Monsanto ‘bullied scientists’ and hid weedkiller (Roundup) cancer risk, – By VT /Senior Editors

As ill California man’s landmark case begins, attorney attacks Roundup maker’s response to researchers’ findings

Thank you Republicans.  50 million dead and counting….(ed)

Monsanto has long worked to “bully scientists” and suppress evidence of the cancer risks of its popular weedkiller, a lawyer argued on Monday in a landmark lawsuit against the global chemical corporation.

“Monsanto has specifically gone out of its way to bully … and to fight independent researchers,” said the attorney Brent Wisner, who presented internal Monsanto emails that he said showed how the agrochemical company rejected critical research and expert warnings over the years while pursuing and helping to write favorable analyses of their products. “They fought science.”

Wisner, who spoke inside a crowded San Francisco courtroom, is representing DeWayne Johnson, known also as Lee, a California man whose cancer has spread through his body. The father of three and former school groundskeeper, who doctors say may have just months to live, is the first person to take Monsanto to trial over allegations that the chemical sold under the Roundup brand is linked to cancer. Thousands have made similar legal claims across the US.


The case is significant in part because the judge has allowed Johnson’s lawyers to present scientific arguments. The suit centers on glyphosate, the world’s most widely used herbicide, which Monsanto began marketing as Roundup in 1974, presenting it as a technological breakthrough that could kill almost every weed without harming humans or the environment.

Read more at UK Guardian


Assad vows to free all of Syria, no matter who controls its territories – By Sputnik

Bashar al-Assad

© SANA / Reuters
Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad greets his supporters during Eid al-Adha prayers on September 1, 2017, Syria.

The Syrian president held a meeting at the Foreign Affairs Ministry on Monday discussing the internal, regional and international political situation and Syria’s foreign and domestic policy objectives.

Damascus will “liberate the territories of all Syrian provinces, no matter whose control they are under,” Assad said, as cited by the Syrian Arab News Agency.

“The process of Syria’s post-war reconstruction is our biggest priority, and we will engage in the restoration of the national economy alongside the ongoing anti-terrorist operations,” Assad added.

“The President #الأسد conducts an open dialogue with diplomats at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and expatriates on internal, regional and international political situations, diplomatic work and the political and social future #سورية. “

Assad pointed to the return of refugees who left the country during the war as another urgent problem.

The president emphasized the need for “dialogue between Syrians at all levels,” which he emphasized should lead to a “pact of national accord.” Assad accused the Western powers and the US specifically of “obstructing the activation of the political process” in the war-torn country.

The seven year war in Syria has had a severe impact on the country’s economy. In May, Assad estimated that the country may need up to $400 billion and over a decade to rebuild. In an interview with Russian media last month, Assad emphasized that notwithstanding Syria’s difficulties, Damascus ‘does not need the West’ to rebuild if the latter is unwilling, because they are prone to acting in a predatory manner.

Syrian War Report – July 6, 2018: Syrian Army Retakes Multiple Points On Border With Jordan – By South Front (VT)


…from SouthFront

The military operation of government forces in southern Syria was once again resumed after the Damascus government and local militants groups had failed to reach any kind of fully-fledged reconciliation agreement that would allow to settle the situation in the area via a peaceful way.

On July 5, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA), the Tiger Forces and their allies liberated the town of Saida and the nearby abandoned air defense base in the province of Daraa. Additionally, the SAA advanced along the border with Jordan liberating over 10 villages between the border points of 71 and 79.

According to pro-government sources, the SAA faced a little resistance during their operation along the border. Russian troops were spotted there.

The operation is also supported by the Russian Aerospace Forces. Nonetheless, the number of airstrikes is limited. Currently, government forces are developing their operation in the direction of the Nassib border crossing.

Clashes between Turkish-backed militants, reportedly members of Ahrar al-Sharqiyah, and government troops have taken place in the village of Tadef in the province of Aleppo. Turkish-backed forces captured some positions, but were forced to withdraw from them later. According to pro-government sources, the withdrawal was ordered by the Turkish military to de-escalated the situation.

Such incidents show the real sentiments among the so-called moderate opposition groups backed by Turkey and limitations of Ankara’s control of these groups.

The ISIS-linked news agency Amaq claimed that on July 4 ISIS fighters had ambushed a convoy of the US-led coalition in the village of Namliyah in the eastern part of Deir Ezzor province. According to Amaq, ISIS employed 18 IEDs against the convoy killing four US troops. Other sources say that only two US servicemen were killed. The US-led coalition has not commented on these reports so far.

Meanwhile, the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have captured the villages of Madinah and Qabr Taha from ISIS in the southern part of Hasakah province. The SDF is continuing it operation in the direction of the Tuwaymin area.

‘Losing Military Supremacy’ book review: How the US lost its edge to Russia – By The Saker The Unz Review (SOTT)

maryanov military supremacy

The fact that the USA is facing a profound crisis, possibly the worst one in its history, is accepted by most observers, except maybe the most delusional ones. Most Americans definitely know that. In fact, if there is one thing upon which both those who supported Trump and those who hate him with a passion can agree on, it would be that his election is a clear proof of a profound crisis (I would argue that the election of Obama before also had, as one of its main causes, the very same systemic crisis). When speaking of this crisis, most people will mention the deindustrialization, the drop in real income, the lack of well-paid jobs, healthcare, crime, immigration, pollution, education, and a myriad of other contributing factors. But of all the aspects of the “American dream”, the single most resilient one has been the myth of the US military as “the finest fighting force in history”. In this new book, Andrei Martianov not only comprehensively debunks this myth, he explains step by step how this myth was created and why it is collapsing now. This is no small feat, especially in a relatively short book (225 pages) which is very well written and accessible to everyone, not just military specialists.

Martyanov takes a systematic and step-by-step approach: first, he defines military power, then he explains where the myth of US military superiority came from and how the US rewriting of the history of WWII resulted in a complete misunderstanding, especially at the top political levels, of the nature of modern warfare. He then discusses the role ideology and the Cold War played in further exacerbating the detachment of US leaders from reality. Finally, he demonstrates how a combination of delusional narcissism and outright corruption resulted in a US military capable of wasting truly phenomenal sums of money on “defense” while at the same time resulting in an actual force unable to win a war against anything but a weak and defenseless enemy.

That is not to say that the US military has not fought in many wars and won. It did, but in the words of Martyanov:

Surely when America fought against a third-rate adversary it was possible to rain death from the skies, and then roll over its forces, if any remained by that time, with very little difficulty and casualties. That will work in the future too against that type of adversary – similar in size and flimsiness of Iraqi Forces circa 2003. But Ledeen’s Doctrine had one major flaw – one adult cannot continue to go around the sandbox constantly fighting children and pretend to be good at fighting adults.

The main problem for the USA today is that there are very few of those third-rate adversaries left out there and that those who the USA is trying to bring to submission now are either near-peer or even peer adversaries. Martyanov specifically lists the factors which make that kind of adversary so different from those the USA fought in the past:

  1. Modern adversaries have command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities equal to or better than the US ones.
  2. Modern adversaries have electronic warfare capabilities equal to or better than the US ones
  3. Modern adversaries have weapon systems equal to or better than the US ones.
  4. Modern adversaries have air defenses which greatly limit the effectiveness of US airpower.
  5. Modern adversaries have long-range subsonic, supersonic and hypersonic cruise missiles which present a huge threat to the USN, bases, staging areas and even the entire US mainland.

In the book, all these points are substantiated with numerous and specific examples which I am not repeating here for the sake of brevity.

