Rothschild propaganda rag The Economist portrays Putin as octopus – projection or envy? – By Bernard (Moon of Alabama)

octoputin

The title page of this weeks Economist

Now consider one of the earliest cartoons that used this image:

octoroth

The Rothschild banking family of England, Coin’s Financial School, (1894)

At least 26% of the British Economist is owned by the Rothschild family. Lynn Forester de Rothschild and her spouse Evelyn de Rothschild are sitting on the board of the Economist Group.

Is the publishing of the Putin squid by the Rothschild organ some kind of psychological projection? Or is it envy?

The picture of Putin as meddling octopus attacking democracies is of course dumb nonsense. There is no evidence that the Russian government was in any way involved in the U.S. election. The French and the German government have repudiated claims of “Russian hacking” in their countries’ elections. The one country that meddles everywhere and destroys democracies left and right is of course the United States.

The octopus in cartoons is often associated with antisemitic Nazi propaganda and therefore frowned upon. When the German Süddeutsche Zeitung depicted Facebook owner Mark Zuckerberg as an octopus which sucks up all data, the usual suspects were up in arms.

But historically the octopus cartoons were most often used to represent a country or empire.

Last year the Atlantic Sentenial wrote about The Octopus in Political Cartoons. Russia has frequently been depict as such (1904, 1937 1948, 1950, …). Britain, France, Prussia, Germany, Austria, Japan and the U.S. were likewise caricatured as tentacled dangers. Britain’s Winston Churchill appeared as a bloodsucking sea monster.

In 1904 an octopus showed the Standard Oil company entangling the White House, Congress and the U.S. people. Today there are other companies, bankers and extremely rich families who have such undue influence. We should fear and fight their meddling and not the president of a comparably benign Eurasian country.

Mission Possible: Here’s What Those Russian Su-57 Jets May Be Doing in Syria – By RT

 A PAK FA T-50 fighter jet
© Sputnik/ Alexey Filippov

Military & Intelligence

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The appearance of two Su-57 fighters at Syria’s Hmeymim Airbase, yet to be confirmed by the Russian MoD, has nevertheless got defense observers and armchair analysts alike talking. But what might the planes be doing there? Is their deployment strictly testing-related, or is it also meant to send a political message? Sputnik investigates.

Deployment Details

So far, both the Kremlin and the MoD have stayed mum on the subject of the Su-57s’ possible mission to Syria. But a simple observation of Su-57-related news from recent months seems to indicate that the deployment is highly likely.

For instance, on February 8, Deputy Defense Minister Yuri Borisov announced that the military was set to buy a batch of Su-57s for combat trials, with the first stage of state trials already completed. Two weeks before that, Boris Obnosov, CEO of Tactical Missiles Corporation, a company engaged in the development of weapons for the fighter platform, confirmed that the Su-57 had begun flight testing with its advanced new weaponry onboard. Hinting that the results of their work would be seen “in the imminent future,” Obnosov added that Su-57 test launches of new weapons developed by the Raduga and Vimpel design bureaus would start “soon.”

Vladimir Gutenov, Duma lawmaker in charge of a commission supporting the Russian defense industry, told Sputnik that while he could not independently confirm the Su-57s’ deployment to Syria, he “whole-heartedly welcomed” the reports. According to the lawmaker, the planes “need to be tested in combat conditions, in conditions of [enemy] resistance.” Furthermore, he said, the presence of the Su-57s will doubtlessly send a political message, serving as a deterrent “for aircraft from neighboring states which periodically fly into” the Middle Eastern country uninvited.

What Russian Experts Are Saying

Russian military experts have offered a myriad of possible reasons for the Su-57s’ deployment to Syria.

For instance, Andrei Frolov, editor-in-chief of Arms Export, a Russian military publication, told RBC that the deployment would help to advertise the planes, especially to the Indian market, in light of the joint Russian-Indian Sukhoi/HAL Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) program.

For one thing, he said, “Lockheed Martin is active on the Indian market. Furthermore, there are difficulties with India on the FGFA project. The public launch of the Su-57 last year and its deployment to Syria now is aimed at convincing the Indians that the FGFA is a real project, which has a prototype that not only flies, but is capable of operating in a warzone.”

For his part, Nikolai Antoshkin, Col-Gen (ret.) a veteran Soviet and Russian military pilot, commander and combat training specialist, explained that while the first squadron of production Su-57s would soon be deployed to the Lipetsk Combat Training Center, “fighters, like any other weapon, are tested mainly in combat. Therefore, sending the Su-57 to Syria is a natural solution.”Emphasizing that the Su-57 was an excellent tool which would “come in handy” in the event of any “provocations against our forces in Syria,” Antoshkin also commented on rumors circulating online about the US Air Force allegedly suspending its F-22 Raptor flights over Syria due to the appearance of the Russian planes in the country.

For one thing, Antoshkin recalled, the Su-57 is equipped with 3D thrust vector jets, as opposed to the F-22’s 2D thrust vector jets, meaning higher maneuverability for the Russian plane. “In addition, these engines allow our fighter to reach speeds up to Mach 2 without an afterburner. With its onboard Belka radar station, the Su-57 can detect ‘stealth’ aircraft, and track over 10 targets simultaneously. Add to this the plane’s excellent radio-electronic warfare module, which suppresses enemy missiles’ homing systems.”

As far as onboard weapons are concerned, the observer recalled that “the Su-57 has two large internal weapons compartments, taking up practically the entire useful length of the aircraft. Each compartment can carry up to four K-77M air-to-air missiles,” which have a range of nearly 200 km and serve as the rough equivalent to the US’s AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile.  

Ultimately, Antoshkin stressed that while deploying just two planes is not enough to provide Russia with an overwhelming military advantage in the Syrian theater, it would cause Russia’s potential adversaries to think twice: “I think it will give our geopolitical rivals an extra reason to ponder whether it is worth raising their hand against Russia,” the veteran air force officer concluded.

