Does Australia Believe in International Law: The Case of Syria – By James ONeill (New Eastern Outlook)

Author: James ONeill




One of the most common phrases heard from senior Australian government officials including the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister is Australia’s belief in what it is pleased to call the “rules based international order.” This phrase is usually used in the context of implied or explicit criticism of another nation with whom Australia is in disagreement. For example, Australia is very prone to criticizing Russia’s “annexation” of Crimea, or China’s assertion of its claimed rights in the South China Sea.

The inference one is expected to draw is that other countries may breach international law but Australia is a model of probity by comparison. This claim looks slightly tattered in the light of Australia’s manifest breaches of international instruments that it is a signatory to in its treatment of refugees, or the bullying of East Timor over the development of maritime resources.

As serious as these matters are they pale in comparison with the waging of a war against another sovereign nation. The history of Australia’s involvement in the waging of a war against the sovereign government of Syria is a case in point.

On 16 September 2014 the then Prime Minister Tony Abbott gave an interview to the ABC. In the interview he expressed as reservations about Australia becoming involved in a war that was being conducted by the United States, mainly through its support of proxy terrorist groups who it was financing and arming in conjunction with its allies Saudi Arabia and Israel.

The legalities” he said, “of operating inside Syria are quite different from the legalities of operating in Iraq at the request and in support of the Iraqi government.”

Two weeks after that interview the Australian government received legal advice dated 30 September 2014 that it failed to disclose or even indicate that it had received such advice. Abbott was overthrown in an internal coup by Malcolm Turnbull on 15 September 2015.

One week prior to the coup Australia had written a letter to the United Nations Security Council on 9 September 2015. In that letter Australia claimed that the United States was justified in making military strikes against Syria on the basis that Syria was “unwilling and unable” to prevent the use of its territory to conduct terrorist attacks against Iraq.

Curiously, the United States made the same claim in its letter to the Security Council justifying its actions on Syrian sovereign territory, but their letter was dated 23 September 2014. In other words, it took a whole year and a change of prime minister to persuade Australia that its actions could be justified in terms of the “unwilling and unable” doctrine. We do not know why the Australian government changed its mind, particularly as it had been sitting on legal advice about the advisability or otherwise of joining the Syrian war for nearly a year.

We do not know because the matter has never been debated in the Australian parliament and neither has the Australian government released the legal advice, which it had received in September 2014. Rather, its public statements on the matter have being misleading. For example, in August 2015 the Foreign Minister said that no decision would be made on whether to join the American assault upon Syria until it had received legal advice. She did not disclose that the Australian government had in fact received the legal advice nearly a year earlier.

As the government has refused to release the legal advice we do not know whether or not that advice relied upon the “unwilling or unable doctrine.” It is not a minor matter as the status of such a doctrine can best be described as dubious in international law, and without that fig leaf of legal respectability, there is no other basis upon which Australia could claim any entitlement to wage war in Syria.

Interestingly, when the Foreign Minister Julie Bishop was interviewed on ABC radio after the publication of an article by this writer criticizing the illegality of the decision, she claimed that the decision to join the war in Syria was made “pursuant to the collective self defence provisions of the article 51 of the UN Charter, and at the request of the Iraqi government”. No mention at all was made of the reliance upon the “unwilling or unable” doctrine.

There were a number of problems with the Foreign Minister’s explanation. First, the Office of the Prime Minister of Iraq issued a statement saying that it had made no such request of the Australian government. No written evidence of any such request has ever been produced by the Australian government. Furthermore, in their own letter to the Security Council dated 20 September 2014 the Iraq government had only asked for help within its own territorial boundaries to enable it to regain control of its own borders.

Specifically, Iraq did not invoke article 51 of the UN charter. The linking of an explicit request for help in the exercise of collective self-defence is legally significant as it is a precondition for the involvement of third nations, as has been recognised international law since the Nicaragua Case in 1986.

Equally curiously, neither the United States nor Australia that reportedly rely upon the “unwilling or unable” doctrine mentioned collective self defence in the numerous debates that took place in the Security Council before 30 September 2015, more than one year after strikes against Syria began.

The Syrian government has consistently protested in formal letters to the Security Council against the involvement of Australia and others on their territory. In their letter of 21 September 2015 to the Security Council Syria again complained that the actions of Australia and others did not follow any consultation with the Syrian government and that Australia (and others) had distorted both the provisions of international law and the UN Charter.

A similar complaint has been made by the Russian government, who unlike the United States and it’s so called coalition allies, is in Syria at the specific request of the sovereign Syrian government. Iranian, Iraqi and Hezbollah troops operating in Syria are similarly there at the request of the Syrian government.

Neither did Australia call upon the numerous relevant resolutions of both the United Nations Security Council and the General Assembly is providing legitimacy for its position. Not a single one of those resolutions makes any reference to either article 51 or the unwilling or unable argument.

On the contrary, United Nations Security Council resolution 2178 (2014) specifically called upon “member states to cooperate and consistently support each other’s efforts to counter violent extremism”. On the 19th of September 2014 the Security Council reaffirmed “it’s respect for the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of all states in accordance with the UN Charter.”

On 18 December 2014 the General Assembly reaffirmed “it’s strong commitment to the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of the Syrian Arab Republic and to the principles of the Charter.” There is no single document emanating from either the Security Council or the General Assembly that approves any unilateral military action, much less one relying upon the dubious doctrine of “unwilling or unable.”

This is hardly surprising. To adopt such a doctrine would significantly lower the thresholds contained in both Article 2.4 (the general prohibition on the use of force) and Article 51 (self defence) of the Charter. The Armed Activities decision of the International Court of Justice (2005) reinforces this view. The court expressly stated that the inability to put an end to irregular military activities does not justify a violation of Article 2.4.

Applied to the Syrian situation, the fact that as of 2015 Syria and it’s Russian, Iraqi, and Hezbollah allies had not then succeeded in defeating the ISIS terrorists did not justify third party intervention. Bishop’s statement and Australia’s letter to the Security Council is based on the assumption that Article 51 could be applied two non-state actors such as ISIS.