One could be forgiven for not being aware of any of these facts, at least if one considers the kind of nonsense written by the US corporate media or, for that matter, by the so-called “experts” (another interesting topic Martyanov discusses in some detail). Still, one can live in an imaginary world only as long as reality does not come crashing in, be it in the form of criminally overpriced and useless weapon systems or in the form of painful military defeats. The current hysteria about Russia as the Evil Mordor which is the culprit for everything and anything bad (real or imaginary) happening to the USA is mostly due to the fact that Russia, in total contradiction to all the “expert” opinions, not only did not crash or turn into a “gas station masquerading as a country” with her economy “in tatters”, but succeeded in developing a military which, for a small fraction of the US military budget, successfully developed armed forces which are in reality far more capable than the US forces. I realize that this last statement is quite literally “unthinkable” for many Americans and I submit that the very fact that this is so literally unthinkable greatly contributed to making this possible in the first place: when you are so damn sure that by some kind of miracle of history, or God’s will, or Manifest Destiny or any other supernatural reason, you are inherently and by definition superior and generally “better” than everybody else you are putting yourself in great danger of being defeated. This is as true for Israel as it is for the USA. I would also add that in the course of the West’s history this “crashing in of reality” in the comfy world of narcissistic delusion often came in the form of a Russian soldier defeating the putatively much superior master race of the day (from the Crusaders to the Nazis). Hence the loathing which western ruling elites always had for everything Russian.

In this book, Martyanov explains why, in spite of the absolutely catastrophic 1990s, the Russians succeeded in developing a modern and highly capable combat force in a record time. There are two main reasons for this: first, unlike their US counterparts, Russian weapons are designed to kill, not to make money and, second, Russians understand warfare because they understand what war really is. This latest argument might look circular, but it is not: Russians are all acutely aware of what war really means and, crucially, they are actually willing to make personal sacrifices to either avoid or, at least, win wars. In contrast, US Americans have no experience of real warfare (that is warfare in defense of their own land, family and friends) at all. For US Americans warfare is killing the other guy in his own country, preferably from afar or above, while making a ton of money in the process. For Russians, warfare is simply about surviving at any and all cost. The difference couldn’t be greater.

The difference in weapons systems acquisition is also simple: since US wars never really put the people of the USA at risk, the consequences of developing under-performing weapons systems were never catastrophic. The profits made, however, were immense. Hence the kind of criminally overpriced and useless weapons system like the F-35, the Littoral Combat Ship or, of course, the fantastically expensive and no less fantastically vulnerable aircraft carriers. The Russian force planners had very different priorities: not only did they fully realize that the failure to produce an excellently performing weapons system could result in their country being devastated and occupied (not to mention their families and themselves either enslaved or killed), they also realized that they could never match the Pentagon in terms of spending. So what they did was to design comparatively much cheaper weapons systems which could destroy or render useless the output of the multi-trillion dollar US military-industrial complex. This is how Russian missiles made the entire US ABM program and the US carrier-centric Navy pretty much obsolete as well as how Russian air defenses turned putatively “invisible” US aircraft into targets or how Russian diesel-electric submarines are threatening US nuclear attack subs. All that at a tiny fraction of what the US taxpayer spends on “defense”. Here again, Martyanov gives plenty of detailed examples.

Martyanov’s book will deeply irritate and even outrage those for whom the US narcissistic culture of axiomatic superiority has become an integral part of their identity. But for everybody else this book is an absolute must-have because the future of our entire planet is at stake here: the question is not whether the US Empire is collapsing, but what the consequences of this collapse will be for our planet. Right now, the US military has turned into a “hollow force” which simply cannot perform its mission, especially since that mission is, as defined by US politicians, the control of the entire planet. There is a huge discrepancy between the perceived and the actual capabilities of the US military and the only way to bridge this gap are, of course, nuclear weapons. This is why the last chapter in the book is entitled “The Threat of a Massive American Military Miscalculation”. In this chapter, Martyanov names the real enemy of both the Russian and the American people – the US political elites and, especially, the Neocons: they are destroying the USA as a country and they are putting all of mankind at risk of nuclear annihilation.

The above summary does not do justice to Martyanov’s truly seminal book. I can only say that I consider this book as an absolutely indispensable “must read” for every person in the USA who loves his/her country and for every person who believes that wars, especially nuclear ones, must be avoided at all costs. Just like many others (I think of Paul Craig Roberts), Martyanov is warning us that “the day of reckoning is upon us” and that the risks of war are very real, even if for most of us such an event is also unthinkable. Those in the USA who consider themselves patriots should read this book with special attention, not only because it correctly identifies the main threat to the USA, but also because it explains in detail what circumstances have resulted in the current crisis. Waving (mostly Chinese made) US flags is simply not an option anymore, neither is looking away and pretending that none of this is real. Martynov’s book will also be especially interesting to those in the US armed forces who are observing the tremendous decline of US military power from inside. Who better than a former Soviet officer could not only explain, but also understand the mechanisms which have made such a decline possible?

You can also get both versions of the book (paper & electronic) here.

The book is also available on Amazon as a pre-order here.

It is scheduled to become available on September 1st.

Get at least one copy and give more to your friends!

The Saker

Israel bows to Russia’s will: Battle of South Syria coming to an end – By Elijah J. Magnier (

Match Made in Hell: Bayer-Monsanto Partnership Signals Death Knell for Humanity – By Robert BRIDGE (STRATEGIC CULTURE FOUNDATION)

Match Made in Hell: Bayer-Monsanto Partnership Signals Death Knell for Humanity
Robert BRIDGE | 30.06.2018 | BUSINESS

On what plane of reality is it possible that two of the world’s most morally bankrupt corporations, Bayer and Monsanto, can be permitted to join forces in what promises to be the next stage in the takeover of the world’s agricultural and medicinal supplies?

Warning, plot spoiler: There is no Mr. Hyde side in this horror story of epic proportions; it’s all Dr. Jekyll. Like a script from a David Lynch creeper, Bayer AG of poison gas fame has finalized its $66 billion (£50bn) purchase of Monsanto, the agrochemical corporation that should be pleading the Fifth in the dock on Guantanamo Bay instead of enjoying what amounts to corporate asylum and immunity from crimes against humanity. Such are the special privileges that come from being an above-the-law transnational corporation.

Unsurprisingly, the first thing Bayer did after taking on Monsanto, saddled as it is with the extra baggage of ethic improprieties, was to initiate a rebrand campaign. Like a Hollywood villain falling into a crucible of molten steel only to turn up later in some altered state, Monsanto has been subsumed under the Orwellian-sounding ‘Bayer Crop Science’ division, whose motto is: “Science for a better life.”

Yet Bayer itself provides little protective cover for Monsanto considering its own patchy history of corporate malfeasance. Far beyond its widely known business of peddling pain relief for headaches, the German-based company played a significant role in the introduction of poison gas on the battlefields of World War I. 

Despite a Hague Convention ban on the use of chemical weapons since 1907, Bayer CEO Carl Duisberg, who sat on a special commission set up by the German Ministry of War, knew a business opportunity when he saw one.

Duisberg witnessed early tests of poison gas and had nothing but glowing reports on the horrific new weapon: “The enemy won’t even know when an area has been sprayed with it and will remain quietly in place until the consequences occur.”

Bayer, which built a department specifically for the research and development of gas agents, went on to develop increasingly lethal chemical weapons, such as phosgene and mustard gas. “This phosgene is the meanest weapon I know,” Duisberg remarked with a stunning disregard for life, as if he were speaking about the latest bug spray. “I strongly recommend that we not let the opportunity of this war pass without also testing gas grenades.”

