans is below, a document that contained a full outline for needed capabilities for the successful takeover of all of the former Soviet Republics, beginning with Azerbaijan as seen on the map above.

Today, Azerbaijan announced it would allow Israeli planes to use their air bases to attack Iran.  Reuters published the press release from Baku, one originally released in Veterans Today 27 months ago.  From Reuters:

BAKU (REUTERS) – ISRAEL’S “GO-IT-ALONE” OPTION TO ATTACK IRAN’S NUCLEAR SITES HAS SET THE MIDDLE EAST ON EDGE AND UNSETTLED ITS MAIN ALLY AT THE HEIGHT OF A U.S. PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION CAMPAIGN.

PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU EXUDES IMPATIENCE, SAYING TEHRAN IS BARELY A YEAR FROM A “RED LINE” FOR ATOMIC CAPACITY. MANY FELLOW ISRAELIS, HOWEVER, FEAR A UNILATERAL STRIKE, LACKING U.S. FORCES, WOULD FAIL AGAINST SUCH A LARGE AND DISTANT ENEMY. BUT WHAT IF, EVEN WITHOUT WASHINGTON, ISRAEL WERE NOT ALONE?

AZERBAIJAN, THE OIL-RICH EX-SOVIET REPUBLIC ON IRAN’S FAR NORTHERN BORDER, HAS, SAY LOCAL SOURCES WITH KNOWLEDGE OF ITS MILITARY POLICY, EXPLORED WITH ISRAEL HOW AZERI AIR BASES AND SPY DRONES MIGHT HELP ISRAELI JETS PULL OFF A LONG-RANGE ATTACK.

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This attack might have happened sooner without the break in the Turkish relations

An investigation done by independent intelligence organizations made up of former CIA, Army Intelligence and FBI personnel as published on June 18, 2010, discovered a plot between Israel, Georgia, Turkey and Azerbaijan to attack Iran.

At that time, Israeli planes were training in Turkey on terrain meant to simulate Iran.  Israel would send over 8 planes at a time and 6 would return.  Sources report that two would fly to Azerbaijan where Israel now occupies two former Soviet fighter bases.

Israel was building a secret air force in Azerbaijan.  That “secret air force” is now no longer secret, it is public knowledge but few know its history or the threat to world peace this irresponsible act represents.

The bases were supplied through the Georgian port of Poti with cluster and bunker-buster bombs being delivered beginning June 10, 2010.  Units of the Russian Navy observed the deliveries and reported the incident to a world press that suppressed the story.  The ship delivering the illegal arms were flagged American, the USS Grapple.

In consultation with intelligence operatives, it was found that the USS Grapple had been leased to Germany who had then allowed Israel to use it to deliver bombs to the Black Sea port under American naval identity.

USS Grapple – ARS-53

WE HAVE SINCE LEARNED THAT TURKEY, DESPITE WHAT THEY CLAIM IS A HOSTILE RELATIONSHIP WITH ISRAEL, HAS ALLOWED OVER FLIGHT BY ISRAELI MILITARY PLANES WHO ARE USING TURKISH AIR SPACE TO RELOCATE TO AZERBAIJAN AFTER A TWO YEAR PERIOD OF DISAGREEMENT.

THIS RELATIONSHIP, NEGOTIATED BETWEEN ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU AND TURKISH PRESIDENT ERDOGAN INCLUDES PROVISION FOR TURKEY TO ASSUME PARTIAL TERRITORIAL CONTROL OF A BORDER REGION INSIDE SYRIA. 

TURKEY IS PLANNING TO SEIZE THIS TERRITORY AND CALL IT A “BUFFER ZONE” BUT THE “BUFFER” MAY INCLUDE UP TO 30% OF SYRIAN TERRITORY.

Israel and Turkey have agreed to “Balkanize” Syria.  However, the roots of today’s announcement were known some time ago.

On June 18, 2010, over two years ago, this columnist released the following information:

Would Israel take the gamble, or make the U.S. do it?

“A WEEK AGO, ISRAEL LEAKED TO THE PRESS THAT THEY HAD PERMISSION FROM SAUDI ARABIA TO USE THEIR AIR SPACE TO ATTACK IRAN. THE SAUDI’S QUICKLY DENIED THIS.

THE EFFORT ON ISRAEL’S PART WAS A RUSE TO COVER THEIR REAL PLANS, TO ATTACK FROM THE REPUBLIC OF GEORGIA, CLOSE TO IRAN’S NORTHERN BORDER.

HOWEVER, THE BREAKDOWN IN RELATIONS WITH TURKEY AFTER MISCALCULATING THE RESPONSE TO THEIR FLOTILLA RAID ON A TURKISH SHIP IN INTERNATIONAL WATERS MAY HAVE ENDED THIS OPERATION.

ISRAEL, WHOSE ARMS AGREEMENTS WITH TURKEY MOUNTED TO NEARLY 5 BILLION DOLLARS OVER A PERIOD OF YEARS, HAD BEEN TRAINING PILOTS IN TURKEY FOR BOMBING ATTACKS ON IRAN. DURING THESE TRAINING MISSIONS, ISRAEL WAS SMUGGLING AIRCRAFT THROUGH TURKISH AIRSPACE.

SOURCES INDICATE THAT GEORGIA HAS BECOME A MAJOR TRANSSHIPMENT POINT FOR NARCOTICS FROM AFGHANISTAN AND OTHER COUNTRIES IN THE REGION. BOTH A LAND ROUTE THROUGH TURKEY AND INTO NORTHERN CYPRUS AND AIR AND SEA ROUTES DIRECTLY INTO EUROPE AND NORTH AMERICA HAVE BEEN CITED.

TURKEY HAD ALLOWED ISRAEL TO USE THEIR AIR SPACE FOR TRAINING BECAUSE THEIR TERRAIN CLOSELY RESEMBLED AREAS OF IRAN THAT ISRAEL PLANNED TO ATTACK. HOWEVER, TURKEY WAS UNAWARE THAT PLANES INVOLVED IN THIS EFFORT WERE BEING RELOCATED TO FORWARD STAGING AREAS IN THE REPUBLIC OF GEORGIA, MAKING TURKEY, TECHNICALLY, FULLY COMPLICIT IN THIS PLANNED ILLEGAL ATTACK.

Israeli F-15

HELPING COORDINATE THE ATTACK ARE INTELLIGENCE UNITS FORWARD STATIONED IN AZERBAIJAN, UNDER THE GUISE OF TECHNICIANS, TRAINERS AND ADVISORS UNDER THE BROAD ARMAMENTS AGREEMENTS WITH THAT SMALL NATION.