There is absolutely no support for this view, neither in international law texts nor any judgement all the International Court of Justice. Even if Iraq had asked for Australia’s help, as claimed by Bishop but refuted by the Iraqi Government, it would still be insufficient to justify Australia attacking Syrian territory. Under Article 39 of the UN Charter it is the Security Council that is the competent body to determine any threats to peace and to make the appropriate recommendations to restore International peace and security.

It is increasingly clear that the Syrian government with the assistance of its legitimate allies has succeeded in almost completely liberating its major cities from the terrorist occupation they have suffered for many years. This is despite the blatant obstruction by the United States that continues to support its proxy terrorist allies, and has openly attacked Syrian government forces, as well as occupying Syrian territory and setting up military bases. It has declared its intention to remain in Syria, despite the complete absence of any legal justification for doing so.

The Australian government for its part has made a token reduction in its military operations in Syria, but typically refuses to disclose details; continues to criticize the Syrian government; and remains unwavering in its support for the continuing illegal actions of the United States in Syria. It also seems incapable of acknowledging the critical role played by Russia in helping the sovereign Syrian government rid its territory of the terrorist menace.

Given that the fig leaf of legal respectability that the Australian government claimed for itself in respect of Syria has been demolished both in the legal and practical terms the time is now long past for the Australian government to withdraw completely for all military operations in Syria, and take some steps to match its rhetoric about its compliance with, and adherence to, the rules based international order with its actions.

James O’Neill, an Australian-based Barrister at Law, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

Commentaries in Guardian and Financial Times say that Russia can be declared guilty without being given chance to defend itself – By Alexander Mercouris (THE DURAN)

Now British media admits it in Skripal case: due process ‘does not apply’ to Russia

It is becoming increasingly difficult for the British authorities and for the British media to deny that ‘due process‘ – ie. the well-established system of rules for conducting fair and impartial trials and investigations in order to determine questions of guilt or innocence – are not being followed by the British authorities in the Skripal case.

Here are some of the violations of due process the British authorities which in my opinion the British authorities are committing:

(1) The British government is interfering in the conduct of a criminal investigation, with Prime Minister Theresa May and especially Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson pointing fingers at who they say is the guilty party (Russia) whilst the criminal investigation is still underway;

(2) The British government has said that unless Russia proves itself innocent within a specific time the British government will conclude that it is guilty.  As I have explained previously this reverses the burden of proof: in a criminal case it is the prosecution which is supposed to prove the defendant’s guilt, not the defendant who must prove his innocence;

(3) The British government refuses to share with Russia – the party it says is guilty – the ‘evidence’ upon which it says it has concluded that Russia is guilty, the evidence in this case being a sample of the chemical with which it says Sergey and Yulia Skripal was poisoned.  This violates the fundamental principle that the defendant must be provided with all the evidence against him so that he can properly prepare his defence;

(4) The British government is not following the procedure set out in Article IX (2) of the Chemical Weapons Convention to which both Britain and Russia are parties.  This reads as follows

States Parties should, whenever possible, first make every effort to clarify and resolve, through exchange of information and consultations among themselves, any matter which may cause doubt about compliance with this Convention, or which gives rise to concerns about a related matter which may be considered ambiguous. A State Party which receives a request from another State Party for clarification of any matter which the requesting State Party believes causes such a doubt or concern shall provide the requesting State Party as soon as possible, but in any case not later than ten days after the request, with information sufficient to answer the doubt or concern raised along with an explanation of how the information provided resolves the matter.

This says clearly that in a case like the Skripal case the British authorities should have sent a request for information to the Russian authorities, who would then have had up to ten days in which to respond.

Instead the British demanded a Russian reply within 36 hours, and said they would assume Russian guilt unless one was provided which they were satisfied with.

There has been an attempt to argue that the British disregard of the procedure set out in Article IX (2) does not breach the Chemical Weapons Convention, and I will set it out the British position as it appears in an article in The Conversation

The process set out in Article IX(2) cannot be the exclusive remedy in all cases where doubts arise surrounding compliance with the Chemical Weapons Convention. For example, it would be absurd to suggest that a state which has suffered an armed attack involving chemical weapons may not defend itself against that attack, but instead must issue a request for information to the attacking state and then patiently await its response within ten days.

In fact, on a closer reading, it’s clear that the obligation set out in Article IX(2) is not of an absolute character. It requires state parties to “make every effort” to clarify and resolve doubts. This duty is framed in the language of “should”, rather than “shall”, and is engaged only “whenever possible”. The terms of the clause therefore enable a state to adopt alternative measures should the circumstances so warrant.

After the Salisbury incident, one of the UK’s responses was to call a meeting of the UN Security Council. While Russia vehemently opposed this move as being contrary to the Chemical Weapons Convention, none of the other members of the Security Council, all of which are also signatories of that treaty, shared this view.

It is also important to be clear about the scope of Article IX(2). The provision deals with the clarification of doubts surrounding compliance with the Chemical Weapons Convention. However, the British government had already concluded that it was highly likely that Russia was responsible for the incident. Based on the identification of the nerve agent involved, named as Novichok, the fact that Russia has produced the agent in the past and in the light of Russia’s past conduct and current intent, it was not unreasonable for the UK government to come to this conclusion, in line with the standards of proof applicable in international law in similar circumstances.

I find this wholly unconvincing and I am sure the vast majority of international lawyers would do so also.

What this argument essentially says is that the British are entitled to disregard the procedure set out in Article IX (2) because they had already concluded in advance of their enquiry to the Russians on the basis of evidence which they are not prepared to share with the Russians that Russia is ‘highly likely’ to have been guilty of carrying out the attack on Skripal.

That effectively admits that the ‘request for information’ – ie. Theresa May’s ultimatum to Russia – was not made in good faith and it was not really a genuine ‘request for information’ at all, but was rather a rhetorical device intended to make it easier for the British government to say without providing further proof that Russia is guilty.

Far from providing a justification for ignoring the procedure set out in Article IX (2), this looks to me more like an admission that the British have not been acting in good faith, which of course is not merely a violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention but of due process.

(5) The British authorities are denying the Russians consular access to Yulia Skripal, though she is a Russian citizen who the British authorities say was subjected to a criminal assault on their territory.

This is a potentially serious matter since by preventing consular access to Yulia Skripal the British authorities are not only violating the interstate consular arrangements which exist between Britain and Russia, but they are preventing the Russian authorities from learning more about the condition of one of their citizens who has been hospitalised following a violent criminal assault, and are preventing the Russian authorities from carrying out their own investigation into the assault on one of their citizens which the British authorities say has taken place.