Duisberg got his demonic wish. The opportunity to use the battlefield as a testing ground and soldiers as guinea pigs came in the spring of 1915 as Bayer supplied some 700 tons of chemical weapons to the war front. On April 22, 1915, it has been estimated that around 170 tons of chlorine gas were used for the first time on a battlefield in Ypres, Belgium against French troops. Up to 1,000 soldiers perished in the attack, and many more thousands injured.

In total, an estimated 60,000 people died as a result of the chemical warfare started by Germany in the First World War and supplied by the Leverkusen-based company.

According to Axel Koehler-Schnura from the Coalition against BAYER Dangers: “The name BAYER particularly stands for the development and production of poison gas. Nevertheless the company has not come to terms with its involvement in the atrocities of the First World War. BAYER has not even distanced itself from Carl Duisberg’s crimes.”

The criminal-like behavior has continued right up until modern times. Mike Papantonio, a US attorney and television presenter discussed one of the more heinous acts committed by this chemical company on Thomas Hartmann’s program, The Big Picture: “They produced a clotting agent for hemophiliacs, in the 1980s, called Factor VIII. This blood-clotting agent was tainted with HIV, and then, after the government told them they couldn’t sell it here, they shipped it all over the world, infecting people all over the world. That’s just part of the Bayer story.”

Papantonio, citing Bayer’s 2014 annual report, said the company is facing 32 different liability lawsuits around the world. For the 2018 Bayer liability report, click here.

Before flushing your Bayer products down the toilet, you may want to put aside an aspirin or two because the story gets worse.

One of the direct consequences of the ‘Baysanto’ monster will be a major hike in prices for farmers, already suffering a direct hit to their livelihood from unsustainable prices. “Farmers have already experienced a 300% price increase in recent years, on everything from seeds to fertilizer, all of which are controlled by Monsanto,” Papantonio told Hartmann. “And every forecaster is predicting that these prices are going to climb even higher because of this merger.”

Yet it’s hard to imagine the situation getting any worse for the American farmer, who is now facing the highest suicide rate of any profession in the country. The suicide rate for Americans engaged in the field of farming, fishing and forestry is 84.5 per 100,000 people – more than five times that of the broader population.

This tragic trend echoes that of India, where about a decade ago millions of Indian farmers began switching from farming with traditional farming techniques to using Monsanto’s genetically modified seeds instead. In the past, following a millennia-old tradition, farmers saved seeds from one harvest and replanted them the following year. Those days of wisely following the rhythms and patterns of the natural world are almost over. Today, Monsanto GMO seeds are bred to contain ‘terminator technology’, with the resulting crops ‘programmed’ not to produce seeds of their own. In other words, the seed company is literally playing God with nature and our lives. Thus, Indian farmers are forced to buy a new batch of seeds – together with Monsanto pesticide Round Up – each year and at a very prohibitive cost. Hundreds of thousands of Indian farmers

But should the world have expected anything different from the very same company that was involved in the production of Agent Orange for military use during the Vietnam War (1961-1971)? More than 4.8 million Vietnamese suffered adverse effects from the defoliant, which was sprayed over vast tracts of agricultural land during the war, destroying the fertility of the land and Vietnam’s food supply. About 400,000 Vietnamese died as a result of the US military’s use of Agent Orange, while millions more suffered from hunger, crippling disabilities and birth defects.

This is the company that we have allowed, together with Bayer, to control about one-quarter of the world’s food supply. This begs the question: Who is more nuts? Bayer and Monsanto, or We the People?

It’s important to mention that the Bayer – Monsanto convergence is not occurring in a corporate vacuum. It is all part of a race on the part of the global agrochemical companies to stake off the world’s food supplies. ChemChina has bought out Switzerland’s Syngenta for $43 billion, for example, while Dow and DuPont have forged their own $130 billion empire.

However, none of those companies carry the same bloodstained reputations as Bayer and Monsanto, a match made in hell that threatens all life on earth.

Opponents of Mexico’s Leftist Presidential Frontrunner Turn to Assassination, Vote Buying and Intimidation – By José Luis Granados Ceja – (MINT PRESS)

Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador could make history in Sunday’s presidential election in Mexico and his enemies are willing to stop him by any means necessary, including electoral fraud, but thousands of Mexicans are ready and willing to defend their vote.

MEXICO CITY — Mexico appears to be on the cusp of massive change. Leftist presidential candidate Andres Manuel López Obrador has a very good shot at winning the upcoming election but the threat of fraud looms over the vote. This election has already been witness to political assassinations, vote buying, and voter intimidation.

For several months, law professor John Ackerman has been diligently working with a team of intellectuals and activists on an effort to prevent fraud in the upcoming election. He is very excited about the prospect of change in the country but minces no words: in his view, Mexico is not a democracy…yet. He told MintPress News:

We’re still in this process of struggling for democracy. The hope is that July 1, 2018 will actually be the beginning of a democratic transition, that finally someone really from the opposition with mass popular support will become president based on elections.”


Mexican democracy still waiting to be born

That point-of-view may come as a surprise to some: mainstream analysts point to the 2000 election as the birth of Mexican democracy. Previous to that election — in which they were unseated by the right-wing National Action Party, or PAN as it is known by its Spanish acronym — the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, through clientelistic networks and electoral fraud, ruled Mexico uninterrupted for 71 years.

“The simple fact that the so-called opposition won in 2000 doesn’t mean that Mexico is a democracy because … what we see is the continuity of the authoritarian system,” said Ackerman who added:

Really the idea that somehow in the year 2000 there was a qualitative change in the equilibrium in politics is a myth.”

Read more by José Luis Granados Ceja

The PAN ruled Mexico for 12 years, first under Vicente Fox and then under Felipe Calderon, the latter seen as responsible for unleashing a wave of violence throughout the country that continues unabated today. Expectations that a change in leadership would resolve the issues plaguing the country – violence, inequality, corruption, extreme poverty and stagnant wages – were largely dashed and in 2012 the country voted the PRI back into power.

However, in this current election, Lopez Obrador — the leftist former mayor of Mexico City, who is now running for a third time — commands an overwhelming lead, with some polls giving him as much as 20 points over his nearest rival, Ricardo Anaya, who is running for the PAN as part of a left-right coalition.


Mexico’s flawed institutions

Lopez Obrador’s victory would mark the end of nearly a century of rule by two neoliberal parties, the PRI and the PAN, and would also mark the first leftist government in Mexico’s modern history.

That is why many ultimately consider the 2018 vote as the country’s most important election in recent history.

But Mexico’s political elites do not intend to go quietly and are utilizing every trick in the book to try to affect the outcome and prevent AMLO, as Lopez Obrador is commonly known, from winning.

Despite AMLO’s massive lead in the polls, successful electoral fraud is entirely possible. Most elections in Mexico have been marred by allegations of fraud. Notable examples include the 1988 election when early results indicated the ruling PRI was set to lose until the computer system tabulating the result “went down” — when it returned, the PRI was leading comfortably. The 2006 election, AMLO’s first attempt, was also condemned as fraudulent and led to weeks of protests, though ultimately electoral authorities did not allow for a total recount of the votes and the fraud was consolidated, allowing his rival, Felipe Calderon, to take office.

Lopez Obrador’s critics accuse him of being a demagogue who turns his nose up at the country’s institutions. Yet he has consistently turned to those institutions, seeking power through elections, despite the glaring flaws in the country’s system.

Those flaws are well-known to many Mexicans. Ackerman, a U.S.-born Mexican national and law professor at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, helped put together Dialogues for Democracy, a university initiative that trained thousands in election-related issues.