Hmeimim airbase in Syria
© Sputnik/ Ramil Sitdikov
Hmeimim airbase in Syria

Western Military Observers Respond

Wednesday’s photo and video evidence of the Su-57 fifth-gen stealth fighters flying around Hmeymim certainly got the Pentagon’s attention, with a DoD spokesperson complaining that the deployment was an indication that Russia was not living up to its “announced force drawdown.”

Many Western military observers were similarly critical, with Business Insider quoting experts who claimed that the deployment was a “cynical move” aimed at boosting Russian arms sales and gaining valuable intelligence on advanced US air power operating in the region.Popular Mechanics was somewhat more evenhanded, pointing out that the deployment will give the Russian military an opportunity to “learn a lot about how the jet works in less-than-ideal conditions, how good its sensors are at picking up targets in the air and on the ground, and how difficult it is to maintain the planes thousands of miles from Mother Russia.” However, that publication too offered its share of criticism, suggesting the Su-57s might stoke conflict with F-22s over US-controlled airspace in Syria, and would face the constant threat of mortar or drone attacks so long as they remain stationed in Hmeymim.

The National Interest’s Dave Majumdar did one better, actually speaking to a Russian military expert – Vasily Kashin of the Moscow-based Center for Comprehensive & International Studies. According to Kashin, the Su-57s’ deployment amounts to “testing in actual war,” something that would help prepare the planes for mass production.

As for Majumdar, as far as the analyst can tell, the deployment will likely help the Russian military gain valuable operational experience and performance data on the Su-57’s advanced avionics, including its active electronically scanned array radar and ELINT systems. Even “limited combat missions” are a possibility, he wrote.

A Latter-Day Al Capone? Corruption Charges Against Netanyahu Continue to Stack – By Darius Shahtahmasebi (MINTPRESS)

 Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem, Feb. 11, 2018. (Ronen Zvulun,AP)

Corruption charges against Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continue to stack, and as the noose tightens, the distractions grow.

TEL AVIV, ISRAEL (Analysis) — On February 13, Israeli police recommended that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu be indicted in two corruption cases on suspicion of accepting bribes, fraud, and breach of trust. Under Israeli law, prime ministers do not need to resign unless they have been convicted of a serious crime. However, as noted by the New Yorker, precedent suggests that prime ministers under indictment should not be able to serve — the rationale being that such a figure cannot properly lead a country while busy preparing a legal defense to a criminal charge.

Ironically, the case against the Israeli prime minister has nothing to do with the various crimes his administration is committing against the Palestinian people and the people of Syria and Lebanon, and the egregious violations of the UN Charter with respect to Iran. Merely threatening war against another nation is a breach of international law, yet Netanyahu continues this warmongering policy on multiple fronts, with little to no criticism from international or domestic media.

In fact, Israel’s current acts of aggression against sovereign nations in the Middle East are most likely undertaken primarily as distractions from his own domestic failures, even though they are more than worthy of separate investigations of their own. While the many in the media continue to turn a blind eye to the thousands of people who have taken to the streets on a routine basis to protest against Netanyahu, very few people seem remotely as concerned with the various internationally criminal actions he has been conducting for years, when compared to the public outrage over Netanyahu’s domestic charges of corruption and bribery.

 

The case against Netanyahu

Sarah Netanyahu watches her husband, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, light a cigar in the living room of their newly refurbished official residence in Jerusalem Sunday Sept 28 1997. (AP/Zoom 77)

After more than a year of investigation, Israeli police have said they believe there is sufficient evidence against the prime minister to indict him on suspicion of giving political favors in exchange for gifts worth almost $300,000, and of cutting a deal with a prominent Israeli newspaper for more favorable coverage.

According to The Washington Post, Israel’s attorney general, Avichai Mandelblit, must now decide whether or not to indict Netanyahu, a process that could take months.

The first case against Netanyahu is referred to as “Case 1000” and concerns allegations that Netanyahu received $280,000 worth of gifts from Israeli-born Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan, who worked on movies such as Fight Club and Pretty Woman, as well as from Australian businessman James Packer. According to leaked reports, these gifts included Cuban cigars, worth $5,000 a month, as well as jewelry and expensive “pink champagne” for Netanyahu’s wife. Packer, on the other hand, allegedly paid for trips for Netanyahu and his family, including stays at luxury hotels.


Read more by Darius Shahtahmasebi


According to the New Yorker, Netanyahu hasn’t actually denied receiving the gifts. What he has denied is what is termed in legal parlance as the mens rea of the offense; the element of deliberate intention. Netanyahu maintains that these gifts were not intended as bribes but instead were mere tokens of friendship. Even if that were the case, Israeli law prevents public representatives from receiving gifts that aren’t “of small value and reasonable in context.” While this is an ambiguous law for the attorney general to interpret, the fact remains that police officers reportedly found receipts in Milchan’s office for the purchase of cigars and other goods worth around $100,000 — arguably not “of small value.”

The alleged return for the lavish gifts was the promise that Netanyahu would lobby for a law that would extend the period in which Israelis returning to Israel, having lived overseas for 10 years, could enjoy a tax holiday. Yair Lapid — the head of the opposition party Yesh Atid, and Netanyahu’s arch-rival — has given evidence to the police investigation that Netanyahu had indeed lobbied him in pursuit of this legislative agenda. According to the New Yorker, at around the same time, Netanyahu also allegedly lobbied then Secretary of State John Kerry to extend Milchan’s visa in the U.S., as well as further helping him with investments in Israeli television.

 

The cases are piling up

Bezeq telecom's Shaul Elovitch at the magistrate court in Tel Aviv, Feb. 22, 2018. Elovitch is suspected of involvement in a scandal in which Netanyahu promoted regulation worth hundreds of millions of dollars in exchange for favorable coverage in the Bezeq owned Walla News. (AP/Ariel Schalit)

The second case, known as “Case 2000,” involves a deal made between Netanyahu and Arnon Mozes, publisher of the popular Israeli daily, Yedioth Ahronoth. The agreement supposedly allowed the prime minister to receive more favorable coverage from the Yedioth newspaper if he agreed to weaken its rival daily newspaper, Israel Hayom, owned by the powerful billionaire Sheldon Adelson.