SUPPLY OPERATIONS, MOVING NECESSARY ORDNANCE, MUCH OF IT SUPPLIED BY THE UNITED STATES UNDER AMMUNITION STORAGE AGREEMENTS, IS BEING MOVED THROUGH THE BLACK SEA TO THE GEORGIAN PORT OF POTI, A MAJOR SITE FOR EXPORTING COAL AND MANGANESE ORE.

COVER FOR THE SUPPLY OPERATIONS IS BEING PERFORMED BY THE GEORGIAN COAST GUARD, SET UP BY ISRAEL AND MANNED WITH ISRAELI OBSERVERS. THEIR JOB IS TO KEEP RUSSIAN SURVEILLANCE CRAFT AWAY FROM SUPPLY OPERATIONS UNDER THE GUISE OF A “GAZA TYPE” NAVAL BLOCKADE OF ABKHAZIA, A SEPARATIST PROVINCE SUPPORTED BY RUSSIA.”

REUTERS, IN ITS STORY PUBLISHED TODAY INDICATED CONFIRMED SOURCES WITHIN THE MILITARY INTELLIGENCE COMMUNITY OF AZERBAIJAN.  REUTERS GOES FURTHER:

Israeli F-16

“YET DESPITE OFFICIAL DENIALS BY AZERBAIJAN AND ISRAEL, TWO AZERI FORMER MILITARY OFFICERS WITH LINKS TO SERVING PERSONNEL AND TWO RUSSIAN INTELLIGENCE SOURCES ALL TOLD REUTERS THAT AZERBAIJAN AND ISRAEL HAVE BEEN LOOKING AT HOW AZERI BASES AND INTELLIGENCE COULD SERVE IN A POSSIBLE STRIKE ON IRAN.

“WHERE PLANES WOULD FLY FROM – FROM HERE, FROM THERE, TO WHERE? – THAT’S WHAT’S BEING PLANNED NOW,” A SECURITY CONSULTANT WITH CONTACTS AT AZERI DEFENSE HEADQUARTERS IN BAKU SAID. “THE ISRAELIS … WOULD LIKE TO GAIN ACCESS TO BASES IN AZERBAIJAN.”

“ICEBERG” RELATIONSHIP

THAT ALIYEV, AN AUTOCRATIC ALLY OF WESTERN GOVERNMENTS AND OIL FIRMS, HAS BECOME A RARE MUSLIM FRIEND OF THE JEWISH STATE – AND AN OBJECT OF SCORN IN TEHRAN – IS NO SECRET; A $1.6-BILLION ARMS DEAL INVOLVING DOZENS OF ISRAELI DRONES, AND ISRAEL’S THIRST FOR AZERBAIJAN’S CASPIAN SEA CRUDE, ARE WELL DOCUMENTED.

ISRAEL’S FOREIGN MINISTER VISITED BAKU IN APRIL THIS YEAR.

BUT A LEAKED U.S. DIPLOMATIC CABLE FROM 2009 QUOTED ALIYEV, WHO SUCCEEDED HIS FATHER IN 2003, DESCRIBING RELATIONS WITH ISRAEL AS “LIKE AN ICEBERG, NINE TENTHS … BELOW THE SURFACE”.

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The unknown factor is Azerbaijan’s ability to withstand a massive and immediate ground assault from Iran.  US Army experts on the region indicate that Iran has a “superhighway direct to Baku,” the capitol of Azerbaijan and keystone to the massive Baku/Ceyhan pipeline.

Azerbaijan’s military, 45,000 active duty, a few thousand reserves and an unarmed and untrained inactive reserve of 300,000 veterans is extremely small in comparison to Iran’s military.

A REASONABLE ESTIMATE IS THAT, UNDER THE BEST OF CASES WITH SUPPORT FROM BOTH TURKEY AND ISRAEL, THAT BAKU COULD FALL IN 48 HOURS OR LESS, SHOULD THEY CHOOSE TO PARTICIPATE IN AN UNPROVOKED ATTACK ON IRAN.

If you are not getting a piece of the oil biz, drugs are the only option

Azerbaijan is closely aligned with Turkey.  However, they fought and lost a war in the early 1990’s against Armenia.  Azerbaijan lost 16% of their territory at that time.

During that war, Azerbaijan turned to Al Qaeda and Chechen forces for support, an act that angered Russia.  Azerbaijan is still a “safe haven” for terrorists and is commonly used to transit narcotics from Afghanistan and is a “way station” in human trafficking.

It is believed that an Israeli attack launched from Azerbaijan would unleash an immediate response from Armenia against Azerbaijan.  The two nations have been at the verge of hostilities for nearly two decades.

A recent estimate of regional forces paints a very dark picture for Azerbaijan:

SINCE THE FALL OF THE SOVIET UNION, ARMENIA HAS FOLLOWED A POLICY OF DEVELOPING ITS ARMED FORCES INTO A PROFESSIONAL, WELL TRAINED, AND MOBILE MILITARY. IN 2000, CENTRE FOR INTERNATIONAL STUDIES AND RESEARCH REPORTED THAT AT THAT TIME THE ARMENIAN ARMY HAD THE STRONGEST COMBAT CAPABILITY OF THE THREE CAUCASUS COUNTRIES’ ARMIES (THE OTHER TWO BEING GEORGIA AND AZERBAIJAN.

CSTO SECRETARY, NIKOLAY BORDYUZHA, CAME TO A SIMILAR CONCLUSION AFTER COLLECTIVE MILITARY DRILLS IN 2007 WHEN HE STATED THAT, “THE ARMENIAN ARMY IS THE MOST EFFICIENT ONE IN THE POST-SOVIET SPACE”.

THIS WAS ECHOED MORE RECENTLY BY IGOR KOROTCHENKO, A MEMBER OF THE PUBLIC COUNCIL, RUSSIAN MINISTRY OF DEFENSE, IN A MARCH 2011 INTERVIEW WITH VOICE OF RUSSIA RADIO.

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CASPIAN OIL SUPPLIES AT RISK

Check out the company names on these oil fields. All would be grabbed in an attack on  Iran as compensation for the pre-emptive strike.

The 1100 mile pipeline is the only outlet for oil from the Caspian basin to outlets on the Mediterranean.  A branch of the pipeline services the massive Kirkuk oil fields of Northern Iraq.

The pipeline is owned by a number of companies with BP having a 30 percent stake.

The 25% stake theoretically held by SOCAR, the state oil company of Azerbaijan is under Israeli control, as collateral to underwrite Israeli weapons sales.

Israel has an agreement to link to the pipeline through Iraq, a deal negotiated between the Elat Ashkian Pipeline Company of Israel and the US backed Chalabi government that assumed control of Iraq after the 2003 invasion.

It is no longer clear as to whether the current government in Baghdad is still interested in this project.

Additional threats to the pipeline are in Armenia, where it may also be intercepted and in Turkey, where the PKK, a Kurdish separatist group, has put the pipeline out of commission many times.