Law professor John Ackerman takes part in a livestream before delivering a letter to Mexico's National Electoral Institute demanding the authority take action against election fraud, Mexico City, June 21, 2018.

These citizen advocates of democracy are not placing blind faith in the country’s institutions.

“These guys are capable of anything, the corruption of the Mexican system is so deep, the institutions are in such profound crisis,” argued Ackerman.

The issue is that the very state institutions that AMLO’s critics say he does not respect, have not won the respect of Mexicans.

As Ackerman told MintPress News,

The electoral institutions are supposedly autonomous but they are part of the same system of corruption and institutional weakness and so very few people trust the National Electoral Institute or the electoral tribunal or the special electoral prosecutor for electoral crimes; lots of mistrust based on a history of frauds and illegalities.”


Vote buying, voter intimidation, and political assassinations

This election has already been witness to a number of irregularities, the kind practiced in previous elections — such as vote-buying, the conditioning of social programs based on party affiliation, and voter intimidation.

As Ackerman observed:

The PRI continues to be a very powerful machine system and it’s not just any kind of voter mobilization; this is corruption, this is direct vote-buying, this is threatening people that they will lose their government supports or access to education and healthcare if they don’t vote for the ruling party.”

In a country with rampant poverty, these vote-buying tactics are very effective. A report from Mexicans Against Corruption and Impunity found that the election was awash in so-called “dirty money” — that is, money that comes from dubious sources and is not reported to electoral authorities.

Ackerman says Mexico’s political elites have engaged in a “dirty war” against Lopez Obrador, pulling out all the stops to prevent his victory.

Ackerman says he and his team have documented websites that promote “fake news” against AMLO. Millions of Mexicans have also received phone calls that masquerade as polling firms but are in fact attack ads against Lopez Obrador. Rival parties have even sent provocateurs to campaign rallies to provoke fist fights with AMLO’s supporters, and this week armed individuals stole over 11,000 ballots.

These tactics are, of course, illegal but the institutions involved do little to try to stop them or even mitigate their impact.

The National Electoral Institute and the country’s electoral court, known as the TEPJF, have made a number of decisions that have called into question their impartiality. Since the members of these bodies are appointed by Congress, which is presently comprised of political forces opposed to Lopez Obrador, Ackerman argues all these institutions are biased against AMLO.

He highlights the case of Jaime Rodriguez, an “independent” candidate that is running a distant last. The TEPJF forced him onto the ballot despite his failure to meet the requirements to register as an independent candidate. Ackerman believes he was put on the ballot solely to play the role of attack dog against Lopez Obrador. And neither the National Electoral Institute or the TEPJF have done anything substantial to stop the illegal anti-AMLO phone calls.

The New York Times also recently revealed that the PRI approached the scandal-plagued Cambridge Analytica, the firm behind Facebook’s data scandal, to help them in their reelection efforts. Ultimately the PRI decided not to work with the firm but did, nonetheless, pay them off in order to ensure the firm would not work with any other campaign.

This election has also been particularly violent: over 100 politicians, including dozens of candidates, have been assassinated throughout the course of the campaign. Most recently, five supporters of Lopez Obrador’s party were ambushed and killed in the state of Oaxaca.

Mexico’s political elites are also not averse to outright vote manipulation. Although the elections are coordinated by the National Electoral Institute, the voting centers are staffed by citizens who are selected at random. In previous elections, such as state elections in 2017, these poll workers and observers were bought off or scared off by nefarious actors, allowing unscrupulous activities to take place inside the voting booth, including ballot box stuffing and manipulation of tally sheets.

“There will be attempt at fraud, we’re already seeing it. The scientific estimations say that in Mexico you can steal about 6 percent of the vote,” said Ackerman.


Stopping fraud in its tracks

But it is not just Mexico’s politicians that oppose AMLO, there are powerful economic interests that are afraid of a Lopez Obrador victory.

Ackerman noted:

There are people who have received millions of dollars and are corrupt, and who are very afraid that if there is a democratic transition in Mexico there might be an investigation into their cases, so they’re willing to do anything possible, by any means necessary, to stop Lopez Obrador.”

That is why activists, lawyers, and academics have started the University and Citizen’s Network for Democracy, which is working with hundreds of election observers, including over 60 international visitors, to observe Sunday’s vote.

A supporter of the University and Citizen Network for Democracy addresses the media detailing their demands of the National Electoral Institute, Mexico City, June 21, 2018. José Luis Granados Ceja

The goal of the University and Citizen’s Network for Democracy is not to document fraud but rather actually to try to stop it. The recent alleged electoral fraud in Honduras proved to many in Mexico that international bodies like the Organization of American States, which is also sending an observation team to Mexico, are not capable of actually stopping fraud from happening or being ratified.

It is highly unlikely that Mexican society would be willing to swallow electoral fraud. With Lopez Obrador consistently running high in the polls, a result that does not reflect this trend would provoke mass social discontent. Ackerman believes that Mexico would be witness to a kind of political instability unseen in recent history.

Lopez Obrador has said that if the election is stolen, he would not try to contain the discontent (as he did after the 2006 election), which would prompt unpredictable consequences for Mexican society.

In other words, the stakes are incalculably high.

It is not clear if Mexico’s political and economic elites are willing to take that gamble.

However, Ackerman argues this election is different: in this case, the ruling class is divided and there are business elements supporting Lopez Obrador’s candidacy. He adds that in contrast to previous elections, other left-wing forces such as the Zapatistas are not actively promoting a null vote or voter abstention, as they previously have.

The conditions are in place for Lopez Obrador to make history on Sunday and for Mexico to mark a new democratic era.

“It’s not about Lopez Obrador, it’s about democracy — that’s what he’s been struggling for, and what the vast majority of the Mexican population want,” said Ackerman.

Top Photo | Presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of the MORENA party speaks during a campaign rally in the Coyoacan district of Mexico City, May 7, 2018. Mexico will choose a new president in general elections on July 1. Rebecca Blackwell | AP

José Luis Granados Ceja is a writer and photojournalist based in Mexico City. He has previously written for outlets such as teleSUR and the Two Row Times and has also worked in radio as a host and producer. He specializes in contemporary political analysis and the role of media in influencing the public. He is particularly interested in covering the work of social movements and labor unions throughout Latin America.

Disclosure: John Ackerman is married to Irma Eréndira Sandoval, who has been proposed by Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador as his future Secretary for Public Service.

Republish our stories! MintPress News is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 International License.

Why Israel’s Expansionist and Ethnic-Cleansing Ambitions Will Fail – ByAndrés Perezalonso – (SOTT)

Israeli soldiers Palestinian boy Jerusalem

Israeli soldiers arrest Palestinian teen Fawzi Muhammad Al-Juneidi in Jerusalem, Dec. 8, 2017. You need an army to get a stone-throwing boy – yet stone throwers keep coming. What to do?

As the world is distracted with the Football World Cup, some observers of the situation in Palestine have been concerned about the possibility of Israel carrying out a major military operation in Gaza. Four years ago, towards the end of the World Cup in Brazil, Israel launched Operation Protective Edge, which according to UN figures resulted in the death of 2,256 Palestinians, of which 1,563 were civilians. The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights specifies that this included 293 women and 556 children. The extremely high proportion of civilian deaths was a consequence of Israeli soldiers’ orders to fire at every person in sight, as the whistleblower organization Breaking the Silence revealed. It was also consistent with the old unspoken Israeli objective of ethnically cleansing Palestine.