Surprisingly, the far-right Adelson has actually been a pro-Israeli Netanyahu ally for some time, having funded the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), a pro-Israeli neoconservative think tank that has worked closely with the United Arab Emirates to target Iran. He also contributed heavily to Donald Trump’s successful presidential campaign, writing an opinion piece for The Washington Post that outright endorsed the reality-TV star as a future president.

By 2014, Adelson allegedly had lost as much as $200 million through his investment in Israel Hayom. Last year, Adelson reportedly told Israeli police that Netanyahu had attempted to convince him not to expand the newspaper, even after the outlet had attacked Netanyahu’s opponents.

In Case 2000, the evidence includes recorded conversations between Netanyahu and Mozes, which reportedly include Mozes offering to do “everything in his power” to help Netanyahu stay in power “for as long as [he] want[s].”

Beyond the damning effect of Cases 1000 and 2000, new allegations against Netanyahu are continuing to surface even as we speak.

According to The Washington Post, another investigation now referred to as “Case 3000” could potentially force Netanyahu out of power for good. As of yet, Netanyahu has not been named as a suspect, even as close members of his inner circle have been arrested and questioned in relation to a multi-billion dollar submarine deal with German contractor Thyssen Krupp.

The case centers around alleged interference in the Israeli Defense Ministry’s acquisition of these submarines and other vessels from Germany, which saw a businessman bribing Israeli government officials to become the negotiating agent for the German contractor. To date, Thyssen Krupp’s Israeli agent has cooperated with the investigation, as has Netanyahu’s cousin and personal lawyer, David Shimron, and his legal partner Yitzhak Molcho.

The Israeli leader’s wife, Sara Netanyahu, has also been facing a trial over alleged misuse of public funds amounting to some $100,000. She is accused, among other offenses, of using money set aside for the prime minister’s official residence for furniture and improvements in the pair’s private home. According to The New York Times, a further allegation against Netanyahu includes suspicion that one of Netanyahu’s aides, former spokesman Nir Hefetz, tried to bribe a judge to quash the criminal case involving Sara Netanyahu.

A separate case, dubbed “Case 4000,” alleges that Netanyahu – or one of his aides – traded lucrative regulatory approvals for favorable coverage on a news website owned by Bezeq, Israel’s biggest telecommunications network, which is valued at $2.9 billion. Channel 2 TV reported that Netanyahu received favorable coverage from the Walla news site, which is a Bezeq subsidiary, in exchange for regulations that earned its controlling shareholders hundreds of millions of shekels (for reference, one million shekels would be worth between $250,000 – $300,000).

The latter allegation could also potentially include charges of money-laundering, breach-of-trust and securities laws violations, as well as possible obstruction of the Securities Authority’s investigation into this particular matter. Netanyahu previously served as communications minister between 2014 to 2017, hardly a mere coincidence in the eyes of the Israeli police investigation.

Just this week, Shlomo Filber, a personal appointment of Netanyahu’s to head the Communications Ministry, along with top executives at Bezeq, were arrested in relation to this telecommunications case. Filber has already agreed to provide testimony. Altogether, at least seven Israelis have been arrested in connection with Case 4000.

Furthermore, not too long ago, an Indian billionaire visiting Israel was also compelled to give testimony to the police regarding further allegations of corruption involving Netanyahu. Reportedly, the police questioned him for two hours in relation to claims that the billionaire gave Netanyahu gifts valued at hundreds of thousands of shekels.

And the corruption charges continue to mount. Just recently, police commissioner Roni Alsheikh – a former Shin Bet operative – went on Israel’s most-watched news magazine show and announced that Netanyahu had told him at the time of his appointment that he would be promoted to head the Shin Bet if Netanyahu were to remain as prime minister. According to Alsheikh, this was a bid to secure his loyalty, even while the investigation had already commenced against Netanyahu.

In a not entirely unrelated matter, a left-wing Israeli think tank called Molad has just sued Yair Netanyahu as well. Yair is the prime minister’s 26-year-old son.

 

Netanyahu’s political future

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu holds a book during a Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations in Jerusalem, Feb. 21, 2018. (AP/Sebastian Scheiner)

Netanyahu has remained staunchly defiant in the face of all this mounting evidence. He has called the charges against him a “media witch hunt,” stating that the matter was “another baseless investigation under pressure from the media.” He also called the allegations against him “hallucinatory.” In Trump-style fashion, he has often denounced Israeli media’s detailing of the charges against him as “fake news.”

According to the Times of Israel, a recent poll by Israeli television network Channel 10 found that 66 percent of respondents thought Netanyahu should resign if police recommended bribery charges be brought against him. The Independent also noted that the scandal has drastically affected Netanyahu’s approval ratings at home.

The Los Angeles Times also outlined that three polls, taken in the 48 hours following the police announcement, indicated many Israelis believe the police evidence against Netanyahu and have not accepted Netanyahu’s cries of victimization. Thousands of people have marched against Netanyahu, demanding his resignation. These protests continue to garner little traction in Western media, even though the frequency of anti-corruption protests targeting Netanyahu have been quite staggering.

Aluf Benn, editor-in-chief of prominent Israeli outlet Haaretz, lamented that “with the police’s recommendations to indict Benjamin Netanyahu for bribery, the prime minister begins the countdown to the end of his political life.”

Benn predicts that those remaining politicians who continue to support Netanyahu will be committing a form of political suicide:

In the coming days, they will have to explain to the public why they still support a corrupt leader who preaches corruption in prime-time.”

 

The distraction

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, displays what he alleges is a remnant of an Iranian drone shot down over Israeli airspace at the Munich Security Conference in Germany. (Lennart Preiss/Reuters)

The media will do well to remember that after months of incessantly berating Donald Trump’s surprise presidency, Trump’s tomahawk strike on the Syrian government in April last year appeared to put him in good stead with the corporate media and, in turn, raised his standing in the eyes of the American public, albeit temporarily.

