British Assassination Campaign Targeting Russian Exiles? – By Finian CUNNINGHAM (Strategic Culture Foundation)

British Assassination Campaign Targeting Russian Exiles?

Over the past decade or so, a disturbing number of Russian nationals living in Britain have met untimely deaths. The victims – at least 14 – have been high-profile individuals, such as oligarch businessman Boris Berezovsky or former Kremlin security agent Alexander Litvinenko. All were living in Britain as exiles, and all were viewed as opponents of President Vladimir Putin’s government.

Invariably, British politicians and news media refer to the deaths of Russian émigrés as “proof” of Russian state “malign activity”. Putin in particular is accused of ordering “the hits” as some kind of vendetta against critics and traitors.

The claims of Russian state skulduggery have been reported over and over without question in the British media as well as US media. It has become an article-of-faith espoused by British and American politicians alike. “Putin is a killer,” they say with seeming certainty. There is simply no question about it in their assertions.

The claims have also been given a quasi-legal veracity, with a British government-appointed inquiry in the case of Alexander Litvinenko making a conclusion that his death in 2006 was “highly likely” the result of a Kremlin plot to assassinate. Putin was personally implicated in the death of Litvinenko by the official British inquiry. The victim was said to have been poisoned with radioactive polonium. Deathbed images of a bald-headed Litvinenko conjure up a haunting image of alleged Kremlin evil-doing.

Once the notion of Russian evil-doing is inculcated the public mind, then subsequent events can be easily invoked as “more proof” of what has already been “established”. Namely, so it goes, that the Russian state is carrying out assassinations on British territory.

Thus, we see this “corroborating” effect with the alleged poisoning of a former Russian double-agent, Sergei Skripal, and his daughter in Salisbury back in March this year.

What actually happened to the Skripals is not known – who are said to have since recovered their health, but their whereabouts have not been disclosed by the British authorities. Nevertheless, as soon as the incident of their apparent poisoning occurred, it was easy for the British authorities and media to whip up accusations against Russia as being behind “another assassination attempt” owing to the past “established template” of other Russian émigrés seeming to have been killed by Kremlin agents.

For its part, the Russian government has always categorically denied any involvement in the ill-fate of nationals living in exile in Britain. On the Skripal case, Moscow has pointed out that the British authorities have not produced any independently verifiable evidence against the Kremlin. Russian requests for access to the investigation file have been rejected by the British.

On the Litvinenko case, Russia has said that the official British inquiry was conducted without due process of transparency, or Russia being allowed to defend itself. It was more trial by media.

A common denominator is that the British have operated on a presumption of guilt. The “proof” is largely at the level of allegation or innuendo of Russian malfeasance.

But let’s turn the premise of the argument around. What if the British state were the ones conducting a campaign of assassination against Russian émigrés, with the cold-blooded objective of using those deaths as a propaganda campaign to blacken and criminalize Russia?

In a recent British media interview Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was typically harangued over alleged Russian malign activity in Britain. Lavrov rightly turned the question around, and said that the Russian authorities are the ones who are entitled to demand an explanation from the British state on why so many of its nationals have met untimely deaths.

The presumption of guilt against Russia is based on a premise of Russophobia, which prevents an open-minded inquiry. If an open mind is permitted, then surely a more pertinent position is to ask the British authorities to explain the high number of deaths in their jurisdiction.

As ever, the litmus-test question is: who gains from the deaths? In the case of the alleged attempted assassination of Sergei Skripal and his daughter, would Russia risk such a bizarre plot against an exile who had been living in Britain undisturbed for 10 years? Or would Britain gain much more from smearing Moscow at the time of President Putin’s re-election in March, and in the run-up to the World Cup?

The more recent alleged nerve-agent poisoning of two British citizens – Charlie Rowley and Dawn Sturgess – in the southern English town of Amesbury revived official anti-Russia accusations and public fears over the earlier Skripal incident in nearby Salisbury.

The Amesbury incident in early July occurred just as a successful World Cup tournament in Russia was underway. It also came ahead of US President Donald Trump’s landmark summit with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki.

Again, who stands to gain most from these provocative events? Russia or Britain?

Another revealing twist in the presumed narrative of “Kremlin criminality” came from a recent interview given to Russian news media by the daughter of the deceased oligarch Boris Berezovsky. Of course, her side of the story received no coverage in the British media.

Liza Berezovsky believes that her father’s death in 2013, while living in exile in Britain, was the dirty work of British state assassins. The case has added importance because it links directly to the previous death of Alexander Litvinenko, who was also living as an exile in Britain.

Berezovsky’s daughter believes that her father wanted to return from Britain to Russia so that he could live out his old age in his native country. She claims that the oligarch had vital information on how the death of Litvinenko in 2006, reportedly from radioactive polonium poisoning, had actually been staged as a smear against Putin and the Kremlin.

Boris Berezovsky, his daughter claims, played a key role along with the British state in orchestrating the demise of Litvinenko to look like an assassination plot carried out by the Kremlin. It was Berezovsky who apparently suggested that Litvinenko, with whom he was an associate, shave off his hair in order to drum up the suspicion of Kremlin poisoning.

Liza Berezovsky contends that, seven years after Litvinenko died, her father was preparing to divulge the dirty tricks involving the British state and their anti-Russian campaign. She said the oligarch wanted to atone for his past misdeeds and to make his peace with Mother Russia. She believes that British state agents got wind of his plans to come clean, which would have caused them an acute international scandal.

In March 2013, just days before he was due to depart from Britain, the oligarch was found dead in his mansion near Ascot, in the English countryside, apparently from suicide caused by a ligature around his neck.