I would add that this obstruction of Russian consular access to Yulia Skripal has gone almost entirely unreported in the British and Western media.

Needless to say, if the situation were reversed and it was the Russian authorities who were denying the British consular access to a British citizen who had been hospitalised following a criminal assault in Russia, I have no doubt that the British and Western media would be far less reticent about it.

In truth the violations of due process are so egregious that sections of the British media have been in effect forced to admit that they are happening, and are now trying to justify them.

Here for example is what Jonathan Freedland in the Guardian has said

On the face of it, Jeremy Corbyn’s position, as set out in the Guardian yesterday, seems eminently reasonable. Anxious to learn the lessons of the Iraq catastrophe of 2003, he suggested we exercise patience: let’s wait and see where the investigation leads, let’s not “rush way ahead of the evidence”. After all, said his spokesman, the intelligence agencies had been wrong before……

But those pleas to delay judgment point to a wider error: a misreading of the nature of the contemporary Russian state…..

The error here is to assume that Moscow’s attitude to evidence and due process is the same as that of nations still governed by the rule of law. But in Putin’s Russia, lying has long been a routine and integral part of statecraft. No matter how copious the evidence, Putin will think nothing of denying it….

What meaning does “due process” have when dealing with such a regime? Moscow would not cooperate in good faith with an investigation by the international chemical weapons watchdog, offering up evidence that might be incriminating. They would see such an inquiry instead as a useful delaying tactic, one that would allow them to issue yet more denials, wild counter-accusations (“Salisbury was an MI5 plot to distract from Brexit”) and obfuscation – disseminated either through their RT propaganda TV station or by their army of bots and online enablers. That way they could generate yet more of the fog of doubt and confusion that they believe undermines the west’s confidence and strengthens them. This is the Putin modus operandi: spread doubt until the public grows exhausted and concludes that the truth is unknowable.

(bold italics added)

More pithily an editorial the Financial Times says the same thing

President Vladimir Putin’s government uses a well-worn playbook after it commits an international outrage. The first Russian response is denial mixed with the propagation of a variety of implausible alternative explanations….

The Kremlin then tries to blunt the response by wrapping its accusers up in procedure. The game is to confuse the narrative, delay the international response — and demonstrate to the Russian people and the wider world that the Kremlin can act with impunity.

(bold italics added)

The first thing to say about these articles is that they are an admission that in the Skripal case due process – ie. proper procedure in a case like this – is not being followed.

The second thing to say is that they show a startling failure to understand the purpose of due process.

Due process in a criminal investigation is not a favour to the defendant.  It is the way to arrive at the truth.

That is why in England in criminal appeals judges say that convictions in cases where due process has not been followed are ‘unsafe’.  What they mean is that because due process was not followed the court cannot be sure that the case which has been made against the defendant has been made out.

It follows that defendant’s alleged lack of good faith (the reason Jonathan Freedland and the Financial Times are giving for disapplying due process in cases involving Russia) is not a reason for disapplying due process since using due process.

It is in fact ridiculous to say – as Jonathan Freedland and the Financial Times are in effect saying – that due process should be disapplied because they believe the defendant in this case – ie. Russia –  is lying and is never going to admit its guilt.

Defendants often lie when cases are brought against them.  If they did not there would be no reason to have trials.  Defendants very often go on denying their guilt even when courts have convicted them after trials.  That is not a reason for not having trials.

Stripped of their bogus arguments, what Jonathan Freedland and the Guardian are saying is that when Russia is accused of something it has no right to defend itself.

That is an astonishing and deeply troubling thing to say.

It also looks to me rather like an admission that in the Skripal case the British authorities do not have the evidence to prove that their accusation against Russia is true.

That does not surprise me because the British authorities have apparently been unable to provide even their closest allies with evidence which proves that their accusation against Russia is true.

Here is what Der Spiegel says the British have told the Germans about the evidence – or lack of evidence – they have in the case

The key to the Skripal case is to be found in the toxin that was used. When the British briefed their German colleagues this week, they didn’t go into great detail, according to sources in German security circles. Intelligence services suspect that could be because the British no longer completely trust the Americans and are particularly wary of Donald Trump.

The British didn’t even tell their German counterparts which variation of the nerve agent they believe was used. Western intelligence experts suspect that it was Novichok of the A-232 variety, which is fluid enough to be used as a spray.

The vocabulary used by the UK and its allies indicates that British intelligence officials are highly confident in their assessment. Yet although it is clear which substance was used and that it very likely came from Russian stockpiles, there is no definitive proof that the Russian state was behind the attack, according to a senior German official on Thursday evening. The official has read through all of the documents that have thus far been presented. He said that intelligence officials are viewing the evidence laid out in those documents — several tightly printed pages — as a “compelling chain of clues.”

(bold italics added)

In other words the British case against Russia in the Skripal case is no more than surmise (a “compelling chain of clues”).

It is not based on evidence because as of Thursday 15th March 2018 (when the Germans were given the facts) there was none.

What of the argument Jonathan Freedland and the Financial Times both make – echoing things the British government has said – that concrete ‘proof’ of Russian guilt in the Skripal case is not needed because Russia’s guilt can be presumed from Russia’s previous conduct.

Putting aside that there are conflicting opinions about Russia’s previous conduct, it is actually a further breach of due process to declare someone guilty not on evidence but on the basis of their previous conduct.

Putting that aside there have been at least three cases since The Duran was founded in May 2016 when declarations of Russian guilt which were confidently asserted proved on proper examination of the evidence to be untrue.

(1) On 19th September 2016 an attack on a humanitarian convoy in Syria was widely blamed by Western governments and by the Western media on Russia.  Yet a UN inquiry headed by an Indian military officer effectively cleared Russia of responsibility for the attack.

(2) In a succession of reports Professor Richard McLaren has claimed to have found proof of a gigantic government organised state sponsored doping conspiracy amongst athletes in Russia.