The significance of the pipeline is great in that, even if Iran has no rationale to cut oil supplies through the Straits of Hormuz, it could easily gain control of 5% of the world’s oil output and put all Caspian Basin oil off the market without in any way interfering with free transit of sea-lanes.

Additionally, the transit fees charged for use of the pipeline are a major source of revenue for both Georgia and Turkey, a source that would immediately end.

TWO “WILD CARD” ISSUES ARE RUSSIA AND IRAQ.  AS IRAQ’S GOVERNMENT IS NOW UNDER SHIITE CONTROL AND AZERBAIJAN’S RELATIONS WITH, NOT JUST ARMENIA BUT RUSSIA HAVE BEEN EXTREMELY POOR, THE CHANCES FOR THIS MOVE BY ISRAEL TURNING INTO A REGIONAL CONFLICT OR WORLD WAR ARE VERY HIGH.

TAKING INTO ACCOUNT TURKEY’S “HAM HANDED” PLOTTING WITH ISRAEL AGAINST SYRIA AND THEIR ATTEMPTS TO SPREAD INFLUENCE INTO CENTRAL ASIA, THEIR SHORT LIVED POSITION AS A POTENTIAL LEADER IN THE ISLAMIC WORLD HAS CLEARLY TAKEN A “BACK SEAT” TO IRAN, EGYPT, PAKISTAN AND INDONESIA.

Israel’s timetable to attack from Azerbaijan is entirely dependent on the risks their long time but highly secretive ally is willing to accept.

Minimally, Azerbaijan might actually disappear.  In a best case scenario, they would lose additional territory to Armenia and suffer total devastation of their oil production and processing facilities and destruction of their armed forces.

FOR THE REST OF THE WORLD, THE RESULT, AS EXPECTED, HIGHER GASOLINE PRICES, HIGHER FOOD PRICES AND MORE THREATS TO CURRENCIES ALREADY NEARING COLLAPSE.

Editing:  Jim W. Dean

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Addendum I

By Thomas Grove

BAKU | Sun Sep 30, 2012 12:46pm EDT

(Reuters) – Israel’s “go-it-alone” option to attack Iran’s nuclear sites has set the Middle East on edge and unsettled its main ally at the height of a U.S. presidential election campaign.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu exudes impatience, saying Tehran is barely a year from a “red line” for atomic capacity. Many fellow Israelis, however, fear a unilateral strike, lacking U.S. forces, would fail against such a large and distant enemy.

But what if, even without Washington, Israel were not alone?

Azerbaijan, the oil-rich ex-Soviet republic on Iran’s far northern border, has, say local sources with knowledge of its military policy, explored with Israel how Azeri air bases and spy drones might help Israeli jets pull off a long-range attack.

That is a far cry from the massive firepower and diplomatic cover that Netanyahu wants from Washington. But, by addressing key weaknesses in any Israeli war plan – notably on refueling, reconnaissance and rescuing crews – such an alliance might tilt Israeli thinking on the feasibility of acting without U.S. help.

It could also have violent side-effects more widely and many doubt Azeri President Ilham Aliyev would risk harming the energy industry on which his wealth depends, or provoking Islamists who dream of toppling his dynasty, in pursuit of favor from Israel.

Yet despite official denials by Azerbaijan and Israel, two Azeri former military officers with links to serving personnel and two Russian intelligence sources all told Reuters that Azerbaijan and Israel have been looking at how Azeri bases and intelligence could serve in a possible strike on Iran.

“Where planes would fly from – from here, from there, to where? – that’s what’s being planned now,” a security consultant with contacts at Azeri defense headquarters in Baku said. “The Israelis … would like to gain access to bases in Azerbaijan.”

“ICEBERG” RELATIONSHIP

That Aliyev, an autocratic ally of Western governments and oil firms, has become a rare Muslim friend of the Jewish state – and an object of scorn in Tehran – is no secret; a $1.6-billion arms deal involving dozens of Israeli drones, and Israel’s thirst for Azerbaijan’s Caspian Sea crude, are well documented.

Israel’s foreign minister visited Baku in April this year.

But a leaked U.S. diplomatic cable from 2009 quoted Aliyev, who succeeded his father in 2003, describing relations with Israel as “like an iceberg, nine tenths … below the surface”.

That he would risk the wrath of his powerful neighbor by helping wage war on Iran is, however, something his aides flatly deny; wider consequences would also be hard to calculate from military action in a region where Azerbaijan’s “frozen” conflict with Armenia is just one of many elements of volatility and where major powers from Turkey, Iran and Russia to the United States, western Europe and even Chinaall jockey for influence.

Nonetheless, Rasim Musabayov, an independent Azeri lawmaker and a member of parliament’s foreign affairs committee, said that, while he had no definitive information, he understood that Azerbaijan would probably feature in any Israeli plans against Iran, at least as a contingency for refueling its attack force:

“Israel has a problem in that if it is going to bomb Iran, its nuclear sites, it lacks refueling,” Musabayov told Reuters.

“I think their plan includes some use of Azerbaijan access.

“We have (bases) fully equipped with modern navigation, anti-aircraft defenses and personnel trained by Americans and if necessary they can be used without any preparations,” he added.

U.S. CONCERNS

The administration of U.S. President Barack Obama has made clear it does not welcome Israel’s occasional talk of war and that it prefers diplomacy and economic sanctions to deflect an Iranian nuclear program that Tehran denies has military uses.

Having also invested in Azerbaijan’s defenses and facilities used by U.S. forces in transit to Afghanistan, Washington also seems unlikely to cheer Aliyev joining any action against Iran.

The Azeri president’s team insist that that will not happen.

“No third country can use Azerbaijan to perpetrate an attack on Iran. All this talk is just speculation,” said Reshad Karimov from Aliyev’s staff. He was echoing similar denials issued in Baku and from Israel when the journal Foreign Policy quoted U.S. officials in March voicing alarm that Azeri-Israeli action could thwart U.S. diplomacy toward Iran and across the Caucasus.

Israeli officials dismiss talk of Azeri collaboration in any attack on Iran but decline public comment on specific details.

Even speaking privately, few Israeli officials will discuss the issue. Those who do are skeptical, saying overt use of Azeri bases by Israel would provoke too many hostile reactions. One political source did, however, say flying unmarked tanker aircraft out of Azerbaijan to extend the range and payloads of an Israeli bombing force might play a part in Israeli planning.

Though denying direct knowledge of current military thinking on Iran, the Israeli said one possibility might be “landing a refueling plane there, made to look like a civilian airliner, so it could later take off to rendezvous mid-air with IAF jets”.

A thousand miles separates Tehran and Tel Aviv, putting much of Iran beyond the normal ranges of Israel’s U.S.-made F-16 bombers and their F-15 escorts. So refueling could be critical.