One may have noticed that in recent days, media stories regarding Israel have not necessarily been fixated on the charges against Netanyahu, but instead, the media circus has been inundated with stories about the broader geopolitical struggle in which Israel is currently embroiled.

Just days ago, at the Munich Security Conference, Netanyahu again turned to scapegoating Iran instead of dealing with his own domestic issues, speaking directly to Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in regard to an alleged Iranian drone that was downed by Israel in recent weeks.

“Do you recognize it? You should. It’s yours. Don’t test us,” he said to Zarif.

As well as constantly obsessing over Iran, Israel recently held a joint military drill with the U.S. that was specifically aimed at confronting Hezbollah in Lebanon. Last year, Israel held its largest military drill in 20 years, which again simulated a full-on invasion of Lebanon to counter Hezbollah. In recent days, Israel has launched a full-scale attack on Syria, claiming the aforementioned drone as justification for its assault on Syrian territory, even though in reality it is Israel that has violated Syria’s (and Lebanon’s) airspace over 100 times since the Syrian war broke out in 2011.

Even this week, Israel has launched bombing raids on the Gaza Strip, and continues its nonstop subjugation of the Palestinian people, the perfect scapegoat for improving Netanyahu’s domestic standing as he refuses to cower in the face of Palestinian “aggression.”  What was that “aggression?” A largely ineffective offensive made almost entirely of home-made devices — hardly a serious threat to a country that secretly maintains a stockpile of 200 nuclear weapons.

It is quite apparent that regardless of who retains Israel’s leadership post, Israel will continue its regional ambitions to confront Syria and Iran. What should concern us now, however, is that the more desperate Netanyahu becomes to keep media and public attention away from the specific allegations against his character, the greater his need to resort to something more drastic to completely turn eyes away from the allegations against him. In other words, while Israel and Iran are likely to remain enemies for years to come, Netanyahu is more likely to capitalize on this dire relationship now as a distraction from his failing presidency.

It is worth noting that the thousands of Israelis who have taken to the streets to protest Netanyahu are not protesting the detainment of a teenage girl who is being tried in a military court for defending her home; or the fact that Israel routinely bombs Syria in direct contravention of international law and may drag the country into a regional confrontation; or Netanyahu’s inhumane treatment of the Palestinian people for that matter.

It is, therefore, safe to say that in the eyes of Israel’s domestic population, the only crimes Netanyahu is guilty of committing are the ones that have drawn corruption and bribery charges. In that light, probably the only thing that can save his political career is an international distraction akin to what we are already seeing unfold before our very eyes.

Considering that Israel has launched numerous assaults on Syrian territory, and most recently has claimed to have hit an Iranian target on the ground in Syria for the first time, it seems increasingly likely that this may be only a small sample of what’s to come. If Netanyahu becomes even more desperate to avoid the embarrassment and political damage of an indictment, we may well see Israel launch further strikes at a known adversary, including Iranian-supported militia on the ground in Syria, under the guise of protecting Israel from Iranian hostility and aggression.

However, the real reason for an illegal assault on a sovereign nation in the Middle East, whether Syria or Lebanon — is a ploy to disguise the political failure of a corrupt, easily bribed, potential war criminal, who has apparently run his course as prime minister.

Top Photo | Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s office in Jerusalem, Feb. 11, 2018. (Ronen Zvulun/AP)

Darius Shahtahmasebi is a practicing attorney with an interest in human rights, international law, and journalism. He is a graduate of the University of Otago, where he obtained degrees in Law and Japanese. Follow him on Twitter at @TVsLeaking.

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

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Assad supporters celebrate in Afrin after pro-govt forces bolster Kurds (VIDEO) – By RT

 

Assad supporters celebrate in Afrin after pro-govt forces bolster Kurds (VIDEO)
Demonstrators waved Syrian flags in the central square of the Kurdish-dominated city of Afrin, as Damascus sent militias to reinforce locals in their resistance against the Turkish onslaught.

Amateur footage showed several dozen participants climbing on cars and monuments, while hoisting portraits of Syrian President Bashar Assad, as a larger crowd observed without joining in.

Government-allied units relieved the city, which continues to be under siege from Turkish and anti-Assad forces, at the beginning of the week.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who ordered the incursion into Syria, known as Operation Olive Branch, last month, warned that the incoming militias would

Russia deploys new warplanes at Hmeimim airbase – Video shows Russia’s 5th-gen jets in action over Syria – UPDATE – By RT (SOTT)

The Russian Aerospace Forces deployed warplanes at their Hmeimim airbase

The Russian Aerospace Forces deployed warplanes at their Hmeimim airbase

On February 21, the Russian Aerospace Forces deployed additional warplanes at their Hmeimim airbase near the Syrian coastal city of Jableh. According to Syrian pro-government sources, four Su-35 multi-role fighters and four Su-25 attack aircraft escorted by a Tu-154M plane arrived at the airbase.

An A-50U Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) plane was also deployed, according to the sources. The A-50U is equipped with a Vega Shmel-M radar. It can detect a launch of missile or a fighter jet in the range of 650km. The detection range for ground targets is 300km. The plane can remain in the air for more than 9 hours and has an ability to guide friendly fighters and track multiple enemy fighters on the same time. It can also detect ground targets and ships.

The sources suggested that the new warplanes will support the long-awaited military operation of Syrian Arab Army (SAA) in the Eastern Ghouta pocket. The deployment could also be linked to the current tensions between US-backed forces and the Syrian-Iranian-Russian alliance in the Euphrates Valley.

However, the newly deployed warplanes could be replacing other ones that have been serving in Hmeimim airbase for a long time, according to observers.

Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered to withdraw a large part of Russian forces from Syria during a visit to Hmeimim airbase on December 11, 2017. However, Putin noted back then that if terrorists gain an upper hand in Syria, Russia will carry out strikes that “they’ve never seen.”