In the end, however, a British civil coroner did not conclude suicide, and left an “open verdict” on the death. An eminent German pathologist hired by Liza Berezovsky provided post-mortem evidence that her father’s body showed signs of his death having not been self-inflicted. He was, in their view, murdered.

It is not beyond the realms of possibility that British secret services are running an assassination program on Russian exiles. These exiles are often used for a time by the British state as media assets, presented as high-profile critics of the Kremlin and lending testimonies to much-publicized allegations of “authoritarianism” and “human rights abuses” under Putin.

At some opportune later time, these Russian dissidents can be liquidated by British agents. Their deaths are then presented as “more proof” of Russian malign activity and in particular for the purpose of criminalizing President Putin and his government.

Considering how London has become an international haven for Russian oligarchs whose wealth is often tainted as being proceeds from criminal activity against Russian laws and who therefore are easily framed as Putin opponents – the British state has ample opportunities for setting up “assassinations” and anti-Putin provocations.

Such a nefarious British program is by no means unprecedented. During the 30-year armed conflict in Northern Ireland ending in the late 1990s, it is documented that the British state ran clandestine assassination campaigns against Irish republican figures, as well as ordinary citizens, as a coldly calculated political instrument of state-sponsored terrorism. It was an instrument honed by the British from other colonial-era conflicts, such as in Kenya, Myanmar (formerly Burma), Malaysia (formerly Malaya), and in several Arab countries like Bahrain and Yemen, as detailed by British historian Mark Curtis in his book Web of Deceit.

Adapting such heinous techniques for a contemporary propaganda war against Russia wouldn’t cost any qualms to British state grandees and their agents. Indeed, for them, it would be simply Machiavellian business-as-usual. 

Tags: Skripal case 

Putin: Powerful people in US want to poison relationship with Russia against country’s interests – By RT

russia and us flags

© Maxim Shemetov / Reuters

There are powerful people in the US who steer the entire country on the path of confrontation with Russia, President Vladimir Putin warned, adding that the Kremlin must take this factor into account.

The warning came as Putin was addressing the senior members of the Russian diplomatic corps in Moscow. He spoke off the script to warn Russian ambassadors of the danger posed by Russia-haters in America.

“We can see forces in the United States, which would easily sacrifice Russian-American relationship for the sake of their ambitions in domestic political struggle in America. They would sacrifice the interests of the US business, which loses contracts and ties in Russia, US jobs, few as they may be, that rely on Russian-American cooperation,” Putin said.

These forces “would sacrifice the interests of their allies in Europe and in the Middle East, including the state of Israel… They would sacrifice their own security.”

He explained the latter point, saying that a lack of work on continuation of the New START nuclear arms limitation treaty between the US and Russia will result in its automatic expiry.

“We were taught that a statesperson should always prioritize core interests of his or her nation above everything else. Not so in this case. We see the forces in the US, who put their narrow group and party interests above those of their nation. Our satirists would describe them as ‘pathetic puny people’. But they are neither. On the contrary, they are quiet powerful, if they can swindle millions of their countrymen to buy stories that would not normally stand to reason,” Putin said.

The president added his warning was not meant to scold anyone, but as an instruction to the diplomatic corps to take the existence and influence of such forces into account during their work.

“Such are the facts of life for us today,” Putin stressed, before going back to his scripted speech.

The apparent improvisation comes days after Putin met US President Donald Trump in Helsinki, after which the American leader came under fire at home as critics accused him of caving in to Putin and selling out US interests. Trump later deflected the criticism, saying that people who hate him would rather see the two nations engaged in a shooting war than see him get along with Putin.

Global war with no oversight: US special forces deployed to 133 countries in first half of 2018 – By RT

US special forces soldier

© Shah Marai / Reuters
An American special forces soldier mans a tripod mounted sniper rifle on the roof of a vehicle in Afghanistan’s Wardak province, 20 August 2003.

US special forces have already deployed to 133 nations in the first half of 2018, signaling a sharp increase in the Pentagon’s shadowy operations when compared to previous years, according to a new report.
America’s Special Operations forces (SOF) are stationed all around the world, where they participate in a wide range of missions, including special reconnaissance, unconventional warfare, counterterrorism, hostage rescue, as well as training and advising foreign troops. But special forces soldiers are also regularly involved in shadowy combat operations that receive little to no oversight. Shrouded in secrecy, these global operations continue to grow in quantity, size and expense – despite the fact that even Congress is often left in the dark, veteran investigative journalist Nick Turse recently revealed.

According to Turse, last year US special forces deployed to a staggering 149 countries -about 75 percent of the nations on the planet. But the figure for 2018 is likely to be considerably higher: US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM or SOCOM) told Turse that America’s elite forces have already carried out missions in 133 countries – nearly matching the number of deployments during the last year of the Obama administration, and more than double the number of deployments during the end of George W. Bush’s presidency. If America’s special operators deploy to just 17 more countries by the end of the fiscal year, they will top last year’s record-breaking total.

The growing number of secretive deployments has been complemented by SOCOM’s ballooning size and budget. In 2001, for example, an average of 2,900 commandos were deployed overseas in any given week. This number has nearly tripled to 8,300. Likewise, “Special Operations-specific funding,” which totaled $3.1 billion in 2001, has increased to an astonishing $12.3 billion. But the grand total actually surpasses $20 billion, since an additional $8 billion is spent annually by the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps for each branch’s special operations.

Despite the worrying implications of an expanding fighting force with little accountability, there’s no reason to believe that US Special Operations forces are going to be downsized anytime soon. According to Turse, SOCOM’s 2019 budget request calls for adding about 1,000 personnel to what would then be a force of 71,000.