INTELLIGENCE COOPERATION

There is far from unanimity among Israeli leaders about the likelihood of any strike on Iran’s nuclear plants, whether in a wider, U.S.-led operation or not. Netanyahu’s “red line” speech to the United Nations last week was seen by many in Israel as making any strike on Iran unlikely – for at least a few months.

Many, however, also assume Israel has long spied on and even sabotaged what the Western powers say are plans for atomic weapons which Israel says would threaten its very existence.

A second Israeli political source called the idea of Azerbaijan being either launch pad or landing ground for Israeli aircraft “ludicrous” – but agreed with the first source that it was fair to assume joint Israeli-Azeri intelligence operations.

The Azeri sources said such cooperation was established.

As part of last year’s arms deal, Azerbaijan is building up to 60 Israeli-designed drones, giving it reconnaissance means far greater than many analysts believe would be needed just to guard oil installations or even to mount any operations against the breakaway, ethnic Armenian enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh.

“With these drones, (Israel) can indirectly watch what’s happening in Iran, while we protect our borders,” legislator Musabayov said – a view shared by Azeri former military sources.

Less reserved than Israeli officials, the sources in Azerbaijan and in Russian intelligence, which keeps a close eye on its former Soviet backyard, said Baku could offer Israel much more, however – though none believed any deal was yet settled.

The country, home to nine million people whose language is close to Turkish and who mostly share the Shi’ite Muslim faith of Iran, has four ex-Soviet air bases that could be suitable for Israeli jets, the Azeri sources said. They named central Kyurdamir, Gyanja in the west and Nasosny and Gala in the east.

The Pentagon says it helped upgrade Nasosny airfield for NATO use. It also uses Azeri commercial facilities in transit to Afghanistan. But U.S. military aid to Azerbaijan is limited by Washington’s role as a mediator in its dispute with Armenia.

One of the sources with links to the Azeri military said: “There is not a single official base of the United States and even less so of Israel on the territory of Azerbaijan. But that is ‘officially’. Unofficially they exist, and they may be used.”

The source said Iran had been a main topic of talks in April with Israel’s Soviet-born foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman.

RECONNAISSANCE, RESCUE

Azeri tarmac, a shorter flight from key sites in northern Iran including the Fordow underground uranium enrichment plant and missile batteries at Tabriz, might feature in Israeli war planning in less direct ways, the former Azeri officers said.

With Israel wary of its vulnerability to pressure over air crew taken prisoner, plans for extracting downed pilots may be a key feature of any attack plan. Search and rescue helicopters might operate from Azerbaijan, the sources said – or planes that were hit or low on fuel could land at Azeri bases in extremis.

Such engagement carries risks for Azerbaijan and its oil platforms and pipelines operated with international companies.

Defending against Iran is part of public debate in Baku. The United States has provided Azerbaijan with three Coast Guard cutters and has funded seven coastal radar sites as well as giving Baku other help in protecting its oil installations.

Relations have long been strained between the former Soviet state and Iran, which is home to twice as many ethnic Azeris as Azerbaijan itself. Tehran beams an Azeri-language television channel over the border which portrays Aliyev as a puppet of Israel and the West, as well as highlighting corruption in Baku.

Azerbaijan sees Iranian hands behind its Islamist opposition and both countries have arrested alleged spies and agitators.

Faced with an uneven balance of force, Aliyev’s government makes no bones about Israel being an ally. As one presidential aide, speaking on condition of anonymity, explained: “We live in a dangerous neighborhood; that is what is the most powerful driving force for our relationship with Israel.”

However, Israel’s confrontation with Iran may turn out, the arms build-up in Azerbaijan, including recent Israeli upgrades for its Soviet T-72 tanks, may have consequences for the wider region and for the stand-off with Armenia – consequences that would trouble all the powers with stakes in the Caspian region.

“We keep buying arms. On the one hand, it’s a good strategy to frighten Armenia,” one of the former Azeri officers said of the shaky, 18-year-old ceasefire over Nagorno-Karabakh. “But you don’t collect weapons to hang on the wall and gather dust.

“One day, all these could be used.”

(Additional reporting by Dan Williams in Jerusalem and Phil Stewart in Washington; Editing by Alastair Macdonald)

How an American Anthropologist Tied to US Regime-Change Proxies Became the MSM’s Man in Nicaragua -By Max Blumenthal @MaxBlumenthal – MINT PRESS

Carl David Goette-Luciak

It might seem cavalier for an academically credentialed anthropologist to assert political influence on the population he is supposed to be studying; however, Goette-Luciak’s activities fit within a long tradition.

MANAGUA, NICARAGUA — (Investigation) The Guardian, The Washington Post, the BBC and NPR have assigned an American anthropologist with no previous journalistic experience to cover the crisis in Nicaragua. The novice reporter, named Carl David Goette-Luciak, has published pieces littered with falsehoods that reinforce the opposition’s narrative promoting regime change while relying almost entirely on anti-Sandinista sources.

An investigation for MintPress reveals that Goette-Luciak has forged intimate ties to the opposition, and has essentially functioned as its publicist under journalistic cover. Having claimed to work in the past as an anthropologist and “human rights defender,” Goette-Luciak operated side-by-side with activists from a U.S.-backed opposition party known as the Sandinista Renovation Movement, or MRS. As we will see in this investigation, U.S. government-funded organizations have supplied the MRS with millions of dollars worth of election assistance, and continue to fund its activists by funding their NGO’s and social media training.

Goette-Luciak now lists himself as “director of investigations” for an obscure outlet called Radio Ciudadana that was founded a month before the chaos erupted last April. That outlet’s founder, Azucena “Chena” Castillo, is an outspoken member of the MRS party who has devoted herself to the government’s overthrow. Goette-Luciak’s social-media profile reveals intimate ties to numerous MRS leaders and, in a recently deleted podcast interview, he has described his own work to encourage indigenous opposition to the Sandinista front.

 

Media outlets like the Guardian, NPR and The Washington Post feign objectivity before their readers, presenting themselves as arbiters of truth in an era of fake news. However, in countries where Washington is pushing regime change, these same outlets have dispatched a corps of writers to embed with U.S.-backed opposition elements, provide them with publicity, and sell their goals back to the American public.

Goette-Luciak is one of clearest embodiments of the disturbing trend.

 

Western media versus the Sandinistas

Goette-Luciak vaulted suddenly into the world of journalism after student-led protests erupted last April 18 in Nicaragua. President Daniel Ortega had announced a set of tax increases to keep the public pension system solvent, triggering mass protests that quickly transformed into a full-scale attempt at regime change.

Within days, violent elements had taken over university campuses and were setting up roadblocks around the country to paralyze its economy.

While American officials condemned killings and abuses by the Nicaraguan government, scores of Sandinista members and national police officers were murdered by opposition gunmen; hundreds more were kidnapped, tortured and abused; and institutions affiliated with the government were destroyed.