Israeli media has recently disclosed that the country has plans for a full-scale invasion which would cut Gaza in half and occupy part of it. So confident are they on their ability to “create a considerable change on the situation” that the army “is already considering alternatives to the Hamas government”. Earlier on Thursday, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan told Army Radio: “I don’t want to launch an operation, but there is a good chance that we will have no other option but to go in so that we can create durable deterrence.” This was said in reference to the burning kites that Gazan demonstrators fly across the border, pointing out that those responsible should be shot, “age doesn’t matter, they’re terrorists and the danger they create must be prevented.” Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, also a member of the security cabinet, argued that “there is no difference between a burning kite and a Qassam rocket, and we should not tolerate the kites.” He has a point in that Qassam rockets are about as effective as the kites – both being largely symbolic gestures of defiance than credible weapons of war.

Mindless Genocide in Gaza?

Apart from the World Cup distraction, pro-Palestinian activist Robert Inlakesh thinks the following are also reasons for a possible Israeli offensive on Gaza in the near future:

  • Sara Netanyahu, Bibi’s wife, has been charged with fraud. She used public funds to pay for restaurant meals to the tune of 359,000 shekels ($100,000). This is on top of other more serious corruption charges faced by the Netahyahus. A ‘Wag the Dog‘-style PR operation is in order.
  • In April, the Knesset granted Netanyahu the power to declare war in extreme circumstances, requiring only the approval of Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman.- Although the Security Cabinet annulled the law within a month, the government plans to “promote anew” the original draft.
  • Israel privatized their weapons manufacturing.- Private company Elbit Systems acquired state-owned Israeli Military Industries for $522 million. Inlakesh speculates that this will eventually have an effect on the price of weapons and that Gaza may be used to ‘test’ them in order to sell them in global markets before the price spike.

Inlakesh also points out that the Israeli population will not tolerate anything less than a decisive blow on Hamas, but since Hamas operates through a network of underground tunnels, the only way to do so would be to blow up the civilian infrastructure above them, implying thousands of civilian casualties, and a massive ground invasion. This is an important point because a limited offensive could end up hurting Netanyahu’s popularity in Israel, while a commitment to the destruction of Hamas would be both extremely difficult to achieve and subject to widespread condemnation across the globe. The world is rightly upset with around 130 deaths in the context of the March of Return demonstrations near the border of Gaza. Would the Israeli government be prepared for the backlash that will come when they kill again, but this time in the thousands or tens of thousands?

The long-term goal of Zionism is to assimilate the whole of Palestine into Israel and expel (or kill) its Arab population. This is made clear when one studies the history of Israel – its foundation was only made possible by ethnic cleansing. A brief look at the change of Palestine into Israel confirms this:

Palestine loss of land

While the West Bank land-grab strategy has been largely based on illegal settlements to create ‘facts on the ground’, Israel has taken a different approach in Gaza. In 2005 it dismantled its settlements in the Strip, but rather than this resulting in genuine peace, Israel turned Gaza into an open-air prison, controlling its borders, including its access to the sea. Furthermore, without Jewish settlers in the area, Israel has been free to use the full force of its military periodically, only limited by international public opinion.

Non-viable Strategy in Syria

Despite the US State Department warning Syria of “firm and appropriate measures” if it moved to reclaim its southern province of Daraa from terrorist groups (which sits right next to the Golan Heights that Israel illegally occupies since 1967) and the repeated Israeli threats against Syria, the war-hardened Syrian Army is already making gains in the region. Around 400 km2 have been liberated in less than a week with Russian air support. Even Free Syrian Army units have switched sides and are fighting with the Syrian Army against Jabhat al-Nusra, aka Al-Qaeda in Syria. It seems that the US and Israel no longer command the respect they used to. In fact, the FSA’s sudden realization that they had been fighting for the wrong side all this time appears to have been motivated by a message from Washington, seen by Reuters, which made clear that “you should not base your decisions on the assumption or expectation of a military intervention by us”.

So far, Israel’s strategy against Syria has consisted of providing support to jihadist groups in the south of the country, and regularly harassing the country with missile strikes and shelling. The United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) has documented Israeli soldiers interacting with terrorists in the Golan Heights, as well as “the transportation of hundreds of injured militants to Israeli hospitals following confrontations between the militants and the Syrian army near the occupied Golan border.” According to local witnesses, the ‘militants’ include members of Al-Nusra/Al-Qaeda.

Israel Syria Golan IDF Nusra

A photo from the Israeli-Syrian border along the Golan Heights shows IDF soldiers conversing with al-Qaeda affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra fighters.

As for the bombing harassment, the latest Israeli attack was a double missile strike on Damascus airport. Some reports indicate that the target was an Iranian cargo plane, while others speak of a military installation. It is also not clear if the missiles were intercepted by Syrian air defenses. A few days earlier, Syrian state media outlet SANA informed that US-led coalition aircraft attacked Syrian military positions in Al Bukamal, Deir Ezzor. However, the US denied involvement and an American official went as far as to claim that Israel was behind the bombing. The aggressions intensified briefly in May with an exchange of missiles on the Golan Heights after Israel hit the Damascus suburbs and Baath City, but for the most part Israel has pursued hit-and-run tactics in Syria for years.

None of these actions have managed to stop the Syrian Army’s victory, so one wonders why Israel continues with a strategy that has proven unsuccessful so far. The answer is that there is nothing Israel – nor the US – can realistically do to topple Assad as long as Russia is watching his back, so periodic missile attacks is as much trouble as they can hope to cause. Still, with the Syrian Army closing in on the Golan Heights, we can expect Israel to increase its support for the remaining terrorists in the area, possibly in the form of more shelling and bombing (not to mention military and medical aid). As this happens simultaneously with Israel’s threats of a ground invasion of Gaza, is Israel ready to fight on two fronts simultaneously? Perhaps even three if Hezbollah reacts from Lebanon once things escalate? As always, another look at the map of Israel – a tiny nation – shows why it is not in its best interest to trigger a major war.

Clumsy US Political Defense of Israel

While almost all US administrations have been subservient to Israeli interests – largely due to the influence of the infamous Israel lobby – the Trump administration has been particularly outspoken and active in favour of the Zionist agenda. Trump withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal and moving the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, as well as Nikki Haley’s obscene twisting of reality to protect Israel from criticism in the United Nations, are examples of efforts to keep the likes of Sheldon Adelson in Washington and Israel happy. Adelson is a Zionist billionaire casino tycoon who donated $82 million to Trump’s and other Republican campaigns during the 2016 elections. He is allegedly a member of a “shadow National Security Council” advising the hawkish neocon John Bolton, himself the national security adviser. Adelson also owns the largest newspaper in Israel, which shows unconditional support for Netanyahu, and he is committed to the “Greater Israel” political agenda. When he was once confronted with the idea that Palestinians living in annexed land would not have the same rights as Jewish Israelis, Adelson simply replied: “Israel isn’t going to be a democratic state. So what?”

Sheldon Adelson

© Sebastian Scheiner/AP
Sheldon Adelson attends the opening ceremony of the new US embassy in Jerusalem in May.

One problem with trying to please ideologically possessed people like Adelson is that their agenda is so contrary to what people recognize as fair and normal that vigorous attempts to defend it backfire spectacularly. For example, by quitting the UN Human Rights Council, citing an “anti-Israel bias”, the US, rather than winning hearts and minds for Israel, has simply isolated itself – further eroding American global leadership and not helping Israel’s cause in any way. Nikki Haley, Mike Pompeo and Benjamin Netanyahu – who spearheaded and celebrated the US exit – are stuck in the ‘indispensable nation’ mindset that was valid a couple of decades ago, and do not understand that the UN will carry on with its condemnation of Israel with or without US participation.