The Ministry of Defense of Russia has not commented on the deployment of additional warplanes at Hmeimim airbase. This could mean that the warplanes were indeed deployed to replace other ones that had been withdrawn or are set to withdraw soon.

Comment: Amid a very recent dispatch of reinforcements to Syria, the Russian Aerospace Forces have brought with them a number of its latest 5th generation stealth air superiority fighters – the Su-57.

Along with the 5th generation stealth aircraft came another 8 warplanes including four Su-35S multi-role air superiority fighters and four Su-25 ground attack aircraft.

With the arrival of the Su-57s (and additional warplanes in general), it appears that Moscow is expecting major escalations in Syria during 2018 and – having been caught off-guard in the past – wants to be fully prepared for anything drastic situation that may arise.

Update: The Su-57 is a fifth generation fighter jet, the most advanced in the Russian air force. The video appears to capture its first combat drill.

America’s elite thinks it has a divine right to rule the world – By Bryan MacDonald (RT)

Bryan MacDonald
Bryan MacDonald is an Irish journalist based in Russia.
 
America’s elite thinks it has a divine right to rule the world
America’s ruling class has a curious attitude to democracy. It seems to be interpreted as something that’s good for the US and its allies but bad for critters who won’t accept their role in the ‘America-led international order.’

First off, let me be clear. I think all foreign electoral interference is wrong. In any country. And if it’s eventually proven that Russians meddled in America’s 2016 presidential election, I certainly won’t condone it. But I’ve have always doubted that the Russian state organized some heinous plan to tilt the contest to Donald Trump, so I’ll be shocked if something of this nature is ever proven.

Instead, I’ve always imagined the greatest extent of Russian ‘interference’ was probably some half-baked playing around by private individuals. Something akin to a “social media marketing campaign,” as the New Yorker’s Adrian Chan believes. And on a relatively minute scale, to boot. Because – given the billions of dollars swirling around American stumping – anything bar a full-scale FSB/GRU, all-hands-on-deck operation would probably amount to little more than a hill of beans.

By the same token, I was stunned back in 2011 when the Moscow Times (a pro-US title, overwhelmingly written by Westerners, despite its name) reported how ex-vice president Joe Biden had told fringe Russian opposition figures that “it would be better for Russia if Putin did not run” in the 2012 election. Indeed, when you see the opprobrium directed today towards US Green leader Jill Stein for once attending an RT banquet where Putin was present, its shows one hell of a double standard.

Distant View

Being relatively new to Russia in those days, and far from Moscow, it also seemed bizarre when then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called for a “full investigation” of alleged irregularities in 2011’s parliamentary elections. And, even more absurd, that she did it in front of Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, at an OSCE meeting attended by 56 countries. Indeed, it seemed like a teacher wagging her finger at an errant student in front of his classmates, and not how you’d interact with the emissary of a powerful country.

At the time, something interesting happened. Many of my then-relatively new Russian friends had expressed concern about the vote, and a good few supported calls for a fresh ballot. However, once Clinton stuck her oar in, their anger switched to the American; with the attitude quickly transforming into outrage at her arrogance in trying to tell Russians how to manage their internal affairs. Last night, I reminded one of them, Vova, and he said: “Yeah, what did she think? That we were one of those sh*tty little countries the Americans can just push around?” This morning, he emailed me joking, “You know very well, I am not a huge fan of Putin but as soon as Hillary started that nonsense, it smelled to me of the Yeltsin years. I’d rather eat rats than go through that again.”

And this brings us to 1996. Back then, Russia’s economy was in serious trouble. American-backed neoliberal economic reforms had reduced ordinary Russians to penury. And Washington turned a blind eye when Yeltsin essentially dismantled the country’s nascent democracy in 1993, going so far as to take over the parliament in a tank battle, killing 187 people. He also banned opposition parties and newspapers. Of course, somewhat amazingly, Yeltsin is remembered as a “democrat” in the West – which is actually code for “he defended American interests.”

Anyway, by the spring of 1996, Yeltsin was in serious bother. The Communist Party, which had combusted in 1991, was back in business, with its new leader, Gennady Zyuganov, well ahead in the polls. And at this point, Uncle Sam got busy, in events which have been widely  catalogued and even spawned a Hollywood movie, with the tagline  “electing a Russian president, the American way.”

As Thomas Graham, who served as the chief political analyst at the US embassy in Moscow at the time, has admitted, the Americans “thought it was imperative that Yeltsin win, or that someone like Yeltsin win in June of 1996, in order to continue the reform process.”

“This was a classic case of the ends justifying the means, and we did get the result that we wanted,” he added.

Hidden Plot

Furthermore, in case you think the diplomats were on a solo run, Strobe Talbott, the main “Russia hand” to Bill Clinton, has detailed the then-president’s words at the time. “I know the Russian people have to pick a president,” Clinton told his close advisor, “and I know that means we’ve got to stop short of giving a nominating speech for the guy. But we’ve got to go all the way in helping in every other respect.” 

As Jacobin’s Sean Guillory has outlined in a compelling piece (which I have used as a valuable reference here) on the interference, “The Americans (three consultants hired to assist Yeltsin) were sequestered in Moscow’s Presidential Hotel — the Yeltsin campaign headquarters — in a suite across the hall from the president’s daughter and campaign head, Tatyana Dyanchenko. They assisted in opinion polling; suggested a ‘dirty tricks’ campaign that would include planting ‘truth squads’ of hecklers to disrupt Zyuganov’s rallies; made Yeltsin’s ads slicker and his messages subtler; and urged him to travel around the country, stay on message, and connect with the Russian people.”

Guillory noted how “the Yeltsin campaign employ(ing) American consultants is hardly controversial.” But then pointed out that “the relay between Richard Dresner (one of the trio) and Clinton’s chief strategist Dick Morris, however, crossed the line. In his memoir ‘Behind the Oval Office,’ Morris notes that Dresner offered to keep him in the loop on the Russian presidential race. With Clinton’s approval, Morris received weekly opinion poll briefings that he would share with the president, who would in turn pass on recommendations to Dresner via Morris.