Almost as soon as the Sandinista-led government defeated the coup attempt in July, it became the target of a sustained campaign of attacks in Western media. A raft of articles portrayed Ortega, the former guerrilla leader, as a reincarnation of the bloodthirsty, U.S.-backed dictator he had deposed, Anastasio Somoza. The opposition, meanwhile, was painted as a collection of peaceful protesters gunned down for supposedly demanding democracy.

The death and suffering experienced by average Sandinista members was whitewashed across the board, and the role the U.S. played in laying the groundwork for the coup was dismissed as “fake news.” In Washington, the media campaign propelled a push in Congress for crushing sanctions targeting Nicaragua’s previously productive economy.

Many Western reporters have embarked on short regime-change fishing expeditions guided by opposition activists from one anti-Sandinista source to the next. But Goette-Luciak had been in the country all along, and he stayed after the violence subsided. This provided him with special value to publications like the Guardian, which were apparently hungry for more on-the-ground reporting painting the Sandinistas as uniquely evil and unqualified to govern.

 

Misinformation in the service of the opposition

On September 7, Goette-Luciak published an article in the Guardian claiming that the country had been brought to a virtual halt by a general strike by the anti-government Civic Alliance umbrella group. His co-author was Caroline Houck, a staff correspondent for the website Defense One, which leverages ad revenue from the arms industry to “provide news, analysis and ideas for national security leaders and stakeholders.”

The Nicaraguan-born activist Camilo Mejia highlighted several pieces of misinformation contained in the article. Contrary to the claim that the Civic Alliance interrupted the country’s economy with its general strike, Managuan marketplaces were bustling that day and commerce proceeded as usual. As Mejia noted, the opposition had only managed to close the high-end businesses that supported its regime-change agenda.

Carl David Goette-Luciak | Ana Margarita Vijil

Goette-Luciak and Houck published extensive quotes from Ana Margarita Vijil, falsely describing her as “national director of the outlawed Sandinista Renovation Movement (MRS).” In fact, the marginal MRS had not been “outlawed;” its candidates had garnered a pitiful 1.3 percent of the popular vote in the last election, which is below the legal threshold to qualify to run as a political party.

The authors then quoted Vijil claiming that, “[w]ith 200 political prisoners and [new] murders every day, this strike is just one more sign that nothing is normal here in Nicaragua.” What Goette-Luciak and his co-author failed to mention was that those recent murders have consisted largely of Sandinista supporters. The recent murder victims include Lenin Mendiola, an FSLN militant and son of two revered Sandinista historical figures, Benigna Mendiola and Bernardino Díaz Ochoa.

But the most striking omission by Goette-Luciak was of his relationship with his source and her party, which has enjoyed direct support from the U.S. government. Below, the two can be seen together at a conference in an image that highlights their mutual affinity.

Vijil is the former president of the MRS, or the Sandinista Renewal Movement. She has served as a fellow of the Central American Leadership Initiative at the Aspen Institute, a hub of neoliberal thought funded by the Ford Foundation and Rockefeller Brothers Fund, among others.

Just before the coup erupted in April, Vijil was in Washington for a “high level executive meeting,” according to Yaser Morazan, an MRS activist whose “Agente de Cambio” initiative and social-media training have been sponsored by USAID — an arm of the U.S. State Department — and the U.S.-funded Instituto de Estudios Estratégicos y Políticas Públicas (IEEPP). Three weeks before the coup, Morazan posted a selfie outside IEEPP’s office promising a series of “surprises” and pledging his secrecy about them.

For his part, Goette-Luciak has been connected with the MRS most directly through Azucena Castillo, a prominent party activist whom he lists as his employer at Radio Ciudadana.

Goette-Luciak did not respond to an emailed request for an interview.

 

The best ex-Sandinistas the U.S. could buy

Goette-Luciak appears to have inherited his affinity for the MRS party from his father, Ilja Luciak, an academic who focused his research on Central America and served for several years as the chair of political science at Virginia Tech.

In an interview with an obscure travel website called the Edge of Adventure, Goette-Luciak credited his father with inspiring his interest in Nicaragua. He described him as a “Marxist” who was inspired by the Sandinista revolution that unfolded during the 1980’s. But according to his academic CV, Luciak’s work on Nicaragua has been backed by European foundations, the European Commission, and USAID.

In his book After the Revolution: Gender and Democracy in Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Guatemala, Luciak wrote sympathetically about the female former Sandinistas who helped lead the MRS party’s crusade against Ortega.

His son, Goette-Luciak, channeled the purist sensibility of the MRS in his interview with Edge of Adventure:

As a leftist, I was intrigued by where the Sandinista revolution — which to me was a very utopian idealistic revolution and a great example of potential social change for Latin America — where it had gone awry.”

The MRS was established to expose and exacerbate the supposed failings of the Sandinista front. Founded in 1994 by ex-Vice President Sergio Ramirez and a collection of ex-FSLN militants — most of them from more affluent, educated backgrounds than common Sandinistas — the party’s disruptive agenda made it a natural candidate for assistance from Washington.

In 2006, the MRS and the U.S. government plotted to prevent Ortega’s election. A September 6, 2006 U.S. embassy cable — revealingly entitled, “MRS: We Want To Bring Ortega Down” — laid out some of those plans. Authored by U.S. Ambassador Paul Trivelli, the cable described a meeting between the ambassador and Israel Lewites, the nephew of MRS presidential candidate Herty Lewites, who had just died from a heart attack.

Trivelli confirmed direct U.S. government support for the MRS election campaign, noting that 30 percent of its election observers had been trained by the International Republican Institute, a U.S.-funded, Republican Party-run soft-power organization overseen by then-Sen. John McCain.

“The MRS intends to have at least two people per voting table […] on election day, but they need funds to feed and transport the fiscales and other helpers,” Trivelli stated.

In all, the U.S. government contributed a whopping $12 million in 2006 towards “election technical assistance, outreach, and observation” in Nicaragua’s 2006 election. In other words, it spent two dollars for every Nicaraguan citizen to defeat Ortega.

A separate leaked diplomatic cable detailed a meeting during that election campaign between MRS co-founder Dora Maria Tellez and the ambassador, Trivelli. Foreshadowing the coup that unfolded this year, Tellez told U.S. embassy officials that “the MRS will warn the FSLN that if it steals the election, the MRS will ‘take to the streets,’ opining that this is the ‘only kind of message Ortega understands.’”

The MRS ultimately failed to prevent Ortega’s victory and wound up reaching out to the U.S. again as its domestic support base collapsed. In 2016, the MRS’s Vijil joined a delegation to lobby in Washington for the Nica Act, a bill proposing crushing sanctions on her country.

On Capitol Hill, Vigil posed alongside a cast of U.S.-backed activists and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a neoconservative Cuban-American Republican who was the main author of the sanctions bill.