Of course, not all of the deployments are malicious or covert in nature. For example, Air Force special operators were recently sent to Thailand to aid the successful attempt to rescue 12 boys and their soccer coach trapped in a flooded cave.

But as Turse notes: “Unless they end in disaster, most missions remain in the shadows, unknown to all but a few Americans.”

Comment: Here are a few of the deployments that are known:

Joe Quinn on Sputnik: ‘They’re Not Really Fighting Against Russia, But Against Reality Itself’ – By SPUTNIK

putin trump summit

A Russian national has been charged in Washington accused of being an agent of the Russian Federation at the same time as Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin were meeting in Helsinki, a summit that has angered American politicians.

Maria Butina was charged Monday by the US Department of Justice with conspiring to act as an agent of the Russian Federation within the United States, a criminal allegation that may be designed to draw attention away from Monday’s meeting between the US and Russian heads of state.

The charges are not related to the Mueller probe that is examining alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election. She allegedly worked at the direction of a high-level Kremlin official. Sputnik spoke to political commentator Joe Quinn about the fallout from the Putin/Trump summit.

Sputnik: What do you make of the arrest situation in Washington of Maria Butina, the accusations and the motivations behind it?

Joe Quinn: Well this is another nothing-burger, like CNN described the Russian hacking of the US election last year. Given the timing, it’s an attempt to push the supposed ‘reality’ of Russian interference in the US election in support of Trump. The story of this Butina woman are two-a-penny in Western politics. What she’s doing is called lobbying: getting access to politicians to push particular policies.

The accusations that she was working for the Kremlin appears to be baseless – it’s the silly idea that any lobbyist in any country, anyone working to influence politicians in any country, only ever work for foreign governments. That’s obvious nonsense.

There’s probably dozens of American citizens in Russia attempting to garner the same kind of influence in exactly the same way as she has done.

Sputnik: The US president has also come under scrutiny in America following the Helsinki summit, how could this impact the President and Washington’s interactions with Moscow?

Joe Quinn: To say he’s come under scrutiny – or that this summit yesterday has come under scrutiny – is a bit of an understatement! This brief meeting of two hours that he had with Putin yesterday has been met with such a level of screaming and baying at the moon, from the usual suspects, that you’d think we’re back in the heyday of the McCarthy days.

To give you an example, Senator Lindsey Graham tweeted yesterday – in all seriousness – that the football that Putin gave to Trump at the end of their meeting was probably carrying a listening device and should not be taken to the White House! I don’t know what to say to that kind of thing. You just roll your eyes…

I’m sorry to have to say that we can’t really expect the hysteria to diminish. Most of the Western media are now committed to this ridiculous campaign and have internalized the idea that Russia is a threat to the entire globe. Of course, the truth is that this situation has been deliberately provoked by elements of the ‘deep state’ as part of their ongoing war against Russia, who they see as an existential threat to their global power and control. They also seem to be quite happy to have as many people around the world – but particularly in US and Europe – believing complete lies.

Sputnik: The international accusations against Russia are mounting with the US elections, meddling and the Skripal case but with lack of evidence is the Western continuing anti-Russian rhetoric damaging any hope of improving international relations?

Joe Quinn: I don’t think that its damaging any hope – certainly it’s damaging them – but I don’t think it’s damaging any hope. Ultimately I think this campaign that’s been waged is not going to be successful. The problem for them is that history is NOT on their side. They’re not really fighting against Russia but against reality itself. The world has changed radically in the last 20 years – and it’s only just begun. The time is obviously ripe for a new global order based on multi-polarity rather than the sole dominance of a superpower, but the stewards of the empire are VERY reluctant, shall we say, to accept these necessary and inevitable changes, and unfortunately, we have to deal with chaos that they are causing as they try to forestall those changes.

As Syrian Army liberates territory, West scrambling to save their White Helmets assets – By PRESS TV (SOTT)

White Helmets

© Hosam Katan / Reuters

Western countries have reportedly been scrambling to evacuate “volunteer” White Helmets from Syria, who have been accused of cooperating with Takfiri terrorists and staging false flag gas attacks.

CBS News broadcasting service reported on Saturday that White Helmets members are in danger of assassination and in need of rescue as the Syrian army intensifies its counter-terrorism operation in the country’s southern part.

The report said the issue of the White helmets’ withdrawal from Syria had been raised with US President Donald Trump in multiple conversations with allied countries on the sidelines of the July 11-12 NATO summit in Brussels.

The Netherlands, Britain, France, Canada and Germany have been trying to find a way to get an estimated 1,000 White Helmets volunteers and their family members out of Syria, the report added.

Comment: Just what these countries need: more jihadi ‘refugees’.

British Prime Minister Theresa May brought up the issue during her meeting with Trump in the UK, and that the topic may also be discussed at Trump’s upcoming summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The White Helmets was founded in Turkey in 2013 by former British MI5 officer James Le Mesurier.

Since its establishment, the group has received at least $55 million from the British Foreign Office, $23 million or more from the US Office of Transition Initiatives and untold millions from Qatar.

US officials and Western diplomats say the evacuation has not been formalized on the agenda of the July 16 Trump-Putin meeting due to uncertainty about the Russians’ help in the process, The CBS News said.

“We are not there yet at all in terms of firming up the necessity to have a discussion with Putin,” a Western diplomat said. “If we run out of options, and the only option left is the Russians, then it is worth pursuing.”

A US government official stressed that efforts to evacuate the White Helmets from Syria are in line with the Trump administration’s plans for a withdrawal from the Arab country.