Israel’s Unlikely Plan

This is ultimately why Israel’s expansionist ambitions will fail. For Israel to be able to continue its slow-motion ethnic-cleansing program in the West Bank and Gaza, and for it to become the indisputable hegemon in the region – and perhaps even steal more territory from its neighbours – it needs the global superpower on its side. The US is still firmly on Israel’s side – the problem is that its political, military and economic influence is rapidly declining – faster than Israel can achieve its objectives.

Consider Gaza. Israel can and does make life a living hell for its population, and every few years it scales up the murder rate to the thousands rather than the dozens. Yet the total population of Gaza in 2018 is almost 2 million. By the year 2032 it 3.1 million people will live there, at current growth rates. How many Israeli offensives will be needed and how long will they take before Israel can ‘cleanse’ the land and claim it as part of the ‘Jewish state’?

Lets think of Syria. Israel helped terrorist groups in the hope that Assad would be replaced by a US and Israeli vassal, or by an extreme Islamic group that Israel could later bomb at will and ‘legitimately’ in order to ‘liberate’ a neighbouring country that was a threat to Israel itself. Instead, the Assad government and its Army have come out of their 7 year long ordeal stronger than ever and are forming an alliance with Iran, Iraq and Hezbollah – the so-called Shiia Crescent that Israel and Saudi Arabia fear the most. In theory, the US and its NATO allies could have finished the job of ‘regime change’ in Syria if the jihadi head-choppers could not. But in practice this was impossible because this would risk a direct confrontation with Russia. The ‘FUKUS’ largely ineffective bombing on Syrian alleged ‘chemical sites’ in April highlighted this fact. Under these circumstances, Syria eventually regaining control of the strategically valuable Golan Heights, whether by political or military means, is not unthinkable.

Israel appears to have passed the point where it could have come to its senses and negotiated a fair peace agreement with the Palestinians. To paraphrase Shakespere’s Macbeth (and much like its America protector), ‘it is in blood so far steeped, that to go back would be as tedious as to go on’. So Israel will double down on its delusional belief that it can find a ‘final solution’ to its Palestinian problem, all the while believing that the world will never turn its back on poor Israel in its existential fight against those who would destroy it and the Jewish people. Given the easily-provoked emotionality of the average human being and the rapidly changing global geostrategic chessboard, that’s a bet that only a fool would make.

Andrés Perezalonso (Profile)

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

Can Saudi Arabia Fight its Own Fight? History Shows Heavy Reliance on Mercenaries, Militias and the US – By Ali Mourad @alihmourad (MINT PRESS)

U.S. Marines exchange handshakes with Saudi Arabia's Naval Special Forces after a joint training exercise in the Middle East, May 18, 2017. Kyle McNan | US Marine Corp

Despite access to high-tech weapons and a massive military budget, Saudi Arabia seems unable to piece together a competent fighting force, instead relying on mercenaries, militias, and the US to win its wars.

RIYADH, SAUDI ARABIA (Report) — During President Trump’s now infamous visit to Saudi Arabia, Washington and Riyadh signed arms deals amounting to almost $110 billion, a move viewed by some as fueling an arms race in an already dangerous Middle East.

In the past decade, it has become clear that there is a Saudi quest to move from a country engaged in proxy wars to one able to achieve its objectives by engaging directly with its own military. Now, after over three years of a failed Saudi-led assault on Yemen, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has threatened to “bring the battle to the heart of Iran.” Having been supervised and trained by the U.S Department of Defense since 1953, is the Saudi Arabian military capable of achieving this goal, and what exactly comprises Saudi Arabia’s military doctrine?  


King before Country

Most militaries base their doctrines on the priorities and nature of rule in their country, but there are components that remain fairly consistent regardless of ideological stance. They include lessons gleaned from the past, the military strategy of the state, issues surrounding technical development, and of course, overall national values.

In the case of Saudi Arabia, those values can be summarized by a slogan taught to children starting in elementary school and rooted in the public’s collective conscious:

Allah [God], Al-Malik [the King], Al-Watan [the Nation]” 

The order is significant. It’s worth pointing out that a majority of Gulf States, including Kuwait and Qatar, have national slogans based on a concept of “the nation” over the “prince,” giving precedence to the nation over its ruler: “God, the Nation, the Prince.” Saudi Arabia’s national slogan is the first step in the process of presenting the interest of defense of the ruler over the nation and forms the basis of the primary responsibility of those entrusted to protect the state.

Despite Saudi Arabia’s relative youth (the country as we now know it was founded in 1932), there are numerous examples of how her rulers have engaged in war, pursuing a doctrine tied to a heavy reliance on militias and the military influence they wield. This includes

King Abdul Aziz’s military campaigns in the Arabian Peninsula at the onset of the last century into the early 1930s.

In the decades since its establishment, the Kingdom has had almost no reliable experience by which to evaluate the performance of its regular army, with the exception of its previous war on Yemen in the early 1960s, which saw modest participation by the “Saudi National Guards.” Even then, Riyadh relied heavily on support from Yemen’s Mutawakkilite Imamate to achieve its military goals.

In 1990, when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait and threatened Saudi Arabia months later, Saudi King Fahd made an official request to the United States to bring its troops to the “land of the Two Holy Mosques” to protect his regime from invasion. The Saudis did not have a regular army that could be relied upon; instead, the U.S. Air Force paved the way for Saudi ground forces to enter the border town of Al-Khafji, near Kuwait. The battle there helped Saudi Arabia alleviate some of the growing popular discontent over the presence of U.S. Marines on Saudi soil.

President George Bush is greeted by Saudi troops and others as he arrives in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, for a Thanksgiving visit, Nov. 22, 1990. J. Scott Applewhite | AP

Later, Saudi Arabia’s military weakness would emerge in the 2009 “Saada War” against Yemen’s Houthi rebels. The latter were able to take control of several locations and towns inside the Saudi Kingdom, reportedly killing dozens of Saudi soldiers in the ensuing battles.

As for Saudi Arabia’s ongoing war on Yemen, launched in March of 2015, the inherent weakness of Saudi ground forces manifested itself clearly through the Gulf kingdom’s heavy reliance on foreign mercenaries to fight on behalf of its armed forces, the failure to progress on fronts adjacent to the border, and the inability of Saudi forces to hold positions and villages, despite support from the Saudi Royal Air Force.

Despite Saudi Arabia failures, it has yet to establish minimum requirements for its regular army, instead relying on a strategy of using outside agents, often armed militias with Wahhabi ideology, to complete missions. This factor, coupled with a failure to invest in domestic weapons production despite the availability of money and raw materials, has left the Saudi military heavily reliant on foreign aid to secure arms, making the country a hugely profitable market for the Western arms dealers.


A history of reliance and dependence

In March of 1929, the founder of the modern Saudi kingdom, Abdul-Aziz Al-Saud, supported by the British Royal Air Force, was able to defeat the militias he previously relied on to secure territory, and ultimately, the throne. Al-Saud then set about constructing the formation of the forces that would eventually become the core of Saudi Arabia’s regular army following international recognition of his kingdom. He established the so-called “Directorate of Military Affairs” and — in 1939, seven years after Kingdom was established — the “Directorate of the Chief of Staff,” followed by the Saudi Ministry of Defense on November 10, 1943.

During the famous meeting between President Roosevelt and Al-Saud in February of 1945, Roosevelt was asked to send a U.S. military mission to oversee the training of Saudi soldiers. In 1949, General Richard O’Keefe was appointed as the first commander of the U.S training mission, which did not officially start until four years later, after the two parties signed the so-called “Joint Military Cooperation Agreement” in 1951.