Ana Margarita Vigil

Two years later, MRS activists were at the forefront of the coup attempt that sought Ortega’s removal. Several participants in the protests this April who later turned against the opposition described witnessing MRS leaders providing truck loads of supplies for opposition forces occupying university campuses.

While the MRS performed its historic role as the knife in the FSLN’s back, it supplied Western media with a cast of English-speaking voices demanding regime change in the name of supposedly progressive values. Its most prominent voice was Gioconda Belli, an affluent U.S.-based poet and professional former Sandinista, who took to mainstream U.S. outlets to paint Ortega as a murderous dictator, as she has done for years. (Belli’s brother, Humberto, is a Catholic priest affiliated with the far-right Opus Dei cult and a client of the militantly anti-abortion American tycoon Tom Monaghan).

Carl David Goette-Luciak | Gioconda Belli

Then there was Goette-Luciak (seen above with Belli), who functioned on the ground as the MRS party’s publicist in photo-journalistic attire.

 

A “dual use” anthropologist

Prior to the unrest that swept across Nicaragua last April, there was little record of Goette-Luciak’s presence as a writer or journalist. He had written one piece for NPR on how Nicaraguans were not as happy as the World Happiness Report said they were.

His co-author, Carlos Salinas Maldonado, was a writer for the opposition magazine Confidencial, which is funded by the U.S. government’s regime-change arm, the National Endowment for Democracy, and the Open Society Foundation.

In his byline, Goette-Luciak described himself as “an anthropologist in Managua.” He was listed in conference papers as a graduate student at the University of Virginia around that time, focusing his work on the Rama-Kriol and Miskito populations of Nicaragua’s eastern coast.

These indigenous groups have been at loggerheads with the Sandinista movement since the civil war in the 1980’s, when the CIA cultivated them as U.S. allies. Ronald Reagan made the relationship a centerpiece of his administration’s Cold War crusade when he declared in a 1985 speech, “I am … a Miskito Indian. I too, am a potential victim of totalitarianism.”

The indigenous North Atlantic Autonomous Region of Nicaragua remains a key target for U.S. influence, as Washington seeks to exploit the simmering conflict between its local population and the leftist government in Managua. Leaked diplomatic cables demonstrate efforts by the U.S. embassy to cultivate anti-Sandinista sentiment in the area by working to facilitate human-rights complaints by former CIA-backed Contra fighters against FSLN leadership.

In 2013, the Ortega government announced plans by a Chinese magnate to construct a canal through his country, presenting a direct threat to U.S. control over shipping lines in the western hemisphere and prompting an outcry from the U.S. embassy. Soon, an anti-canal movement emerged in the countryside as one of the main drivers of anti-Sandinista sentiment. The campaign against the canal poured fuel on the fire of the coastal indigenous population’s long-simmering conflict with the government.

Though Goette-Luciak described himself in his bio as an “anthropologist in Managua,” he later revealed that he was working among the Miskito population and with the Rama-Kriol communal government to stimulate opposition to the Sandinistas.

“I worked on informing the indigenous community of their rights at a time of crisis, when the government was attempting to depict to the international audience consent among the indigenous population for the sale of their land,” Goette-Luciak said in an interview this year with The Edge of Adventure.

It might seem cavalier for an academically credentialed anthropologist to assert political influence on the population he is supposed to be studying; however, Goette-Luciak’s activities fit within a long tradition. As author David Price illustrated in several book-length studies on what he called “dual use anthropology,” many American anthropologists were supported during the Cold War by private foundations and even the CIA to conduct activities on behalf of their government. More recently, the Pentagon weaponized the field of study through programs like its Human Terrain System, which lured newly graduated anthropologists with lucrative salaries to assist U.S. military counterinsurgency campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan.

There is no evidence that Goette-Luciak is an asset of the CIA or any other U.S. agency. However, his advancement of Washington’s divisive political objectives during the course of his ethnographic fieldwork represented a fairly clear example of dual-use anthropology.

 

Selective stories from the front lines

In his interview with Edge of Adventure, Goette-Luciak cited the killing of Angel Gahona — a reporter he described as his “neighbor” in the city of Bluefields in southeastern Nicaragua — as his inspiration for moving into the field of journalism.

Gahona was killed while delivering a Facebook live report during an anti-government protest. He was shot while filming a bank that had been looted, and unidentified men could be seen in the shadows of the bank moments before Gahona was hit. This prompted some observers to allege that he was killed by professional criminals for filming them while they took advantage of the chaos to rob a bank.

Though the government arrested two suspects in the killing, Gahona’s family blamed the national police for deliberately targeting him in retaliation for his coverage of alleged police abuse. Goette-Luciak presented these allegations and accusing the government of a cover-up in his first article for the Guardian on May 29.

Goette-Luciak also described to the Edge of Adventure having witnessed the so-called Mother’s Day Massacre, where several demonstrators commemorating those who had already died in the unrest were killed on May 30.

The bloodshed that took place that day remains a source of heated contention. Violence had erupted across the country, with the opposition opening fire on a Sandinista caravan in the city of Esteli, killing one and wounding dozens. Opposition vandals burned the leftist Radio Ya station for the third time as well as parts of Managua’s Metrocentro complex. Videos show opposition gunmen opening fire that day on the streets of Managua and toting weapons near the Mother’s Day march. The opposition and Western media placed the blame squarely on Sandinista-affiliated elements for sniping into the crowd of marchers, but have yet to produce clear evidence proving their case.

Speaking to the Edge of Adventure, Goette-Luciak conceded that he had left the march and was several blocks away drinking a beer when the shooting began. He said he returned after he heard shooting and described the deaths as the result of targeting killings by Sandinista paramilitaries.

“I witnessed two deaths…” he told Edge of Adventure. “A young man standing a few yards from me was hit by a bullet in the head, and standing behind him, what I saw was the back of his head explode like a watermelon that got dropped.”

Hours after the violence, a ferociously anti-government network known as “100% Noticias” published a grisly photo of a man supposedly killed by government forces whose brain was spilling out of his skull. The image was soon exposed as a fake and has since been deleted. In fact, it depicted a death from a separate conflict and had been taken years before.

Though Goette-Luciak said he had taken photos of the march, he has yet to publish any of the killings he said he witnessed.

In a separate incident this June, Goette-Luciak appeared momentarily in a highly disturbing video filmed by 100% Noticias. He could be seen taking photos of a mob of opposition thugs in the act of kidnapping and beating an aging Sandinista member they had found squatting on a local oligarch’s abandoned property. Oddly, Goette-Luciak published no photos of the incident and did not report on it.