These claims have been enthusiastically repeated by the Western media, and led to partial bans on Russian participation in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, on the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, and to a complete ban on Russian participation in the 2016 Summer Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

However the Schmid Commission, which on behalf of the International Olympic Committee, carried out a thorough review of Professor McLaren’s claims of a government organised state sponsored doping conspiracy in Russia, concluded that those claims had not been proved to be true.

(3) The third case is more controversial, but I personally have no doubt that the same applies.

Since at least the summer of 2016 it has been repeatedly and confidently claimed that there was a vast conspiracy between Russia and Donald Trump’s campaign to steal the US Presidential election from Hillary Clinton and to swing it to Donald Trump.

The House Intelligence Committee, having investigated this claim in detail, now says it is untrue.

Though the Mueller investigation, which is also looking in this claim, has yet to report, none of the indictments it has issued suggest that this claim is true, whilst it seems the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is also investigating the claim, is also going to report that the claim is untrue.

Here we have three examples of claims of wrongful activity confidently made against Russia proving to be untrue.  Why then assume that the claim of wrongful activity made against Russia in the Skripal case is true?

Obviously presumptions of guilt based on claims of previous Russian misconduct are wrong and unsafe, and that whole approach must be abandoned as both flawed and ethically wrong.

I would finish by repeating a point I have before.

Underpinning the regular allegations made in the West about Russian misconduct including the ones now being made in connection with the Skripal case is the intense Western prejudice against Russia and against all things Russian.

I discussed this Western prejudice against Russia and Russians in detail in a long article The Duran published on 12th October 2016, and I discussed it again more recently in articles I have written about a recent report by a group of US Democratic Party Senators targeting Russia, and about the Hollywood film Red Sparrow which is currently on general release.

Now we see further examples of this prejudice with the demand in the Skripal case that Russia be denied the right to defend itself, a right which every other defendant accused of a crime has.

Personally I cannot see a more straightforward example of prejudice against Russia than that.

The Duran



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Trump’s Latest “Deal”: Sell Syria to Saudi Arabia for $4 Billion – By Whitney Webb (MINT PRESS)

Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis stands in front of a map of Syria and Iraq ISIS, during an update to the media, Friday, May 19, 2017, at the Pentagon. (AP/Jacquelyn Martin)

WASHINGTON DC – This week, as Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MBS) meets with top White House officials, reports have surfaced that Syria will be a key part of foreign policy discussions between the Trump administration and Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler.

According to the Washington Post, President Trump – in a bid to remove the estimated 4,000 U.S. soldiers illegally stationed in Syria – has offered to remove U.S. troops from Syria’s occupied northeast if Saudi Arabia agrees to pay $4 billion to “rebuild” and “stabilize” the areas the U.S. coalition and its proxies took from Daesh (ISIS) last year.

As the Post noted, the plan is meant to allow Trump to minimize an overt U.S. military presence in the region while accomplishing his postwar goal “to prevent Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his Russian and Iranian partners from claiming the areas, or the Islamic State from regrouping.”

The Trump administration’s stated goals for America’s presence in Syria betrays the fact that the mission originally professed by the U.S. was the defeat of Daesh. As the threat posed by Daesh has all but passed, administration officials “have convinced Trump that the U.S. military cannot remove its troops from northern Syria in part because of Iran,” suggesting that the U.S. presence in Syria is now relegated to containing Iran as well as the long-standing goal of removing Syria’s president from power. The strategy of Iran containment through occupying Syria has been clear for some time and has been stated openly by U.S. ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley and the now former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Last September, Haley remarked, “the [U.S.] efforts in Syria have been remarkable. And I can tell you, Iran is not going to be in charge, and Iran is not going to have any sort of leadership in that situation to where they could do more harm.” She also stated that the U.S. is not “going to be satisfied until we see a strong and stable Syria. And that is not with Assad in place.”

Then, in January, Tillerson told an audience at Stanford University that only “the departure of Assad through the UN-led Geneva process will create the conditions for a durable peace within Syria and security along the borders” and that “US disengagement from Syria would provide Iran with the opportunity to further strengthen its own position in Syria.”

Given past statements of top officials in his administration and his often-stated desire to share the burden of nation-building with U.S. allies, Trump is now offering Saudi Arabia control of the Syrian territories the U.S. has illegally occupied, but at a hefty price.

According to U.S. officials cited by the Post, when Trump first floated this deal to Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, it was positively received, leading the president to believe that “he had a deal” with the monarch which would keep Syria’s oil-rich northeast in the hands of U.S. allies and out of the hands of the Syrian government his administration seeks to topple.

However, Saudi officials have reportedly sought to lower the price and have questioned the $4 billion price tag, but not the deal itself. MBS’ meetings in Washington this week will likely reveal if Trump’s latest “deal” is a success.


Endgame: partition Syria

U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Jamie Jarrard left, thanks Manbij Military Council commander Muhammed Abu Adeel near the town of Manbij, in northern Syria, Feb. 7, 2018. (AP/Susannah George)

Though the U.S. attempts to involve Saudi Arabia in the “reconstruction” of Northeastern Syria are now getting public attention, they are not new. Last October, MintPress reported that Brett McGurk, special presidential envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL – a project launched by the State Department in 2014 to ‘degrade and defeat ISIS’ – was negotiating with controversial Saudi minister Thamer al-Sabhan over Saudi funding for the reconstruction of Raqqa. Now, the plan for the city of Raqqa is now being touted as a solution for “reconstructing” the entire territory that the U.S. is occupying in Syria.

Furthermore, if the Saudis agree to the president’s latest deal, Raqqa, which was all but destroyed by the U.S.-backed effort to “liberate” it from Daesh, and the rest of U.S. occupied Syria will – perhaps ironically – be rebuilt by the very country that has long funded Daesh and is home to the extremist politically funded ideology of Wahhabism it was dedicated to spreading.

Indeed, as leaked emails show, the U.S. government has known for years that the Saudis, along with other Gulf monarchies, have consistently provided “clandestine financial and logistic support to ISIL [Daesh] and other radical Sunni groups in the region” as these groups seek to establish an “Islamic state” modeled after Wahhabi ideology, much like the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia itself – a theocracy known for its persecution of religious minorities and its penchant for public beheadings.