“This effort says we are in the evacuation phase. It is an admission that the regime is going to regain control of the country and the White Helmets can’t remain,” he said. “Or else the regime will take repercussions on them.”

Back in March, Trump ordered the State Department to suspend $200 million in recovery funds for Syria, including aid to the White Helmets, amid a review of the future of the US role in the war-torn country.

Three months later, however, Trump authorized the release of $6.6 million in previously frozen funding for a volunteer organization, without referring to the $193.4 million that remains frozen.

Both Damascus and Moscow have accused the volunteer group of having staged the suspected chemical weapons attack in the town of Douma in Syria’s Eastern Ghouta region on April 7.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad described the White Helmets as “a branch of al-Qaeda and al-Nusra” militant groups and a “PR stunt” by the US, the UK and France.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the group claims to be a humanitarian NGO, but actually supports terrorists and covers up their crimes.

“The White Helmets not only feel at home on Jabhat al-Nusra and Daesh-controlled territories but openly sympathize with them and provide them with information and even financial support. How is that for double standards? There is documentary evidence of the White Helmets’ involvement in some of al-Nusra’s operations and cover-up over civilian deaths,” she said.

Comment: We can’t wait for Trudeau to dress up like a jihadist White Helmet and take some selfies with them once they get evacuated to Canada.

Chaos at the NATO Summit Benefits Eurasian Integration – By Federico PIERACCINI – (Strategic Culture Foundation)

Chaos at the NATO Summit Benefits Eurasian Integration

The chaos that has engulfed the NATO summit is yet further confirmation of the world’s transition from a unipolar to a multipolar order, with the return of great-power competition and different states jockeying for hegemony. Trump is adapting to this environment by seeking to survive politically in a hostile environment.

The meeting of the NATO countries in Brussels highlighted the apparent intentions of the US president towards his allies and the Atlantic organization. Trump’s strategy is to oblige the European countries to halt energy imports from Moscow and replace them with liquefied natural gas (LNG) from the US at a price that is obviously not cheap. The gas would come from the US by ship, entailing huge logistical costs that are not the case with regard to physical pipelines between Europe and Russia. This issue directly affects Germany and the Nord Stream II project, a deal worth billions of euros.

The reasons behind Trump’s behavior are twofold. On the one hand, we have the politics of “America First”, with the intention of increasing exports of LNG while boasting of “successes” to the base. The other purpose of Trump’s words is to highlight, sotto voce, the inconsistency of EU countries, who despite considering Russia an existential danger, nevertheless strongly depend on Russia’s energy exports.

To be fair to Trump, these same EU countries — fearful of Moscow but ready to do business with it — do not even spend 2% of their GDP on defense, while the US commits closer to 4%. For Trump this is surreal and intolerable. The NATO Summit began more or less with this anomaly, conveyed by Trump in front of the cameras to Jens Stoltenberg, the Secretary General of NATO, with Pompeo and the US ambassador to NATO on either side of him doing their best to remain impassive.

The photo-op with Merkel did not go any better. Needless to say, the American media is being driven into a tizzy. The headlines blare: “Trump betrays the allies”; “End of NATO”. CNN is in a state of mourning. Brzezinski’s daughter (yes, that Brzezinski ) almost vomited from the tension on MSNBC’s Morning Joe.

In truth, Trump is engaging in a lot of public relations. When he makes these performances in front of the cameras, he is speaking directly to his electoral base, showing that he is keeping his promises by putting “America First”. To be honest, it would be more appropriate to declare, “America, b****h!”

To back his words up with actions, he slaps his allies with tariffs and sanctions against Russia, and now Iran, incurring huge losses for Europe. He mocks leaders like Merkel and Trudeau in public, and has humiliated Macron in front of the world.

In practical terms, Trump does not care whether Germany buys LNG from the United States. If this is to ever occur, then it will take 20 years, given the cost and time needed to build dozens of LNG facilities on the European and American coasts.

The summit between Trump and Putin in Helsinki could even lead to more drama if Trump wants to drive the media, liberals, neocons and his European allies into further conniptions.

It depends on the issues on his checklist that he has to deal with before the November midterm elections. I do not rule out seeing Kim Jong-un in Washington before then, or a summit between the US, Israel and Palestine — anything that will play to the desired optics. The issue is just that: all image, no substance.

Trump is focussing principally on triumphing in the November midterms, and to do so he needs to look like a winner. He will be keen to ensure the moneybags of the Israel lobby and Saudi Arabia keep flowing. In doing so, he will probably even win the 2010 presidential election. There is always the possibility that the Fed and other financial conglomerates will decide to commit harakiri and blow up the economy with a new financial crisis in order to get rid of Trump. It would be the deserved end of the US empire.

European politicians also await the midterms with great anticipation, hoping that this will be the end of the Trump nightmare. They still live in the same dreamworld of Hillary Clinton, believing that Democratic victory is possible and that Trump’s election was simply an anomaly.

They will not have woken from their nightmare when they come to realize that Trump has increased the number of Republicans in the House and Senate. Perhaps at that point, with sanctions in place against Russia and Iran and with huge economic losses and the prospect of another six years with Trump, a coin will drop for someone in Europe, and Trump will be seen as the catalyst for breaking ties with Washington and looking east towards a new set of alliances with China and Russia.

In conclusion, we are experiencing the full effects of the Trump presidency, which is destructive of and devastating for the neoliberal world order. As I said at least a year before he was elected, Trump is accelerating the decline of the United States as a lodestar for the West, representing Washington’s swan song as the only superpower.

It is not “America First”, it is Trump First. There is no strategy or logic behind it. There are only friendships, his personal ego, and the need to remain in the saddle for another six years. Meanwhile, get your popcorn ready in anticipation of the Helsinki summit.