Goette-Luciak

The Radio La Ciudadana outlet where Goette-Luciak is listed as “director of investigations” contains sparse evidence of journalistic production: a section on the site marked as “investigations” is empty; the photos section contains 15 images Goette-Luciak captured on Mother’s Day, where he claimed to have witnessed two murders: a grand total of three news stories are featured on the site. Radio La Ciudadana was founded by Azucena “Chena” Castillo, an MRS party activist who has also worked as director of the USAID-funded outlet Radio Universidad.

Goette-Luciak | Chena Castillo

The only other record of Goette-Luciak’s photojournalism existed at the Edge of Adventure website, which had published about 20 images he captured — one of which depicted him posing with an opposition gunman. The Edge of Adventure is a little-known media site founded by Adam Asher Wattenbarger, a self-styled travel journalist who is listed as an executive at the right-wing, Christian-oriented Salem Media Group.

This month, Goette-Luciak fell under sustained criticism from Sandinista supporters on Facebook for his one-sided coverage of the country’s political crisis. Many accused him of operating as a U.S. intelligence asset. The Edge of Adventure promptly deleted its podcast interview with him and scrubbed most of his photos from the site.

Goette-Luciak then began cleaning up his own Facebook page, deleting his selfies with MRS party leaders.

 

Objective journalistic promoters of the “resistance”

Earlier this summer, Goette-Luciak was in the thick of the most intense fighting between opposition gunmen and Sandinista-aligned forces. It was in Masaya, a city where the opposition had seized and cordoned off entire neighborhoods in an attempt to declare a junta.

As I found when I visited Masaya a month later, the opposition had waged a campaign of terror against Sandinista supporters, burning their homes, kidnapping, beating, torturing and even killing them, while laying siege to the local police station. In one of the most gruesome incidents, an unarmed community police officer named Gabriel Vado was kidnapped by opposition gunmen, dragged to death from the back of a truck, and torched on camera while slumped before a roadblock.

There was virtually no mention of the opposition’s ongoing campaign of terror in Goette-Luciak’s June 23 report for The Washington Post, which he co-authored with Houck of the arms industry-funded Defense One. Instead, Goette-Luciak painted the gunmen as valiant resistance fighters and promoted their call for the U.S. to send them heavy weapons: “Several asked a reporter whether President Trump would send support to the resistance,” he wrote.

Goette-Luciak Nicaragua

To be sure, Goette-Luciak was far from the only Western media figure to embed with the armed opposition in Masaya and trumpet its gallantry. Some of the most overtly pro-opposition messaging arrived courtesy of a reporter named Tim Rogers. An American who spent years publishing news of interest to the local emigre and tourist population, Rogers emerged this year as a ferocious promoter of the armed opposition.

In Masaya, Rogers seemed to throb with admiration for the masked gunmen manning the barricades.

While characterizing the opposition as “an unarmed population,” Rogers glorified the lethal weaponry they deployed from behind the roadblocks. Goette-Luciak’s now-deleted photo gallery at the Edge of Adventure demonstrated that the gunmen not only toted homemade mortars, but assault weapons and handguns as well.

Like Goette-Luciak, Rogers’ cheerleading for the armed opposition was rewarded with bylines in mainstream publications from Public Radio International and The Atlantic, where he claimed Nicaragua was a “failed state” that was undergoing “democratic renewal” thanks to the push for regime change. He was ultimately hired as the Latin American editor of Fusion, a website owned by the Israel-American oligarch and Democratic Party mega-donor Haim Saban. There, Rogers produced a viral propaganda video likening the Sandinista movement to ISIS.

The out-of-the-blue emergence of figures like Goette-Luciak and Rogers as correspondents for legacy Western publications can not be viewed as an aberration or mistake. In Nicaragua, as in so many other countries targeted with regime-change operations, outlets like the Guardian, New York Times and Washington Post seem to demand on-the-ground coverage that reinforces the regime-change agenda.

And so they credentialed opposition publicists as journalists, instilling in them the illusion of their own professionalism. “I think I’ve come to realize the value of objective and impartial journalism,” Goette-Luciak said in his Edge of Adventure interview, “and I no longer consider myself as an activist for or against any particular cause.”

Top Photo | Carl David Goette-Luciak poses with an opposition gunman in the city of Masaya, Nicaragua. Photo | Edge of Adventure

Max Blumenthal is the founder and editor of GrayzoneProject.com, the co-host of the podcast Moderate Rebels, the author of several books and producer of full-length documentaries including the recently released Killing Gaza. Follow him on Twitter at @MaxBlumenthal.

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With Russia’s S-300 in Syria, Israel Will Have to Think Twice About the Next Strike – By Ian Greenhalgh – VT

The new missile system provided by Russia is not a total barrier to airstrikes, but Israeli jets’ freedom of action will be significantly curbed

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Haaretz
With Russia’s S-300 in Syria, Israel Will Have to Think Twice About the Next Strike

The two latest developments in Moscow – the Defense Ministry’s report that placed full responsibility for last week’s downing of a Russian plane over Syria on Israel, and the announcement of the transfer of advanced S-300 anti-aircraft missile systems to the Assad regime – shouldn’t surprise anyone in Israel except maybe a few foolish supporters of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. No matter how good his relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin may be, Netanyahu can’t make the problem disappear.

Russia suffered an embarrassing blow when Assad’s anti-aircraft fire shot down the plane, and it still has widespread interests to promote in Syria. It was quite clear that the affair would lead to a Russian condemnation of Israel and to demands of Israel. The bottom line still depends on Putin, who initially sufficed with a cautiously worded statement the day after the incident. For the time being it seems the result of the Russian steps will be a significant restriction of Israel’s freedom of action over Syria.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced Monday that his country would supply Syria with S-300 ground-to-air missiles. Russia, he said, would also activate electronics preventing the activation of satellite tracking systems along Syria’s coast, making it harder for Israel to conduct airstrikes. And Russia will equip Syrian anti-aircraft units with Russian tracking and guidance systems to prevent mishaps in which Syria downs Russian aircraft.

The transfer of S-300 missiles to the Syrians, along with even more advanced systems (like the S-400) that the Russians are deploying near their bases in Syria’s northwest, don’t constitute a total barrier to Israeli attacks. According to foreign media, the Israel Air Force has trained for missions in which Israeli jets must contend with S-300 batteries – which the Russians sold to Cyprus and are now in Greece’s hands. It’s reasonable to assume that the air force can figure out how to reduce the risk when facing these systems.

In April, after an American attack and a number of Israeli attacks, Moscow announced that it would sell the S-300 systems to Syria, but it didn’t follow through. This time the Russians seem more determined to follow through, though it’s doubtful the weapons will be delivered in two weeks as promised by Shoigu, and it could take the Syrians a while to learn to operate the technology.