The Saudi monarchy’s practice of persecuting religious minorities could spell disaster for those groups in Northeastern Syria that have already suffered greatly after Daesh. Though many of these minorities are no longer in the region as most were forced into refugee status or killed, it bodes a particularly unpleasant future for the Kurds, who are religiously diverse and are relatively supportive of gender equality in great contrast to Saudi Arabia. The Kurds’ alliance with the U.S. military is unlikely to aid them if Northeastern Syria comes under Saudi control as this alliance has done little to help the Kurds elsewhere in Syria, particularly in Afrin.

However, the U.S.’ goal in the region is not to ensure stability, democracy or any of the other humanitarian buzzwords frequently used to justify its military adventurism. Instead, passing the baton to the Saudis in Syria would further the goal of partitioning Syria along sectarian lines and would serve as a fountainhead of Wahhabi extremism in the future, key to destabilizing the Assad-led government and allies of the Syrian state, namely Lebanon’s resistance group Hezbollah and Iran.

Top Photo | Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis stands in front of a map of Syria and Iraq ISIS, during an update to the media, Friday, May 19, 2017, at the Pentagon. (AP/Jacquelyn Martin)

Whitney Webb is a staff writer for MintPress News who has written for several news organizations in both English and Spanish; her stories have been featured on ZeroHedge, the Anti-Media, and 21st Century Wire among others. She currently lives in Southern Chile.

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

Skripal case: EU demands ‘disclosure of Novichok program,’ Russia says it has ‘nothing to disclose’ – By RT

Skripal case: EU demands ‘disclosure of Novichok program,’ Russia says it has 'nothing to disclose’
Moscow says it is “miffed” at the European Union’s “hasty, speculative, and evidence-free” judgment on the Sergei Skripal incident, and maintains that it has no stocks of Novichok, the nerve agent purportedly used to poison him.

On Monday, the European Council, which represents the heads of governments of the EU states, issued a statement that it “takes extremely seriously the UK Government’s assessment that it is highly likely that the Russian Federation is responsible” for the March 4 attack.

The Council went on to say that it was “shocked at the offensive use of any military-grade nerve agent, of a type developed by Russia, for the first time on European soil in over 70 years” and it called on Moscow “to address urgently the questions raised by the UK and the international community and to provide immediate, full and complete disclosure of its Novichok programme to the OPCW.”

The Russian Foreign Ministry expressed regret “the European Union has ignored obvious facts…and has let its decisions be driven by misconstrued notions of European solidarity, and its anti-Russian reflexes,” it said in a press release published on Monday evening.

Moscow then accused Brussels of “ignoring” the OPCW, the international chemical weapons watchdog, which officially declared that Russia had finished destroying its store of similar weapons last year.

“We have nothing to ‘disclose’ as is demanded by the European Union, as no agents under the name of Novichok are produced or stockpiled in Russia. Perhaps it should redirect its queries to the UK or other member states where such substances are evidently still being developed,” said the Foreign Ministry.

Over the weekend, UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson accused Moscow of “stockpiling” Novichok, a Soviet invention from the 1970s, while OPCW officials have arrived in Salisbury to investigate the sites where Skripal, 66, was poisoned. Both the former double agent and his daughter, Yulia, remain in hospital in critical condition.

The Kremlin has demanded proof of the allegations that it was involved in the attack or an apology from the UK over the incident, which has resulted in London and Moscow to each expelling 23 diplomats.

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Mariya Zakharova schools West in correct way to deal with Skripal assassination attempt [VIDEO] – By Seraphim Hanisch The Duran (SOTT)

Maria Zakharova

© Russia Insight
Maria Zakharova speaking about the British behavior towards the Russian Federation in relation to the assassination attempt on Sergey and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury, Great Britain

However, it is unlikely her very reasoned process will fall on receptive ears as the West accuses Russia for the use of Novichok and yet refuses to listen

Maria Zakharova is a powerhouse for the Russian Foreign Affairs Ministry. She is the go-to for all matters concerning sanctions against Russia, other accusations and slanderous attacks against Russia and less virulent affairs as well.

Here on video with English subtitles, she clearly, carefully and SANELY lays out the process and rationale for how to solve the matter of the alleged Novichok-utilizing assassination attempt on ex-spy Sergey Skripal and his daughter Yulia.

Unfortunately, it is likely not to be considered, as the Western nations continue to ramp up very bellicose rhetoric against Russia.

It would make sense if Russia actually did something, but there simply is no logic to the argument that President Vladimir Putin would order an assassination to be carried out right before the Russian Presidential elections which are to be held this Sunday, March 18th.

While people who live in the West might try to go on the idea that Putin is “showing his strength” to either inspire or cow the Russian people into voting for him, this is simply not true. Since I live in Russia and interact with people here every day, I have talked to them often enough about politics and they are very free with expressing their opinions. There is no doubt here that Putin will win, but even some of the most cynical of Russian people who say this also admit that the problem is not Putin’s bullying or coerciveness, because this is nonexistent. What is the case is that no other presidential candidate has shown any significant ability that would lead the nation in any more effective a manner than what President Putin has done.

So, even those people who do not believe his personal integrity (and there are quite a number of them that freely say so) or his Christianity, which are some major selling points this election, still usually admit that he is effective as a leader, and solves problems that no one else yet has given a better idea how to solve.

Russians are, in my experience, very practical and pragmatic people. They are as emotional as anyone, but they do a pretty good job at not being hysterical and making blind accusations simply because of emotion. Not that these levels, anyway.



Maria Zakharova completely rubbishes Britain’s anti-Russia campaign on national TV – By Paul Antonopoulos FRN (Fort Russ News) (SOTT)

Maria Zakharova

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Maria Zakharova

Maria Zakharova, Director of the Information and Press Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the Russian Federation, on Russian national television has completely rubbished the British anti-Russian campaign in response to the Salisbury assassination attempt.

She questioned why normal protocol was not undertaken if a deadly chemical agent was used to try and kill Russian traitor Sergei Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia Skripal, 33.

Both people remain critically ill in hospital after they were found unconscious on a bench in the picturesque town of Salisbury in southern England.

British Prime Minister Theresa May believes Moscow is “culpable” in the assassination attempt despite not being able to provide any evidence.

Watch all of Zakharova’s crusade against British inconsistencies in the video.