The United States Military Training Mission (USMTM) officially began on June 27, 1953.  It took up headquarters in Dhahran before moving to its current location in Riyadh’s so-called Iskan Village. “Our mission is to strengthen U.S national security through building the capabilities of the Saudi armed forces to defend our common interests in the Middle East,” reads the mission statement on its website.

Members of Saudi Arabian's Marine Corps meet with Cpl. Robert Loeffler, the assistance maintenance chief at Marine Corps Training Center in Tampa, Fla., Dec. 5, 2014. Ian Ferro | U.S. Marine Corps

On Feb. 8, 1977, the U.S and Saudi Arabia signed a new treaty governing the work of the training mission. Nestled in the third article of that treaty was a clause that left the number of American soldiers and officers that were to join the mission open and subject to change based on the perceived needs of the Saudi Ministry of Defense, the Chairman of the Saudi Staff, and the Pentagon. Article 5 of the treaty described the mission’s function: “USMTM is responsible for providing advisory services in Planning, Organization, Training, Logistics Support and Armament.”  USMTM was also given the privilege of requesting arms shipments to the Saudis, within the so-called Military Sales Program.

Under Article 6, U.S. military personnel were firmly entrenched into the structure and performance of Saudi Armed Forces. Under the provision, Washington committed its officers (even after retirement) to refrain from disclosing any details about the nature of the mission or of Saudi military secrets, leaving researchers with scant information. For their part, the Saudis promised to exempt members of the mission from customs duties and taxes; committed themselves to provide suitable housing for the members of the Mission; to bearing the costs of “transport, food, entertainment, furniture and medical services;” and to allowing U.S. military aircraft to land and take off from civilian and military airports without paying fees.

Following the 1991 Gulf War and subsequent liberation of Kuwait, the Bush administration tried unsuccessfully to negotiate an amendment to the treaty that would have increased the U.S’ military footprint in Saudi Arabia. The negotiations failed, as the Saudi regime was in the midst of quelling public outcry over U.S military presence in the Kingdom. After 9/11, and the increase in tensions between Washington and Riyadh that accompanied it, the U.S. considered putting an end to the training mission, but ultimately decided to abide by the 1977 treaty.


U.S. Marine Corps assessment

A 2008 handbook, released as part of the U.S Marine Corps Intelligence Activities Country Handbook Program, gives a candid view of almost everything pertaining to Saudi Arabia (history, geography, society) and its military. According to the document, the U.S estimates the number of Saudi soldiers in service at around 200,000 — with about 20,000 in its reserves and 15,000 in the ranks of Saudi paramilitary groups.

The document goes on to list the various branches comprising the Ministry of Defense, including the Royal Saudi Land Forces (RSLF), the Royal Saudi Navy Forces (RSNF), the Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF), the Royal Saudi Air Defense Force (RSADF) and the Saudi Arabian National Guard (SANG). It also lists the armament capabilities of Saudi troops and mentions the deficiencies of each branch, especially the chronic inability to garner volunteers from among Saudi youth.  

Saudi soldiers in formation  at their base in the southern province of Jizan, near the border with Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Nov. 8, 2009. Photo | AP

As the Handbook puts it, although Saudi Arabia has a large population base, sufficient to ensure the army has a continuity of manpower, and despite attractive material incentives, Royal Saudi Land Forces face difficulty in recruiting and maintaining sufficient qualified personnel:

Military service is not attractive to most Saudis [who live in a welfare state]; as such, recruits often do not have the capacity or motivation to operate and maintain the ground forces’ arsenal. As a result, foreign and civilian personnel have to perform a variety of functions, from the servicing and maintenance of weapons systems to the demand for spare parts and supplies.”

The report doesn’t give much higher marks to the Royal Saudi Air Force, noting that the RSAF — historically known as having a defensive mission — is attempting to acquire offensive skills. As the authors of the handbook note:

Saudis demonstrate a weakness for strategic air operational planning and execution beyond the squadron level. Communications is stove-piped and there is very little joint-services communication. The air force has little experience in offensive operations and is perceived to have an over-reliance on foreign technical support and personnel to manage and maintain combat operations.”

The Saudi Navy doesn’t fare much better. The Marine Corps assessment concludes that, despite Saudi ambitions to create a navy capable of confronting the “Iranian naval threat (which is beyond its experience and strength),” the Royal Saudi Navy Forces, “like the other Saudi military services, are ill-prepared to handle the acquisition of new vessels and technology and are still dependent on foreign contractor support for fleet maintenance and logistics.”

The assessment goes on to explain the structure and arming of the National Guard, whose mission is supposed to be to protect the royal family and the country’s oil installations, but is instead engaged in maintaining the regime and suppressing domestic opposition activity. The report highlights the Guard’s training program, which is ostensibly independent of the Defense Ministry’s. About a quarter of Saudi Arabia’s “tribal regiments” (around 25,000) are members of the National Guard, and Guard personnel are reviewed only once a month when they collect their salaries. “They are not well-trained or equipped, but are used as a means to support subsidies paid to local elders to maintain the loyalty of their tribes,” the report states.


Modernization in reverse

While few academics have written about the Saudi military or researched its capabilities and points of weakness, there are a few studies comprehensive enough to provide insight into Saudi Arabia’s military capabilities. In her 2011 research paper titled “Tribes, Coups and Princes: Building a Modern Army in Saudi Arabia”, Senior Research Associate at the University of London, Dr. Stephanie Cronin, points out how “Saudi Arabia entered the twenty-first century having experienced not military modernization but rather military modernization in reverse.”  She goes on to say, “the strength of tribal and family ties and patronage has not weakened but rather embedded ever more deeply within a system of patrimonial rule,” and concludes:

Recruitment remained voluntary, avoiding the administrative centralization and bureaucratic rationality demanded by conscription, while both the integrative function of conscription and the emergence of a professional officer corps were sacrificed to the imperative of sustaining the tribal and family ascendancy of the al-Saud.”

A U.S. Marine teaches     Saudi Naval Forces how to use a MG-42 machine gun during exercise Red Reef 15. Rome M. Lazarus | US Marine Corp

Anthony Cordesman, in his 2002 research for the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) titled “Saudi Arabia Enters the 21st Century: The Military and Internal Security Dimension,” echoes similar sentiments to those expressed by Dr. Cronin. While the report relies heavily on the U.S. Marine Corps’ assessment of Saudi military capability, it does add some detail on the vulnerabilities of each military branch.

As Cordesman notes, “the RSAF has failed to improve its training and organization at the mid- and high-command levels, and for joint operations at anything like the rate required – a serious, if not inexcusable, failure in military leadership.” Cordesman also mentions the isolation of SANG forces:

There is little real-world cooperation with the regular forces and Ministry of Defense and Aviation, although there is one token liaison meeting a month. There are no meaningful joint exercises with the Saudi regular army and air force, and there has been no effort to develop a common concept of operations or to see if the Saudi Air Defense Force could support the Guard in some contingencies. The Guard and regular forces use different communications systems, and there are no joint war plans. Any cooperation requires each service to send liaison officers to the other service with radios.”

Cordesman’s research concludes:

The Kingdom needs to recognize that it can no longer afford military procurement efforts that emphasize political considerations and/or high technology “glitter” over military effectiveness. Saudi Arabia needs long-term force plans and planning, programming, and budget systems that create stable and affordable force development and defense spending efforts. It needs to bring its manpower quality and sustainment capabilities into balance with its equipment.”