The test for Israeli-Russian relations is sure to come soon when a new intelligence warning pops up about an Iranian attempt to smuggle arms into Lebanon on a route near the Russian bases in northwestern Syria. Because Iran is determined to continue with its arms shipments to Hezbollah, and Israel has insisted on its right to attack such shipments, Jerusalem is bound to face a dilemma: Should it attack once again near the Russians and risk further exacerbating the crisis and even the downing of an Israeli plane?

Russia’s announcement of the decision to supply the S-300s and its report Sunday on the circumstances of the downing of the Ilyushin plane underscore one point. Moscow can’t accuse the main culprit responsible for the incident – its ally, the Assad regime. (It’s amazing to see that blame for the Syrian anti-aircraft forces doesn’t even appear in the Defense Ministry’s official statement.)

File photo: A Russian Il-20 reconnaissance aircraft taxis across the tarmac at Central military airport in Rostov-on-Don, Russia December 14, 2010.

It was therefore clear from the beginning that the responsibility would be placed on Israel. It’s also interesting that all the blame is directed at the Israeli military, which the Russians accuse of being unprofessional or “criminally negligent, at the very least.” The Israeli political leadership isn’t mentioned except for one general claim about Israel’s alleged dangerous offensive policy in Syria.

The Russian inquiry seems dubious; some of its claims are odd. For instance, the Russians say Israel gave them a warning of only one minute (it’s surprising that Israel hasn’t stated the real time lag, which was much longer). According to experienced Israeli pilots, the claim that the Israeli jets hid behind the Russian intelligence-gathering plane is unreasonable and not in keeping with accepted operational practices.

The accusation that Israel deceived the Russians about the location of the planned attack also seems illogical. According to Russia, the IAF informed it about an attack in northern Syria, while the attack occurred in western Syria. Latakia is in northwest Syria, as a quick glance at a map reveals. And because the military coordination has been working successfully for three years now, during which hundreds of Israeli attacks have taken place, it’s hard to believe that the two sides haven’t yet cleared up some basic terminology.

The Russian announcement accuses Israel of ungratefulness in light of Moscow’s steps on behalf of Israeli interests such as keeping Iranian forces from the Israeli border in the Golan Heights. (The Russians say they’ve kept them 140 kilometers [87 miles] away, while actually it’s 85 to 100 kilometers, a buffer zone that doesn’t include Damascus, where Iranian soldiers remain.)

In recent years, Russia has been caught lying or spreading disinformation about its role in a number of incidents, the most recent being its involvement in the U.S. presidential elections, the poisoning of the former Russian agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Britain, and the invasion of Crimea and eastern Ukraine. So it’s hard to believe that anyone but Syria and Iran will adopt the Russian version of last week’s events.

But it’s unlikely that this will matter. Moscow has the last word on the plane affair. It seems Putin waited for an Israeli blunder to put Jerusalem in its place.

This isn’t the end of an era for Israel’s military operations in Syria, where it has conducted hundreds of attacks in the north over the past six years. But for now, it appears the situation on the northern front won’t return fully to the conditions before the Russian plane was shot down.

Israel has operated freely in northern Syria for years thanks to the combination of offensive actions and good diplomatic relations with the Russians. Mostly, Israel acted shrewdly, achieving many of its goals.

In this handout video grab released by the Russian Defense Ministry speaks to the media next to the screen showing the scheme of the incident during a briefing in Moscow, Russia, September 22, 2018.

But in recent months Israel has displayed excessive confidence in Syria. It’s unlikely that the Russians were happy with the Israeli military’s announcement this month that it had conducted more than 200 attacks in Syria since the beginning of last year. It seems Jerusalem hasn’t fully grasped the implications now that the Assad regime, with the help of the Russians, has regained control of most of the country, including the region bordering Israel.

Israel isn’t a superpower and isn’t invincible. It will have to take into account Russian considerations and maybe even adapt its offensive model. Senior defense officials say they ascribe great importance to the latest incident. Those who still claim that this is just a mild shudder on the wing must be so busy defending Netanyahu’s image that they’re no longer capable of analyzing reality objectively.

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.

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.

Defense chief vows response to Israel’s actions that caused fatal crash of Il-20 aircraft – By TASS

September 18, 17:06 UTC+3

The Russian defense minister says Israeli F-16s delivered strikes on Syria using the Russian Il-20 recon plane as cover

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© Maxim Kuzovkov/TASS

MOSCOW, September 18. /TASS/. Russia will respond to actions on behalf of the Israeli Air Force that led to a fatal crash of Russia’s Il-20 aircraft on Monday late night in Syria, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Tuesday.

“We have informed today our Israeli colleagues, and I have also informed personally the Israeli Defense Minister [Avigdor Lieberman], that such actions will not be left unanswered by us,” Shoigu said.

The Russian Il-20 that was shot down by Syrian air defense systems had been conducting reconnaissance activity in the Idlib de-escalation zone before the crash, he said. 

“Our reconnaissance airplane Il-20 with 15 crew members on board – that had been conducting reconnaissance tasks over the Idlib de-escalation zone to find places of storage and collection of unmanned aerial vehicles which fly from this zone and strike various Syrian regions – was in the strike zone, strictly speaking between Israel’s aircraft – four F-16 planes – and Syrian territory,” he said.

Israeli F-16 jets delivered strikes on Syria using the Russian Ilyushin-20 reconnaissance plane as cover, since the Israelis believed that Syria’s air defenses would not counteract against that trajectory, Shoigu said. “It’s clear to any specialist the strike was delivered using our Ilyushin-20 as cover, because they [the Israelis] thought the Syrian air defense systems would not act in that direction,” he stated.

Shoigu indicated that the Israeli Air Force had conducted the attacks without notification. 

“The Israeli side didn’t issue a notification or, to be more precise, they warned us a minute before conducting the strike,” he said. “They told us they were about to attack facilities on the Syrian territory, and they did it.”

“As a result of countermeasures to the Israeli attack, the Syrian air defense troops brought down the Ilyushin-20,” Shoigu indicated.

According to the Russian Defense Ministry, on September 17 at about 23:00 Moscow time (GMT + 3) contact was lost with the crew of a Russian Il-20 plane that was returning to the Hmeymim airbase above the Mediterranean Sea, 35 km off the Syrian coast. The ministry specified that the Il-20 disappeared from the air traffic control radars during the attack of four Israeli F-16 planes on Syrian facilities in the Latakia Governorate.

The Russian Defense Ministry later reported that the plane had been downed by the Syrian air defense systems. According to the ministry, the Israeli pilots used the IL-20 as a shield, putting it under the attack of the S-200 missile system. It was said that the Israeli flight control devices and the F-16 pilots “could not but see the Russian plane as it was coming in for a landing at an altitude of 5 km.” That said, they intentionally carried out this provocation, said Russian Defense Ministry Spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov, noting that Russia regarded Israel’s actions as hostile.

More:
http://tass.com/defense/1022123

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

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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.