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Lavrov: Partition Syria must be foiled, West is ‘on the ground’, Haley remarks irresponsible – By Sputnik


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Russian FM, Sergey Lavrov

During an interview with the television and radio company of Kazakhstan’s President, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has commented on a wide range of issues: from the situation in Syria to Skripal’s poisoning and beyond.

While stressing that the level of violence in Syria has significantly decreased, the foreign minister emphasized that “the process of deescalation in Eastern Ghouta could start only if the militants stopped shelling Damascus. This process has not been underway for a very long time, now there seems to be some hope that these armed formations will separate from Jabhat al-Nusra, ” Lavrov said.

According to Lavrov, any plans on Syria’s partitions should be abandoned. “I do not think that we should even talk about a potential partition of Syria, but it is our duty to demand that these plans be immediately foiled, some bear it,” the minister said in an interview with the television and radio company of the president of Kazakhstan.

The decrease of violence in the country was discussed during a ministerial meeting on Syria between the foreign ministers of Russia, Iran and Turkey as part of the Astana reconciliation process.

“Those armed groups that could be a part of the negotiating process are, unfortunately, operating under the umbrella of Jabhat Fatal al Sham. They created a joint command and in fact three groups: Faylaq al-Rahman, Jaysh al-Islam and Ahrar al-Sham – became allies of Jabhat Fatal al Sham, which is designated by the UN Security Council as a terror organization,”

Lavrov said, adding that Russian servicemen were urging the three groups to distance themselves from the terrorists.

He has also condemned illegitimate presence of foreign forces in Syria, saying that it “contradicted international law and the UN Charter.”

“US, French, UK special forces are ‘on the ground’ in Syria. So it is not a ‘proxy war’ anymore, but direct engagement in the warfare,” Lavrov added.

Furthermore, the foreign minister said that the Americans are “planting local authorities” on the eastern shore of the Euphrates River.

“What is happening on the eastern shore of the Euphrates River, where Americans have indeed liberated vast territories from terrorists with the help of the Kurds, but plant local authorities, who are intentionally isolating themselves from Damascus, and declare that they will support these authorities without any contacts with the Syrian government,” he said.

Earlier this week, the minister stated that the progress achieved at the Astana talks on Syria, including due to Russia’s efforts, was not being welcomed by those striving to divide the country into small territories under their control.

“Those who, in violation of all norms of international law, in violation of Resolution 2254, obviously seek to divide Syria, to replace the regime so that this important Middle Eastern country is replaced by small principalities, controlled by external players, certainly do not welcome what we are doing in Astana, we are trying to achieve in Astana,”

Lavrov said in a welcoming speech before the talks with his Iranian and Turkish counterparts in Astana.

Since 2014, the US-led coalition has been conducting airstrikes against terrorists in Syria without any authorization from the Damascus government or a UN mandate.

UK, Russia Diplomatic Standoff Over Skripal’s Poisoning

Commenting on the case of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal’s poisoning, Lavrov said that “western propaganda is becoming more brazen and primitive.”

“We are living in the world where one had better not read Western newspapers. All events are covered in an exceptionally simplistic, crudely propagandist way. The manipulation of public opinion is under way… On the one hand, the Western propaganda is getting more primitive, but it is also becoming more brazen, on the other,” he said.

On March 4, Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were found collapsed after being exposed to a chemical substance, later identified by UK police as the military-grade nerve agent Novichok, allegedly developed in Russia. British authorities have accused Moscow of “attempted murder,” although declined Russia’s request to provide samples of the substance in question.

As a response to the alleged attack, UK Prime Minister Theresa May announced the largest expulsion of Russian diplomats from the country since the Cold War. Moscow, in turn, has declared 23 British diplomats personae non gratae, with the Foreign Ministry revoking its agreement on the UK General Consulate’s operation in St. Petersburg.

Russia-US Relations

The interview has also touched upon relations between Russia and the United States, with Sergei Lavrov insisting that Russia would not sign the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

“We will not sign it because we believe that prohibition of nuclear weapons in such a directive manner is impossible. Five official nuclear powers as well as non-official ones will not do that,” he said, adding that the US plans to expand its missile defense system and the fact that the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty had not entered into force yet, “mainly due to Washington’s reluctance, influence strategic stability as much as nuclear weapons do.”

As for the role of the United States in the UN, Lavrov said that ultimatums during the Security Council’s sessions were “unacceptable.”

“When our American colleagues bring any resolution to the UNSC, and we suggest holding talks on the matter because there are alternative views, we are being accused of blocking the proceedings, and they decide to do it solo. Immediate ultimatums, sanctions, etc are absolutely unacceptable according to the UN Charter,” he added.

The Russian Foreign Minister has also commented on the statement made by the US Envoy to the UN Nikki Haley on Washington’s “readiness to strike Damascus,” calling it “absolutely irresponsible.” “I don’t know who has empowered the US permanent representative to UN Nikki Haley to declare that the United States will be ready to bomb Damascus… […] It’s an absolutely irresponsible statement,” he concluded.

Comment: Fair and direct comments from Mr. Lavrov. The US and its Western allies are conforming reality to meet their mindset — insanity.

‘Neo-Fascist’: Australia’s White Farmer Visa Initiative Evokes Racist History – By Sputnik


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Concerned with the treatment of white farmers in South Africa, Australia’s Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton announced on Wednesday that his department would be considering emergency visas on “humanitarian grounds.”

Dutton explained to the Daily Telegraph that the farmers “deserve special attention” due to their “horrific circumstances” facing land seizures and violence.

The 47-year-old’s comments follow South African President Cyril Ramaphosa’s statement that he would “escalate the pace” of redistributing land from wealthy white farmers who benefited from apartheid to poorer black ones.

Dr. Gerald Horne, a professor of history at the University of Houston and author of “From the Barrel of a Gun: The United States and the War against Zimbabwe 1965-1980,” told Radio Sputnik’s Loud & Clear that the new policy is consistent with past racist, destabilizing moves from Canberra.

​Horne told hosts Brian Becker and John Kiriakou that until 1967, Canberra pursued a so-called “White Australia” policy, in which it heavily restricted the terms of entrance for people from Asia as well as neighboring Pacific islands, preferring what was popularly called in the British Empire “pure European descent.”

“[Dutton’s] policy just enunciated… is a throwback to that discredited policy, but not only that, it could [also] be considered a gross interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign state… because it gives these farmers a certain kind of leverage when it comes to negotiating with Pretoria.,” Horne continued.