One can only imagine the outright hysteria if it were discovered today that a Trump advisor, especially one who advocated “dirty tricks” against Clinton, had been receiving suggestions from Vladimir Putin. But this is literally what happened in Russia.

Two years after the Americans had got the result they wanted, Russia defaulted on its debts and ordinary people had their meagre savings wiped out. This isn’t forgotten, and is widely blamed on pro-US ‘reformers’ such as Anatoly Chubais, once described by the the New York Times as “the most hated man in Russia.”

Double Standard

Even today, prominent Americans can’t shake their belief that US interference in Russia is legitimate, but any Russian responses are inadmissible.

For instance, just last weekend, Biden, who has admitted ordering Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to sack his prosecutor general, delivered an absurd speech in Munich. In Germany’s southern capital, he suggested sanctions and NATO pressure will make Russians look out of a “black hole.” He also declared that Russia’s leaders had an “illegal grip on power” – which is complete nonsense, no matter your opinion of the Kremlin.

But Barack Obama’s former sidekick didn’t even drop the most arrogant statement of the weekend. Instead, that dubious honor belonged to ex-CIA director James Woolsey, who admitted to Fox News that the US “probably” meddles in other countries elections.

The exchange was beyond parody.

Fox host Laura Ingraham: “Okay, but we don’t mess with other people’s elections right?”

Woolsey: “Well huehueyumyumyumyum… but only for a very good cause.”

At which point, the pair burst into laughter.

This topic might have been a joke for the CIA and Fox, but it’s not a laughing matter for victims of American intervention around the world. And US-establishment hysteria over alleged (and clearly minor and haphazard and perfunctory, if it existed at all) Russian meddlesomeness in 2016 betrays one key fact: America’s elite thinks it has a divine right to control the world and these guys are unable to adjust to the new reality where the US no longer enjoys the status of sole hegemon. And this makes the world a very dangerous place right now.

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

‘Americans leave behind scorched earth’: US refuses to clean up ‘carcinogenic’ waste at Azores base – By RT

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After housing an airbase on Portugal’s Atlantic island of Terceira for 75 years, the US is scaling down its presence. Locals demand it cleans up the toxic pollution scientists say is causing cancer – but Washington doesn’t agree.

“Both of my parents died of cancer. My mum of breast cancer and my dad with a different kind of cancer. When I was 33 I was diagnosed with breast cancer,” Madail Avila, one of 55,000 residents of the Azores’ second most-populous island, tells Ruptly. “It is a very big coincidence that there are so many cases of cancer within the same family and in the same geographical area as well, as all these cases are geographically located in the same area.”

Testimonies of Avila and other neighbors of the Lajes Airbase who spoke to Ruptly during the camera crew’s visit to the picturesque rocky island could be written off as unscientific anecdotes of resentful locals.

Unfortunately, they are backed up by studies conducted both by the Americans themselves and Portuguese researchers.

“What we have is a series of locations with extremely high levels of pollution caused by heavy metals, hydrocarbons or PCBs,” says Felix Rodrigues, professor of physics at the University of the Azores, and local politician. “In certain concentrations can cause sterility, cancer, arrhythmia… These materials get into the food chain and accumulate in bodies. We are facing poisons that are hidden under the carpet.”

As just one example, Rodrigues notes that 88,000 liters of fuel spillage has been recorded in the past decade alone, and says that the soil is 50 times more contaminated than environmental guidelines in leading Western countries.

Norberto Messias, professor of health at the University of the Azores, says that residents of the municipality adjacent to the base suffer several times higher rates of certain types of cancers, for example four times as many eye tumors as the rest of the Azores population.

“We don’t have different genetic material, we don’t have a different culture, we don’t have different eating habits, we are the same as every other Portuguese person. The only thing that differentiates us is the pollution of the Lajes base. My conviction is that there is a link,” says Messias, who is leading a study of the local population.

Hotels instead of compensation

Lying 4,000km east of New York, and 1,500km west of Lisbon, Terceira was the perfect refueling spot for Allied craft crossing the Atlantic during World War II. Lajes Field was officially opened in 1943, and was used by British and American forces.

After the formation of NATO in 1949, Lajes became a key US-controlled staging post and command center, for both airborne and naval units, and played a role in several live conflicts including the Yom Kippur war between Israel and Arab states in 1973, and the first Gulf War.

But the end of the Cold War and the development of in-air refueling have made Lajes expendable, and in January 2015, the Pentagon announced that the number of foreign personnel at the base would be reduced to 165, down from 3,000 at its peak decades earlier. Economists estimated that the move would reduce Terceira’s GDP by 6 percent, and lead to the emigration of 10,000 people from the island. The base itself now sits in a state of growing disuse, its runways deserted, living quarters fenced off but empty inside.

Yet the US knew that it was leaving more than economic upheaval after the planes took off. A 2003 internal report, which has been examined by Ruptly, noted at least 35 contaminated sites around the island, which have not been cleaned up.

Orlando Lima, a Portuguese support worker at the base, says that US personnel were also concerned about the impact of the base on personal health, and that on at least one occasion he witnessed a commission arriving at Lajes to investigate a health claim by one of its former staff, who said that he had contracted terminal cancer as a result of his service there.

Following the 2015 announcement, the Azores produced a revitalization plan for Terceira, which would see the US pay €167 million ($205 million) annually for 15 years to smooth the transition from its departure. Of that money, €100 million would be spent each year on tackling the environmental legacy.

So far, Washington has not budged.

When asked about the ongoing plight of Terceira by RT, US officials refused to comment directly, and pointed us to the results of a meeting of the Portugal-United States Standing Bilateral Commission (SBC) in December last year.