Cordesman’s assessment was drafted 16 years ago, when the Defense Ministry was headed by Sultan bin Abdul Aziz, yet it is still valid today under Crown Prince and current Minister of Defense Mohammed bin Salman. Saudi leadership is still obsessed with outperforming its neighbors and boasting of its power. Perhaps the problem lies in a Saudi psyche that pushes the regime to purchase tens of billions of dollars worth of arms that to date have not resulted in a single victory for the wealthy Gulf Kingdom.

A version of this article appeared in Al-Akhbar in Arabic.

Top Photo | U.S. Marines exchange handshakes with Saudi Arabia’s Naval Special Forces after a joint training exercise in the Middle East, May 18, 2017. Kyle McNan | U.S. Marine Corp

Ali Mourad is a journalist and researcher focusing on Gulf affairs based in Beirut, Lebanon. He writes for Al-Ahd as well as al-Akhbar Lebanon. Follow him on Twitter @alihmourad.

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US Challenges Russia to Nuclear War – By Eric ZUESSE (Strategic Cultural Foundation)

US Challenges Russia to Nuclear War

Now that the United States (with the cooperation of its NATO partners) has turned the former Soviet Union’s states other than Russia into NATO allies, and has likewise turned the Soviet Union’s Warsaw Pact allies into America’s own military allies in NATO, the United States is finally turning the screws directly against Russia itself, by, in effect, challenging Russia to defend its ally Syria. The US is warning Syria’s Government that Syrian land, which is occupied by the US and by the anti-Government forces that the US protects in Syria, is no longer really Syria’s land. The US is saying that there will be direct war between Syria’s armed forces and America’s armed forces if Syria tries to restore its control over that land. Tacitly, America’s message in this to Moscow is: now is the time for you to quit defending Syria’s Government, because, if you don’t — if you come to Syria’s defense as Syria tries to kill those occupying forces (including the US troops and advisors who are occupying Syria) — then you (Russia) will be at war against the United States, even though the US is clearly the invader, and Russia (as Syria’s ally) is clearly the defender.

Peter Korzun, my colleague at the Strategic Culture Foundation, headlined on May 29th“US State Department Tells Syria What It Can and Can’t Do on Its Own Soil” and he opened:

“The US State Department has warned Syria against launching an offensive against terrorist positions in southern Syria. The statement claims that the American military will respond if Syrian forces launch an operation aimed at restoring the legitimate government’s control over the rebel-held areas, including the territory in southwestern Syria between Daraa and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. Washington is issuing orders to a nation whose leadership never invited America in the first place! The very idea that another country would tell the internationally recognized Syrian government that it cannot take steps to establish control over parts of its own national territory is odd and preposterous by any measure.”

The pro-Government side calls those “terrorist positions,” but the US-and-allied side, the invaders, call them “freedom fighters” (even though the US side has long been led by Al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate and has increasingly been relying upon anti-Arabic Kurds). But whatever they are, the United States has no legal authority to tell Syria’s Government what to do or not do on Syrian land.

Russia’s basic position, at least ever since Vladimir Putin came into power in 2000, is that every nation’s sovereignty over its own land is the essential foundation-stone upon which democracy has even a possibility to exist — without that, a land cannot even possibly be a democracy. The US Government is now directly challenging that basic principle, and moreover is doing so over parts of the sovereign territory of Syria, an ally of Russia, which largely depends upon Russia to help it defeat the tens of thousands of invading and occupying forces.

If Russia allows the US to take over — either directly or via the US Government’s Al Qaeda-linked or its anti-Arab Kurdish proxy forces — portions of Syrian territory, then Russia’s leader, Vladimir Putin, will be seen as being today’s version of Britain’s leader Neville Chamberlain, famous, as Wikipedia puts it, for “his signing of the Munich Agreement in 1938, conceding the German-speaking Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia to Germany.”

So: Putin will now be faced with either knuckling under now, or else standing on basic international democratic principles, especially the principle that each nation’s sovereignty is sacrosanct and is the sole foundation upon which democracy is even possible to exist or to evolve into being.

However, this matter is far from being the only way in which the US Government now is challenging Russia to World War III. On May 30th, the Turkish newspaper Yeni Safak bannered “US trains armed groups at Tanf base for new terror corridor” and reported that:

New terror organizations are being established by the US at the Tanf military base in southern Syria that is run by Washington, where a number of armed groups are being trained in order to be used as a pretext to justify US presence in the war-torn country. …

Military training is being conducted for “moderate” opposition groups in al-Tanf, where both the US and UK have bases.

These groups are made up of structures that have been established through US financing and have not been accepted under the umbrella of opposition groups approved by Turkey and the FSA.

From Deir Ezzor to Haifa

Claiming to be “training the opposition” in Tanf, the US is training operation militants under perception of being “at an equal distance to all groups.”

Apart from the so-called opposition that is linked to al-Qaeda, Daesh [ISIS] terrorists brought from Raqqa, western Deir Ezzor and the Golan Heights are being trained in the Tanf camp. …

The plan is to transport Iraqi oil to the Haifa [Israel] Port on the Mediterranean through Deir Ezzor and Tanf.

Actually, Deir Ezzor is also the capital of Syria’s own oil-producing region, and so this action by the United States is more than about merely a transit-route for Iraq’s oil to reach Israel; it is also (and very much) about America attempting theft of oil from Syrian land.

Furthermore, on May 23rd, Joe Gould at Defense News headlined “House rejects limit on new nuclear warhead” and he reported that the US House, in fulfillment of the Trump Administration’s Nuclear Posture Review, which seeks to lower the threshold for nuclear war so as to expand the types of circumstances in which the US will “go nuclear,” rejected, by a vote of 226 to 188, a Democratic Party supported measure opposing lowering of the nuclear threshold. President Trump wants to be allowed to lower the threshold for using nuclear weapons in a conflict. The new, smaller, nuclear warheads, a “W76-2 variant,” have 43% the yield of the bomb that the US dropped on Hiroshima, but it’s called a ‘tactical nuclear weapon’ meaning that it is supposedly intended for use in ‘conventional’ wars, so that it is actually designed to eliminate altogether the previous meta-strategic principle, of “Mutually Assured Destruction” pertaining to nuclear war (that nuclear weapons are justifiable only in order to prevent another World War, never in order to win such a war) that successfully prevented nuclear war till now — that once a side has introduced nuclear weapons into a military conflict, it has started a nuclear war and is challenging any opponent to either go nuclear itself or else surrender — America’s new meta-strategic doctrine (since 2006) is “Nuclear Primacy”: winning a nuclear war. (See this and this.)

US President Trump is now pushing to the limit, presumably in the confident expectation that as the US President, he can safely grab any territory he wishes, and steal any oil or other natural resource that he wishes, anywhere he wants — regardless of what the Russian Government, or anyone else, thinks or wants.

Though his words often contradict that, this is now clearly what he is, in fact, doing (or trying to do), and the current US House of Representatives, at least, is saying yes to this, as constituting American values and policies, now.

Trump — not in words but in facts — is “betting the house” on this.

Moreover, as I headlined on May 26th at Strategic Culture, “Credible Report Alleges US Relocates ISIS from Syria and Iraq into Russia via Afghanistan.” Trump is apparently trying to use these terrorists as — again like the US used them in Afghanistan in order to weaken the Soviet Union — so as to weaken Russia, but this time is even trying to infiltrate them into Russia itself.

Even Adolf Hitler, prior to WWII, didn’t lunge for Britain’s jugular. It’s difficult to think of a nation’s leader who has been this bold. I confess that I can’t.


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