“Keep in mind that these farmers got these lands through means mostly foul and to this very day the European population is less than 10 percent of South Africa’s population, but they control over 70 plus percent of the land… one of the reasons why the African National Congress has faced so many issues is because of the perception that this particular party in government has been slow in redistributing the wealth, which was obviously skewed after decades of apartheid policy,” he continued.

“Now that the government is trying to move in the direction of redistribution, Australia sticks its nose into South African business and seeks to give these farmers leverage… it’s ridiculous.”

Horne later noted that Australia’s actions should also put the spotlight on Zimbabwe’s land redistribution efforts.

“This outrage by Australia also should cast new light on what’s taking place in Zimbabwe,” the author told Becker. “The government did try to move to redistribute the lands from a European minority [but it] found itself under punishing sanctions, including sanctions by Australia, which plunged the economy into the ditch, helping to produce world-class inflation.”

According to Horne, the emergency visa initiative “is consistent with the policies of neo-fascists.”

Big croc snared in Northern Territory tourist mecca, see how they did it
© Photo: illawarramercury/Lydia Lynch

“In the latter part the of the 19th century, Australia had begun to engage in a kind of slave trade involving Melanesians and Polynesians… and what happened is that after these folks were brought to Queensland in Australia, the decision was made to move towards that ‘White Australia’ policy of 1901,” he explained. “At the time they said they were doing that because they felt that integrated societies do not work and they pointed across the Pacific Ocean at the United States of America.”

“It was only unremitting and unrelenting international pressure that caused Australia to move away from the ‘White Australia’ policy and now in 2018 I guess they feel that international pressure has relented and they can return to the battle days of the past.”

How Facebook protects Israel – By Tamara Nassar – Media Watch (Electronic Intifada)

Palestinian journalists protesting Facebook’s persistent blocking of Palestinian accounts in Gaza City on 5 March.  Ashraf Amra APA images

The Israeli authorities are exerting pressure on Facebook to comply with more of their demands.

Earlier this month, members of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, discussed how to suppress content of which they disapproved on the social media website.

One objective was to get Facebook to ban pictures of Ahmad Nasser Jarrar, a Palestinian extrajudicially executed by the Israeli army in February. Human rights groups have concluded that the military sought to kill, rather than arrest, Jarrar, a suspect in the shooting death of an Israeli settler in the occupied West Bank.

Uri Maklev, an Israeli lawmaker, claimed there is a “correlation between social networks and terror operations,” and that “Facebook is responsible for what is being done on its platform” and must do “everything to remove such content.”

According to Israel’s state attorney office, the Israeli government requests an average of 12,000 cases of content to be removed from Facebook each year.

This information was relayed by Itai Gohar, representing the cyber department at the state attorney’s office, during the recent discussion in the Knesset.

Gohar added that Facebook complies with “only” 85 percent of reports from Israel’s state attorney office. The response rate is as quick as a few hours “during periods of security escalation,” and 24 hours otherwise.

This claim suggests that Facebook works in favor of Israel’s security apparatus.


However, the claims by Israel’s state attorney office directly contradict Facebook’s transparency reports, which are available on its site.

Facebook’s documentation reveals that content removed at the request of the Israeli government averages about 550 pieces of content each year. That is many times lower than the figure indicated by the Israeli authorities.

The number of pieces of content removed each year at the request of the Israeli government was 113 for the second half of 2013, according to Facebook. The removal figure came to 30 during the entire year of 2014 and 431 in 2015.

The number of removals rose to 1,623 in 2016, according to Facebook data. And the figure for the first half of 2017 was 472.

Facebook stated last year that the main reason why it restricted access to certain items at Israel’s request was because the posts in question promoted denial of the Holocaust.

This data demonstrates that either Facebook transparency reports or Israel’s state attorney office have presented false data. The data presented by one of them can’t be true.

“Another face of occupation”

Palestinian journalists held a demonstration in Gaza City on 5 March, to protest Facebook’s persistent blocking of Palestinian accounts.

Protesters held banners that read, “Facebook collaboration with Israel transforms it from [a] social media platform for all to another face of occupation,” and used the hashtag “#FBfightspalestine” on social media.

In 2016, Israel struck an accord with Facebook. Under it, the corporation agreed to collaborate in monitoring what Israel claims is “incitement” by Palestinians.

Since then, the number of Palestinian posts removed by Facebook at the request of the Israeli government has risen. Some Palestinian news organizations have been obstructed from publishing material on the website.

While Palestinians have been subject to greater censorship, a large number of Israelis have used Facebook for posting racist material.

One out of every nine Facebook posts written about Palestinians contains a call for violence or a curse, according to a new study conducted by the Palestinian campaign group 7amleh.

A new post containing incitement against Palestinians is uploaded every 71 seconds, the group has calculated.

The study also found that the number of right-wing Israeli Facebook groups and pages that incite against Palestinians dramatically increased in 2017.

The report complains that while “Facebook intensifies its efforts to suspend, delete and ban Palestinian accounts and pages under the pretext of ‘incitement,’ the social media giant expanded its platform for Israeli incitement.”

Israeli online violence is especially directed towards Palestinian politicians. Ahmad Tibi and Haneen Zoabi, both Palestinian members of the Knesset, are regularly subjected to violent threats on Facebook.


Britain’s presumption of guilt towards Russia invites conflict and chaos – By Finian Cunnigham (RT)

Finian Cunningham
Finian Cunningham (born 1963) has written extensively on international affairs, with articles published in several languages. Originally from Belfast, Northern Ireland, he is a Master’s graduate in Agricultural Chemistry and worked as a scientific editor for the Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, England, before pursuing a career in newspaper journalism. For over 20 years he worked as an editor and writer in major news media organizations, including The Mirror, Irish Times and Independent. Now a freelance journalist based in East Africa, his columns appear on RT, Sputnik, Strategic Culture Foundation and Press TV.
Britain’s presumption of guilt towards Russia invites conflict and chaos
Britain’s abandonment of due process has taken a dangerous and reckless leap, with Theresa May declaring economic sanctions and diplomatic expulsions for Russia’s “failure” to respond to allegations over the Skripal poisoning.