Israel takes its last breath in southern Syria as Hezbollah and Iran join Syrians in confrontation with ISIS on Golan border – By Elijah J. Magnier (ejmagnier.co) (SOTT)

daraa map

The Syrian army and the allies of Hezbollah and Iran are preparing to finish off the last pockets of militants and jihadists in the city of Daraa (the western part of it), as well as the Quneitra governorate, where the “Islamic State-Welayat Houran” (ISIS in Quneitra) militants are in control of 18 km along the 1974-line separating Syria from the occupied Golan. The presence of these terrorist groups has been tolerated and even supported by Israel in the last years of the Syrian war.

The next battle will be decisive in ending all pockets outside the authority of the Damascus government. Despite this fact Israel is still trying to intervene in the Syrian south, resisting any acceptance of the status quo: the years of war are over on its borders, and Syria is regaining the control of its territory. Actually, it is also the Israeli officials who are breathing their last in the Syrian war, which is nearing its end. What will remain to be liberated is the US & Turkish occupied North of Syria.

But the failure of the regime change is not hitting only Israel but the entire assembly of pundits in Arab and western countries. Daraa al Balad (the place where the first the slogan was raised in 2011 “Allawites to the coffin and Christians to Beirut” (Alawi ila al-Tabut wal Masihi ila Beirut)), has capitulated to the Syrian Army, who are in control of 85% of the province of Daraa. The Syrian Army is also advancing in ISIS & Huran controlled territory and is taking control of the high ground in order to pound the terrorist group’s position. The sound of bombardment is heard in the occupied Golan Heights, under the nose of the Israeli Army – which is incapable of changing the course of this next battle.

Sources in the Syrian capital say that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to Moscow will only weaken Israel’s position, revealing not only President Putin’s intention not to meet the demands of his Israeli guest, but also that Israel’s reference in Syria, as it has not resorted to its traditional ally (the United States), has become Moscow, not Washington.

Netanyahu’s presence in the Russian capital – in parallel with the presence of the envoy and adviser of the Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Akbar Velayati in Moscow – will only bring him back empty handed to Tel Aviv. Instead of presenting himself as a prestigious political leader “trying to score points in his favour”, Netanyahu is looking extremely weak, and also politically impotent. Trying to compensate for his diplomatic failure with Moscow by bombing the three abandoned positions of the Syrian army in Quneitra will achieve nothing. Netanyahu has only managed to appear feebler: he does not dare hit the Syrians and their allied forces (Hezbollah and Iran), in the presence of the hundreds of special units who are in the process of liberating the south.

Several days ago, Netanyahu bombed positions at the T4 military airport, sending his jets deep into the desert of al-Badiyah and towards Homs province. It is clear that he is aided by the American forces occupying northern Syria, who allowed Israel to use its military airports built in al-Hasaka province.

However, the first response Israel got came from the Lebanese “Hezbollah” which sent more special forces to confront ISIS in the Quneitra province. The Syrian Army and its allies are preparing for this forthcoming important battle once the 18km enclave occupied by ISIS is completely besieged. Therefore, before beginning the last battle in the south, the evacuation of all Jabhat al-Nusra (aka Hayat Tahrir al-Sham) and other jihadists and militants is necessary.

The second response came from Iran, sending a drone to penetrate 10 km into Israel. This act constituted a blow to the Israeli defences, showing their slow reaction and intelligence and military defence weaknesses – even if the plane was later shot down by a Patriot missile.

The bottom line: Israel has pushed Iran to violate all the “red lines” that existed (even if these were not announced and agreed by the parties concerned). Instead of the Iranian-Israeli conflict taking place outside the borders of Israel, the military bras-de-fer has moved into Israeli airspace. The Iranian and Hezbollah violation of Israeli airspace – unthinkable to any country or organisation in the Middle East – has become a regular promenade.

Netanyahu is begging the Russian leader – this is the third visit in 6 months – to prevent Iran and Hezbollah’s presence on the Syrian border. It is obvious that he has failed in his attempt, due to Hezbollah and Iran’s manifest presence in the southern battle of Syria. The Israeli Prime Minister will also ask Donald Trump to raise the same topic at the upcoming summit between the Russian and the US leaders in the coming days. But no great achievement in this regard is expected for the following simple reasons:

  1. Syria is determined to regain full control of its southern territories. Actually, the battle was imposed during the Russian-Israeli negotiations and President Assad is determined not to give up any inch of territory. Therefore, he has not succumbed to the Israeli threats.
  2. Israel lowered its ceiling of demands when President Bashar al-Assad helped remove Prime Minister Netanyahu from the tree he climbed by ordering his forces to begin the battle, imposing his own tempo and asking his allies to participate in the battle against Jihadists.
  3. Damascus does not meet all Russian demands, despite their joint military collaboration across Syrian geography. This difference has emerged in more than one battle in recent years, without necessarily causing any fundamental clash of interest between the two parties.
  4. Assad meets his Iranian ally’s goals and objectives: the two agreed on their common hostility to Israel without interfering with the good Russian-Israeli relationship.
  5. Assad will not abandon the “axis of resistance,” which has proved itself by its fulfilment of its obligations, supporting Syria with men and weapons. This “Axis” has always been, and still is, confident in the cause of the Syrian president, even though he almost lost the country in 2013. The advocates in this axis defended the Levant without imposing their faith or making demands on Assad in exchange for their intervention. Moreover, the members of the “Axis” gave complete freedom of decision to Assad to decide what he considered his priorities and objectives. They did not interfere in his internal policies and – unlike Russia on several occasions – did not stake a claim to the day when the Syrian President must step down from office (apparently to appease the West and the Arabs).