“The SBC was briefed on the current status of environmental issues on Terceira Island with regard to US activities at Lajes Field, including in regard to two priority sites (Main Gate and South Tank Farm). The United States and Portugal intend to monitor the issues and encourage the technical experts to reach a conclusion on how best to proceed,”reads the summary of its results.

Instead of compensation, American officials proposed increasing civilian flights from the US and “discussed ways to increase cross-Atlantic tourism and create market conditions to attract US hotels to enter the Azores market.”

‘Can I guarantee my children a good life here?’

Feeling betrayed by the Americans, and abandoned by their own government half an ocean away in Lisbon, Terceirans have started their own public campaign to encourage the Portuguese government to put more pressure on its NATO allies, or foot the bills itself.

“The problem exists, there is no doubt that it was caused by the American Air Force, namely the US, and there are also no doubts that they are the ones responsible and who need to pay for it,” says Marcos Fagundes, an active member of the campaign.

But Rodrigues has little faith that Washington – particularly under Donald Trump’s presidency, will pay up – and says that Terceira could be substituted for dozens of other spots on the globe, where abandoned American bases continue to blight the land.

“This is a hell that repeats itself on various islands that are occupied by the Americans. This is almost a scorched-earth policy, where the problems accumulate and the local government doesn’t react, the population has no capacity to take a stance,” he says.

Meanwhile for Avila, whose breast cancer is now in remission, whatever decision is taken is not a question of politics, but of survival – for both herself and her family.

“I want to raise my children in a place where I have a guarantee that I will be able to give them a good quality of life. And this is a doubt that I have. Am I doing the right thing for the future generation?”

Star Wars: Why US, Russia, China Make a Big Deal Out of Hitting Satellites – By Sputnik

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A country capable of destroying the adversary’s satellites would easily gain the upper hand in modern warfare, Sputnik contributor Andrei Kots notes; adding that at present only three countries can target orbital spacecraft. However, not one of them has developed a full-fledged operating anti-satellite defense system yet, he remarks.

Exactly ten years ago, on February 21, 2008, the US military first shot down a satellite using the RIM-161 Standard Missile 3 (SM-3) system, Sputnik contributor Andrei Kots writes, adding that the experimental strike brought modern warfare to a whole new level.

In December 2006, the US National Air and Space Intelligence Center (NASIC) launched spy satellite USA 193 from Vandenberg Air Force Base. It soon turned out that the spacecraft had problems maintaining orbit, and in 2007 the US Air Force warned that it could eventually fall to Earth.

Furthermore, according to US officials, the satellite could spill a half ton of toxic hydrazine fuel as a result of the crash. To tackle the problem the Bush administration kicked off operation “Burnt Frost”.

The USS Lake Erie (CG-70), a Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser, equipped with the Aegis combat information management system, was sent to the launch area. Previously, the warship’s company had managed to shoot down simulated ballistic missiles warheads with SM-3 interceptors. The USS Lake Erie reached the designated area and successfully hit the satellite, which was moving at a speed of 7.8 kilometers per second. The entire operation, from launch to the target’s destruction, took about three minutes, Kots wrote.However, some countries did not buy into the Hollywood-style Burnt Frost narrative, the journalist remarked. Moscow regarded the experiment as part of the US-NATO European missile defense project. For its part, China viewed the US operation as a response to Beijing’s downing of a disabled satellite at an altitude of about 800 kilometers using an SC-19 interceptor missile in January 2007.

“The United States and other space powers did not like that China conducted such tests,” Alexey Leonkov, a military analyst and editor at the “Arsenal of the Fatherland” magazine, told Sputnik. “Nevertheless, Beijing demonstrated that it could destroy targets of this type [satellites] at any altitude.”

Today, there are only three states capable of shooting down orbital satellites — Russia, China and the United States, however, not one of them has a full-fledged operating anti-satellite defense complex, Kots underscored, adding that the main aim of these systems is to disrupt the adversary’s communications in the event of war.

How Russian Anti-Satellite Weapons Differ From That of US, China

“American and Chinese interceptor missiles operate under a principle of kinetic strike — they destroy the target by colliding with it,” Leonkov explained. “Currently the Pentagon is improving its kinetic weapons and trying to teach them how to maneuver. In this case, they will be capable of correcting the missile’s mission after the launch.”

The military analyst specified that, for its part, Russia uses thermonuclear arms to destroy satellites.

“The advantage of this approach is that following the explosion in space the ionizing radiation and a number of other damaging factors disable not one satellite, but the whole grouping,” Leonkov explained, adding that the Pentagon strategy involves massive strikes by anti-satellite missiles, Russia’s military relies on isolated attacks by more powerful munitions.

However, the technical characteristics of Russia’s anti-satellite arms remain shrouded in secrecy, although the Russian military willingly shares information about new intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) tests with the press, Kots noted.During the Cold War era, the USSR developed several programs, the journalist recalled, adding that reportedly the Soviet designers created a space-based “destroyer of satellites” which could carry out an orbital maneuver approaching the target and hitting it using warheads with shrapnel elements.

As for modern and promising systems, limited information has previously emerged in the media about the anti-ballistic system A-235 PL-19 Nudol developed by JSC Concern VKO Almaz-Antey and the S-500 Prometey surface-to-air missile system, which could possibly target orbital satellites, Kots pointed out.

“The high effectiveness of [anti-satellite] weapons is not a secret for the military leaders of the world’s major powers,” Leonkov stressed. “It is hardly surprising that there is so little information about it in the media. The destruction of an adversary’s orbital group would deprive it of its satellite communications, the ability to conduct reconnaissance from outer space and use navigation systems. This is a colossal blow to the military fighting efficiency of a modern army.”

The military analyst explained that it is virtually impossible to use high-precision weapons without modern satellites, let alone aviation combat missions. Leonkov recalled that once the Americans were faced with a failure of the GPS navigation system in Iraq and were unable to use satellite maps in the area. They had to take paper maps to plan their operations, the analyst remarked, adding that in the event of war, such a hitch could prove fatal.  