Provocatively, Moscow was given a 24-hour deadline to “answer” charges leveled by the British government that it was responsible for the attempted murder of a Russian double agent, Sergei Skripal, who had been living in England since 2010 after a spy-swap deal.

Skripal (66) and his 33-year-old daughter Yulia were apparently stricken with a deadly nerve agent in his adopted hometown of Salisbury on March 4 while strolling through a public park. The pair have been receiving treatment in intensive care ever since.

Earlier this week, the British prime minister asserted that the chemical weapon used was a Soviet-era nerve agent, Novichok, and – on that basis – the Russian state was implicated in the attempted murder of the former spy. Skripal had been exiled from Russia in 2010 after he was convicted of treason as a double agent for British intelligence MI6.

The new economic and diplomatic sanctions against Moscow, which were announced by May in the House of Commons on Wednesday, constitute a reckless escalation towards conflict between Britain, its NATO allies, and Russia.

Moscow has said it will not stand for British punitive measures and is vowing to take reciprocal actions.

Washington and European states have quickly followed Britain’s lead in ramping up hostile rhetoric towards Russia, and issuing statements of “solidarity.” Relations between Russia and NATO states had already plummeted to Cold War depths before the latest row.

The invitation for more chaos and conflict comes with the abandonment of any pretense at upholding legal principles and standards.

Britain and its allies are relying on the inverted principle of “presumption of guilt” as opposed to “innocence.” Within days of the apparent poison attack on the Sergei Skripal and his daughter, the British authorities and media had rushed to judgement that the alleged attack was the work of the Russian state in an act of revenge for past betrayal. That motive does not stand up to scrutiny, noted former British ambassador Craig Murray.

Furthermore, the hypothetical Soviet-era nerve agent identified by the British authorities has not been independently verified. We are relying on official British claims. The alleged chemical may or may not have been used in the attack.

READ MORE: Corbyn challenges May’s ‘evidence’ of Russian ‘culpability’ in ex-spy poisoning

As Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov revealed, all requests from Moscow for access to the alleged poison as evidence have been refused by London. Such a refusal is a violation of the Convention on Chemical Weapons treaty, which mandates joint inspection of alleged incidents.

So, the British government imposed an ultimatum on Russia to provide “answers” to provocative charges without Moscow being given a fair chance to ascertain those charges. On the basis of that contemptible lack of due process, the British are calling on its NATO allies to escalate punitive measures against Russia.

There are even British media reports of Britain invoking NATO’s Article Five clause, which mandates the military pact to come to the defense of another member deemed to be under attack.

One senior British cabinet minister was quoted anonymously by The Independent as saying: “What happens will be an economic war, these will be economic measures. Russia’s economy is only half that of the UK… That doesn’t give us any pleasure at all, but we need the nations of Europe to behave within the rule of law and not like gangsters.

The logic is unhinged. British authorities are claiming to be acting within the rule of law against Russian “gangsters,” when in fact it is the British who are bludgeoning any legal standard of due process.

Paramount to due process is the presumption of innocence, which is the bedrock of international law and the United Nations’ Charter of Human Rights.

Canadian-based war crimes defense attorney Christopher Black says: “The presumption of innocence is the foundation stone of modern criminal justice. It is the pre-eminent factor in every trial. The accused is deemed to be innocent unless and until evidence that cannot be doubted establishes that the crime took place as claimed, and the accused is the person who committed it and had the intent to commit it.”

Black says that this is the exact opposite of what is taking place with regard to British claims over the latest alleged poisoning incident in Britain. The lawyer adds that the erosion of standard legal principle has been underway for several years due to political expedience by Western states. He points to the various ad-hoc war-crimes trials pushed by the United States and its NATO allies to convict political enemies in former Yugoslavia and Africa.

With regard to Russia and, in particular, the demonization of the government under President Vladimir Putin, the Western states have used the principle of “presumption of guilt” on numerous occasions, including the downing of the Malaysian airliner over Ukraine in 2014; implicating Russia in Ukraine’s conflict; smearing Russia over sports doping and banning it from the Olympics; allegations of Russian “interference” in US and European elections; and blackening Moscow for “war crimes” in Syria.

In all cases, allegations are simply leveled and repeated ad nauseam without evidence ever being presented. Indeed, sometimes in spite of plausible counter-evidence.

Christopher Black continues: “The accusations against Russia from the MH-17 Malaysian airliner, Crimea, Ukraine, electoral interference, and so on, are all part of carefully orchestrated propaganda warfare aimed at reducing Russia’s prestige in the world, its range of friends and allies, and to paint it as the ‘evil other’ for the Western public, who are having their minds conditioned to prepare them for war.

The presumption of guilt towards Russia has now converged over chemical weapons and Syria.

In rallying Washington and European allies to back Britain’s “economic war” against Russia, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson this week said of conversations with his French counterpart: “The French government stressed particular concerns about Russia’s use of chemical weapons elsewhere, as is evident with their support to Assad’s murderous regime in Syria.”

On the basis of no evidence, dubious hearsay from terrorist-affiliated groups like the White Helmets, and the expedient presumption of guilt, Britain and its NATO allies are willing to go to war in Syria.

This week, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley accused Syria and its Russian ally of carrying out chemical-weapons attacks, for which the “US is prepared to take military actions.

All this should be a lesson on why there is such a thing as legal standards and due process as a safeguard for international order. Once certain states start to assert “presumption of guilt” towards others, then all pretense of upholding law and order collapses into a descent of chaos and conflict.

Attorney Christopher Black goes further. He says that Britain and its NATO allies are not just derelict in their duty to abide by law. “As in the latest reckless statements concerning Russia and the alleged poisoning in Britain, the case can be made that the British and their allies are in fact guilty of war crimes by inciting the conditions for war.

Finally, there is one very obvious question that nobody seems to be asking, and that relates to the timing of Skripal’s alleged poisoning. Why would Russia do it now, just a week before the presidential election and three months before the World Cup?

It suggests total insanity on Moscow’s part. How could Russia possibly benefit from such an act? Skripal was previously in Russian custody and has lived in the UK for years. If Russia did want to poison him, as the UK has imagined, could it not have waited for a few more months?

It is not clear who benefitted from the inopportune timing of the incident, but certainly wasn’t Russia.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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