Israel is expected to strike again and to bomb in Syria, pretending to be relaxed and comfortable. In fact, Israel looks like a wounded bird hit by a hunter: it is dancing from the pain of leaving Syria.

Israel pulled out from Lebanon in 2000 unconditionally, and today it is abandoning its allies in the Syrian south, leaving these – as it did with the South Lebanon Army – without any support.

Israel contributed to the rise of the resistance in Lebanon in 1982 which gave birth to Hezbollah, the most powerful organisation in the Middle East, which now competes with many regular armies in the Middle East. Israel erred in supporting the jihadists in Syria and assisting the plan to overthrow Assad: it managed only to create a “Hezbollah-Syria”.

Syria has downed more than one Israeli jet; drones flew over Israel and rockets and missiles were fired at its soldiers in the occupied Golan Heights. Today, Israel is reduced to threatening any force violating the 1974 line – which has never been violated for the last 40 years.

Following 2006, Israel has once more been defeated, and in Syria. The aggressive stance it has used when claiming to “defend itself” will no longer be successful with an “axis” which is determined to liberate all Syria’s occupied territories… and in the Lebanon. It is now no longer be possible for Israel to use “the right to defend itself” as an excuse to do just what it wants.

Proof read by: Maurice Brasher

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About Elijah J. Magnier

Veteran War Zone Correspondent and Senior Political Risk Analyst with over 35 years’ experience covering the Middle East and acquiring in-depth experience, robust contacts and political knowledge in Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Sudan and Syria. Specialised in terrorism and counter-terrorism, intelligence, political assessments, strategic planning and thorough insight in political networks in the region. Covered on the ground the Israeli invasion to Lebanon (1st war 1982), the Iraq-Iran war, the Lebanese civil war, the Gulf war (1991), the war in the former Yugoslavia (1992-1996), the US invasion to Iraq (2003 to date), the second war in Lebanon (2006), the war in Libya and Syria (2011 to date). Lived for many years in Lebanon, Bosnia, Iraq, Iran, Libya and Syria. View all posts by Elijah J Magnier

Comment: Yesterday the Syrians completely liberated the city of Daraa. All that remains are the pockets of FSA/al-Qaeda/ISIS along the border with occupied Golan. See: Where it all began: Syrian Army liberates Daraa from western-backed terrorists

Supreme Court Nominee Kavanaugh Is Precisely the Pro-Corporate Right-Wing Hack Progressives Fear – by Elliott Gabriel (MINT PRESS)

President Donald Trump shakes hands with Brett Kavanaugh, his Supreme Court nominee, in the East Room of the White House, July 9, 2018, in Washington. Evan Vucci | AP

A run-down of Supreme Court Nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s positions on various social issues and the danger his appointment could pose to everything from the Department of Labor to the Environmental Protection Agency and even Roe v. Wade.

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump’s choice Monday night to nominate Judge Brett Kavanaugh as his second Supreme Court nominee has confirmed that Trump seems dead-set on fortifying conservative control of the court for years, if not decades, to come.

The 53-year-old Kavanaugh has served on the District of Columbia Court of Appeals for 12 years, and his ideological stances are firmly on the right end of the Washington spectrum. He is widely expected to be confirmed, given that the Republican Party commands a slight majority in the U.S. Senate. If his appointment clears that hurdle, it would mark the second successful lifetime appointment to the court by Trump in 18 months.

He earned his stripes in Washington taking part in the investigation of President Bill Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky scandal of the 1990s, where he served under independent counsel Kenneth Starr and drafted much of the Starr Report, paving the way to Clinton’s impeachment. He also took part in the Florida recount battle in the 2000 presidential election as a counsel in George W. Bush’s team and later as a senior Bush White House official.

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Kavanaugh, if confirmed, will replace Justice Anthony Kennedy, 81, who retired late last month. If the nominee fills the outgoing conservative’s justice’s seat, experts fear that he may move the court further to the right – especially on issues relating to corporate regulations, immigrant rights, gun laws, women’s reproductive health, and religious-based discrimination against LGBTQ people.

Given that he was on the shortlist of nominees drawn up by Leonard Leo, the conservative Federalist Society’s executive vice president, one can assume that the judge will hold down the fort in terms of right-wing rulings if he proceeds to the top bench. The other potential figures under consideration had been federal appellate judges Thomas Hardiman, Raymond Kethledge and Amy Coney Barrett.

 

Where He Stands

According to Axios, Kavanaugh would rank as the second most far-right justice on the court if he were confirmed, placing him slightly to the left of Justice Clarence Thomas and to the right of Trump’s first nominee, Neil Gorsuch.

A quick run-down of his positions on various social issues shows Kavanaugh as a party-line Republican holding down the far-right flank of conservative traditionalism (or social backwardness), posing the danger that his appointment would sound the death-knell for everything from the Department of Labor to the Environmental Protection Agency and even Roe v. Wade :

Corporate regulations – the 53-year old put significant wind in the sails of the banking industry when he wrote an opinion in October 2016 declaring the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau “unconstitutional” due to the “enormous executive power” given to its director and the “threat to individual liberty” it poses (for billionaire banksters). The watchdog agency was established by the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act following the 2008 financial collapse and was later found to be constitutional.

He has also sided with the meat industry, opposing Department of Agriculture standards requiring that meat be labeled to allow consumers to know where each step of the meat production process took place. Kavanaugh backed Big Food by arguing that the government must support U.S. manufacturers, industrial farmers and ranchers versus foreign competitors.