The views and opinions expressed by the contributors do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

EU economic interests could lead to US being alone in pushing anti-Iranian agenda – – By SPUTNIK (SOTT)

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The US risks finding itself out in the cold if it continues to push its anti-Iranian agenda, Sputnik contributor Igor Gashkov writes. Calling upon its European allies to sever ties with the Islamic Republic, Washington has failed to take EU economic interests into consideration.

The Iran issue has deeply divided The United States and Europe: while Washington has declared Tehran a sponsor of terrorism, EU member-states continue to invest in the country’s economy, Sputnik contributor Igor Gashkov writes.

“There is an immense difference between Europeans and Americans on this issue,” Director of the Center for Middle Eastern and Central Asian Studies Semyon Bagdasarov told Sputnik. “A big contract was signed by Tehran and the French to modernize the [country’s] entire aviation fleet. Paris and Berlin are actively investing in the production of Iranian hydrocarbons. European business has great prospects in Iran, and new sanctions threaten to frustrate cooperation. The interests of the US and the EU are diametrically opposed to each other here.”

According to Gashkov, the United States is ready for a prolonged conflict with Iran. However, to thwart Tehran, Washington needs the EU’s assistance. Addressing NATO members and allies at the Munich Security Conference, US National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster emphasized the necessity to cut off funding for Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which was designated as a terrorist organization by the Treasury Department in October 2017.

“When you invest in Iran, you’re investing in the IRGC,” McMaster said, as quoted by Defense News. “And when we look at the biggest trading partners with Iran, we of course see Russia, we see China. But we also see Japan, South Korea and Germany. It’s time to focus business intelligence efforts to figure out who we are really doing business with, and cut off funding.”

Furthermore, Washington has repeatedly threatened to exit the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal, which was signed by Iran, the European Union and the P5+1 group of nations (the United States, Russia, China, France and the United Kingdom plus Germany) in July 2015 under the presidency of Barack Obama.

If the agreement is annulled and the sanctions regime against Tehran is resumed, the restrictions will deal a blow not only to the Middle Eastern economy, but also to European states’ business interests, Gashkov noted.

However, in contrast to its European allies, Washington has nothing to lose.

According to the journalist, in the Middle East the US relies on Israel and Saudi Arabia – Iran’s longstanding rivals.

At the Munich conference, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, while demonstrating what he claimed was part of an Iranian drone shot down by Israel earlier this month: “Do you recognize this? You should. It’s yours. You can take back with you a message to the tyrants of Tehran: Do not test Israel’s resolve.”

On February 10, Tel Aviv reported that it shot down an Iranian drone, which was followed by the Israeli Air Force (IAF) hitting several military targets in Syria. Once Israeli aircraft crossed the Syrian border, the country’s air defenses opened fire, according to Syria’s state-owned SANA news agency. As a result, an Israeli F-16 fighter was downed.

For his part, Iranian Prime Minister Zarif denounced Netanyahu’s remarks as a “cartoonish circus which does not even deserve the dignity of a response.”

In an exclusive interview with Sputnik, the Iranian foreign minister highlighted the importance of the JCPOA, stressing that “it’s clear that if the US decides to withdraw from the deal unilaterally or break the deal, it will isolate itself, becoming an outsider.”

Zarif underscored that European politicians oppose any revision of the Iran nuclear deal, adding that they “stand for preserving their own interests and agreements within the JCPOA.”

“The international community, except the Trump administration, Israel and two or three Middle Eastern countries, understands that the JCPOA is an international agreement and not a bilateral treaty between Iran and the US,” the Iranian foreign minister emphasized.

Speaking to Sputnik, Irina Fyodorova, a senior researcher at the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS), stressed that the termination of the Iran nuclear agreement would not be in the interest of the EU and Russia.

“Revocation of the nuclear deal poses a danger for the whole world, since it will make it impossible to reach an agreement with North Korea, which has its own nuclear program and problems similar to those of Iran,” she stressed. “And this does not correspond to the interests of either Russia or the EU. In addition, it is important for Europeans to return to the Iranian market, which is promising and growing, while the US is hindering this.”

On the other hand, the termination of the Iran nuclear deal is strategically disadvantageous for the US, the Russian academic noted, adding that therefore Trump’s stance has prompted fierce criticism on the part of the Democrats.

“Washington is now trying to restore its position in the Middle East, but the withdrawal from [the JCPOA] will hardly help [the US to reach this objective]. It will appear that the United States is incompetent: Under one president they conclude an agreement, and under the other they rip it up,” Fyodorova concluded.

Russia joins Damascus’ offensive on terrorist-held East Ghouta – pulverizes defenses with heavy air raids – By Andrew Illingworth -Al Masdar News (SOTT)

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The Russian air grouping in Syria has officially joined the Syrian Army’s looming East Ghouta offensive, backing up heavy raids conducted by government warplanes against militant position across the region on Monday with many of its own strikes.

Military-affiliated sources report that Russian airpower conducted heavy precision strikes across multiple rebel-held districts east of Damascus city targeting militant tactical positions, gatherings and movements.

As of the last reports two hours ago, Russian jets were still carrying-out raids over East Ghouta.

In particular, it is believed that the Russian combat aircraft have placed considerable emphasis on striking rebel fire support positions (such as anti-tank missile dug-outs and heavy machine gun nests) with precision weapons.

During the past couple of days, opposition sources have claimed that Russian warplanes raided East Ghouta, however all such reports are untrue and it is not until around midnight on Monday to Tuesday that Russian jets started to conduct strikes against militant targets throughout the region.

Comment: As usual, the U.S. is not pleased that Syria and Russia are obliterating terrorist forces in Syria, calling for an “immediate cessation” of the “regime’s” “violations”. In U.S.-speak, killing terrorists is a violation… of something. The U.S. will only ever be pleased if Syria gives up and subjects itself to the rule of fanatic terrorists. Thankfully, that’s not going to happen. Thanks to Russia.

 

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