Racial Equity – Kavanaugh is an opponent of affirmative action in college admissions, which has sought to increase the representation of historically oppressed nationalities and ethnicities in education since the 1960s. Since its inception, affirmative action has been the focus of attacks by right-wing forces in the U.S. who claim that it is an example of so-called “reverse racism” – a term alleging the victimization of whites by historically oppressed nationalities – and bars qualified white candidates from school placement, instead favoring their counterparts of color whom they perceived to be less qualified.

Workers Rights – The conservative justice has a solidly anti-worker record, and has opposed everything from protections of collective bargaining rights to basic workplace safety standards.

In a statement, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said:

Judge Kavanaugh routinely rules against working families, regularly rejects the right of employees to receive employer-provided health care in the workplace, too often sides with employers in denying employees relief from discrimination in the workplace and promotes overturning well-established U.S. Supreme Court precedent.”

Net Neutrality – In 2017, Kavanaugh dissented against the ruling in United States Telecom Association v FCC, writing: “The net neutrality rule is unlawful and must be vacated, however, for two alternative and independent reasons. First, Congress did not clearly authorize the FCC to issue the net neutrality rule … Second and in the alternative, the net neutrality rule violates the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.”

The Environment – Kavanaugh was a major critic of Obama-era environmental protection agencies, and penned a decision rejecting attempts by the EPA to curb air pollution that spills over states’ borders. In the face of federal attempts to curb pollution and climate change, he has upheld corporate interests and the separation of powers.

Reproductive Health, Contraception and Abortion – He has argued that the Affordable Care Act’s coverage of contraception infringes on the “rights” of religious – read: evangelical fundamentalist – organizations and “religious liberty” groups. However, he has pledged in the past to uphold the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling legalizing abortion access. Democrats are skeptical about his commitment to the decision, and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer has indicated that the party will be on the lookout for signs that he will repeal Roe.

Kavanaugh was the focus of a partisan battle when Bush nominated him to the appeals court in 2003, with Democrats accusing him of being a partisan ideologue. By 2006, the Senate confirmed him.

The narrow Republican Senate majority of 51-49 — with Sen. John McCain sitting out proceedings and basically standing at death’s door in Arizona – leaves Democrats with little options to wage their storied “resistance,” yet they can possibly apply pressure to Republican figures to create dissension and defections in GOP ranks.

 

“Resistance” on Capitol Hill and In the Streets

According to the White House, attempts by Trump’s team to reach out to Senate Judiciary Committee members prior to Monday’s nomination were largely greeted courteously – with the notable exception of Democratic California Senator Kamala Harris, whose office told White House Counsel Don McGahn, “We want nothing to do with you.”

In a tweet, the former California attorney general and centrist Democrat – widely considered to be a possible Democratic presidential candidate – wrote that Kavanaugh “represents a direct and fundamental threat to the rights and health care of hundreds of millions of Americans.”

On Tuesday morning, Schumer also vowed on MSNBC to “oppose this nominee with everything that I’ve got.” Democrats are banking on the fear surrounding Trump’s Supreme Court pick and its anti-woman, white supremacist, and pro-corporate implications as a powerful motivator for voters, particularly Democrats, in this year’s midterm elections.

Despite the fear that Kavanaugh will turn the Supreme Court far to the right, some experts feel that the perception it was somehow ever “moderate” or even “progressive” was a false illusion and that a hard-right tilt by the Judiciary could clear up false expectations about the nature of the court.

“When people in [the U.S.] worry about the court tilting ‘hard-right’ it makes it seem as if the court has ever been a ‘left’ court,” National Lawyers Guild vice president Ken Montenegro told MintPress News.

“[But] the court has largely been centrist … So, it’s possible that in this time of emboldened white supremacy a tilt further to the right will mobilize people to question the [overall] nature of the judiciary,” he added.

Top Photo | President Donald Trump shakes hands with Brett Kavanaugh, his Supreme Court nominee, in the East Room of the White House, July 9, 2018, in Washington. Evan Vucci | AP

Elliott Gabriel is a former staff writer for teleSUR English and a MintPress News contributor based in Quito, Ecuador. He has taken extensive part in advocacy and organizing in the pro-labor, migrant justice and police accountability movements of Southern California and the state’s Central Coast.

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Russian defense minister: Uncertainty, tension in world affairs push Moscow & Beijing together – By RT

Chinese and Russian flag

© Vitaly Ankov / Sputnik

Russia and China are rigorously improving strategic ties to be better prepared for the challenges of today’s world, as the US resorts to deception, hybrid wars, and controlled chaos, the Russian defense minister said.

In a frank interview with Italian magazine Il Giornale, Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu explained Russia’s strategy of keeping friends and deterring foes, and explained why Moscow has every reason to remain vigilant towards the US and its allies.

Russia & China: Strength through friendship

“There’s no doubt, tensions in world affairs gave boost to strengthening Russia-China ties built upon mutual respect and trust,”Shoigu told the Italian magazine. Both powers enjoy lasting strategic relations, and their militaries jointly hone their combat skills in naval and air defense drills.

Meanwhile, military ties between Moscow and Beijing are not limited to joint war games and political dialogue. In April, China sent its top-tier delegation to the 7th Moscow Conference on International Security to demonstrate the unity of the Russian and Chinese militaries.

Defense Minister Wei Fenghe, who led the delegation, said they went there “to let the Americans know about close ties between the Russian and Chinese armed forces.”

Prior to Wei’s visit, state-run Chinese newspaper the Global Times published an editorial titled “Western pressure brings China and Russia closer.” The report quoted analysts who believe that the current international environment – including the anti-Russia hysteria in the West and the US-China trade war – will only strengthen the Moscow-Beijing alliance.

Shoigu, who has served as defense minister for over six years, emphasized that Sino-Russian military activities are “purely defensive in nature” and have nothing in common with those of NATO and the EU. “Our military-to-military ties aren’t targeting other countries or alliances, only contributing to global and regional security.”

US prone to hybrid wars, backs ‘wildest ideologies’ & spreads ‘controlled chaos’

Further into the interview, Shoigu accused Washington of pushing a “neocolonialism strategy” which the Americans tested in Iraq and Libya. To spread “controlled chaos,” the US backs “even the wildest ideologies to weaken legitimate governments.”

Dismissing Western allegations of “hybrid wars” being waged by Moscow, he said such warfare is known since time immemorial. It was the hybrid warfare that helped Britain defeat the Ottoman Empire in World War I, Shoigu recalled, asking, “who doesn’t know the adventures of Lawrence of Arabia?”

To succeed in a hybrid war, one needs to have “global and all-embracing media,” dominate in IT and telecoms, control the world financial system, and employ Special Forces in other countries. “Who else, except for the US and Great Britain, has such a potential?” the Defense Minister said.

Washington has widely utilized hybrid warfare in Yugoslavia, Libya, Chechnya, and, most recently, Syria, Shoigu maintained. According to him, the sequence continued when a Western-backed coup struck Ukraine in February 2014, where “nationalist fighters trained on American and European money” removed the legitimate president from power.

Allegations that Russia is instigating a “hybrid war” began emerging in US and British media after similar subversive actions failed in Crimea, Shoigu underlined.

While the US seems reluctant to mend ties with Russia, Moscow is keen to keep the door for the dialogue open. “Though I work as Defense Minister, I am convinced every issue can be and should be solved without resorting to military power,”Shoigu stressed.

Comment: See also: Outcome of Western pressure brings Russia and China closer

 
 
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Hysterics on repeat: British MP, establishment journalists rush to blame Russia after Amesbury chemical death – By RT

amesbury poisoning sturgess novichok

© Henry Nicholls / Reuters
Forensic investigators wearing protective suits in Amesbury, Britain, July 6, 2018.

The death of Dawn Sturgess from what police say was exposure to Novichok has sparked a new fit of Russia-blaming, as an MP, high-profile commentators and mainstream journalists pointed the finger at Moscow.

As British police launched a murder investigation into the poisoning and death of Dawn Sturgess, 44, in Amesbury, various self-styled chemical weapons experts on Twitter have cried for Russia’s blood, squarely blaming Moscow for the incident yet in the early stages of the investigation.

Mike Gapes, the Labour and Co-operative MP for Ilford South who recently got some limelight by urging British parliamentarians against providing any commentary to RT, immediately named Russia as a party responsible for Sturgess’ death.

“This was a murder of a British citizen as a result of use of a chemical nerve agent produced by the Russian state,” Gapes wrote on Twitter, voicing something even Theresa ‘highly likely’ May has yet been wary of saying.

Gapes’ vitriol was joined by Kremlin watchers from UK establishment media, Russia correspondent for The Telegraph Alec Luhn, and The Guardian’s Luke Harding.

Harding, a well-known critic of the Russian government, implied that Sturgess was “collateral damage” of the Kremlin-orchestrated operation that was the poisoning of former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in March in Salisbury.

“Dawn Sturgess dies after exposure to #novichok. The circumstances unclear. An utter indifference to collateral damage one of the hallmarks of the #Putin regime and its extra-territorial operations,” he tweeted.

Harding was a long-time Guardian correspondent in Moscow until 2011, when he was denied entry into Russia after violating accreditation rules. While the issue was promptly resolved and he was allowed back several days later, Harding alleged that he was a victim of a Kremlin crackdown on dissenting opinions.

Alec Luhn, another high-profile Russia critic, has used Sturgess’ death to defy Russian President Vladimir Putin, who, commenting on the Skripals poisoning, said that if the father and daughter were indeed attacked by a military-grade toxic agent they would not have survived.

Putin’s remark, according to Luhn’s logic, somehow gives more credibility to the version that it was Moscow behind the Salisbury poisoning.

“Vladimir Putin previously argued that the Russian state couldn’t have used a military nerve agent in the UK because the victims would have died. Now one of them has,” Luhn wrote.

Some commentators have gone as far as accusing the Russian president of personally killing Sturgess. The upcoming Trump-Putin summit in Helsinki was inevitably dragged into the picture.

“Putin is a murderer. What are the odds Trump doesn’t bring this up next week. Putin is our ENEMY!!!” Brian Krassenstein, an editor at Hill Reporter with nearly 500,000 Twitter followers, wrote.

Since the 16 July meeting was announced, hardliners have ostracized the US President for cozying up to his supposed puppet master, denouncing him as “traitor-in-chief” for his intention to have good relations with Russia and calling the Russian leader “fine.”

Far from everyone was convinced by the allegations of Russian involvement, which is still based entirely on speculation, as it’s unclear at this stage how Sturgess came into contact with the substance. Moreover, neither Sturgess nor her partner Charlie Rowley, 45, who remains in critical condition in the hospital, have nothing in their background to suggest they might be of interest to the Kremlin, police said.

However, when faced with backlash (or, indeed, legitimate questions) over his tweet, Gapes preferred to label anyone asking for evidence or doubting Russia’s guilt “Kremlin bots” and “squawking abusive trolls” from Russia.

Gapes reacted the same way when he was accused of attempting to censor alternative opinions in the wake of his attack on RT. At the time, he called those who ventured to disagree with him “Putin apologists.”

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