Saudi-Led Coalition Ministers of Information Meeting Probes Ways to Block Critical Coverage of Yemen War – By Ahmed Abdulkareem (SOTT)

Saudi-Led Coalition Ministers of Information Meeting Probes Ways to Block Critical Coverage of Yemen War

Well-known Yemeni activist and journalist Rand Al-Adimi told MintPress that dozens of journalists and outlets have been blacklisted, adding that “the Saudi-led coalition blacklisted my name, adding it to a list of journalists who threaten their genocide.”

JEDDAH, SAUDI ARABIA — “That was the last time I saw Hashem,” recounted Mohammed Al Humran, a local Yemeni journalist, as he told MintPress how his 21-year-old son Hashem was killed in a double-tap airstrike while filming Saudi bombing raids in Dahian, north of Sadaa.

Hashem was one of the 180 journalists who have been killed in Yemen by Saudi-coalition forces, according to a report by the Union of Yemeni Journalists.

Since the U.S.-backed Saudi-led coalition’s war on Yemen began on March 26, 2015, journalists have been a preferred target, a fact that Saudi Arabia doesn’t shy away from acknowledging. Former coalition spokesman Brigadier General Ahmed Asiri said in a March 2015 press conference that opposition media outlets would be targeted by the coalition and just three weeks ago, at a press conference in Riyadh, the Saudi-led coalition’s spokesman reiterated Saudi Arabia’s willingness to target journalists. MintPress News journalist Ahmed AbdulKareem was injured by a Saudi airstrike in 2015 while covering clashes near the Yemen-Saudi Arabia border.

Although the coalition’s war in Yemen barely registers in the international mainstream news, the Saudi coalition and its allies have been desperate to curb negative coverage of the war, which the U.N. has called the world’s worst humanitarian disaster.  

Aside from a coalition-imposed moratorium on foreign journalists entering Yemen, a recent report by the Yemeni Media Union highlights a great deal of coalition activity aimed at controlling the narrative surrounding the unpopular war, including:five cases of cloning ‘tv’ channels, 22 cases of destruction of ‘media’ facilities, 30 cases of targeting radio and television broadcasting centers, seven cases of suspension from broadcasting on Arabsat and Nilesat, and seven cases of blocking and disturbing channels.”

Despite the coalition’s efforts, ongoing work by local journalists and attention from international human-rights organizations continues to draw the ire of coalition leadership, who recently held a meeting of the coalition’s Ministers of Information in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia to discuss strategies to curb what they see as a threat posed by local and international media.


Ministers of Information meeting in Jeddah

According to a source present in the meeting, officials named MintPress News, along with other media, as a threat to their ongoing military operation in the port of Hodeida and developed a number of strategies to stem the flow of information from the frontlines of war. The source, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation, went on to say:

They plan to target all media present on Yemen’s coast, especially in Hodeida, including local radio and broadcasting stations and transmission networks … they also plan to use radio transmissions broadcast from Saudi coalition battleships off of Yemen’s coast to broadcast propaganda and psychological warfare to residents and fighters.”  

One of the strategies discussed in the meeting was using intimidation tactics to “force residents of Hodeida and surrounding regions to flee until the area effectively turns into a military zone,” a source told MintPress. According to Abdul-Wahab al-Sharif, director of Yemen’s National Commission for Humanitarian Affairs, over 13,000 families have already been displaced since June 14 when the coalition began its putsch to seize control of Hodeida.

Moreover, the Saudi-led coalition plans to wield its considerable influence in the Middle East to push for further blocks of critical coverage of the war on NileSat and ArabSat, two of the largest satellite television providers in the region. The coalition has already been able to pressure regional providers to impose limited bans on the Lebanon-based Al-Manar and Al Mayadeen television channels over their coverage of the war and, according to the Union of Yemeni Journalists, have been able to shut down all local television broadcasts from inside of Yemen a total of seven times since the war began in 2015.


Taking the fight online

The coalition also intends to take its media blitz to the internet. During the meeting in Jeddah, plans were discussed to push for the blocking or removal of social-media pages and online activity of journalists covering the war. The social-media profiles of hundreds of Yemeni activists have already been blocked since the war began. Saudi Arabia and the UAE have a well-established history of shuttering access to social media platforms and banning the coverage of certain topics within in their own borders; and, according to Freedom House, “Saudi Arabia has one of the most censored media environments in the world.”

A source who attended the meeting in Jeddah told MintPress that “Saudi Arabia and the UAE also discussed plans to publish fabricated news stories claiming Houthi fighters mined the port and intentionally deployed their fighters to residential areas,” in a bid to justify the heavy civilian losses that have come as a result of their operation. Plans to increase pro-Saudi and UAE narratives using paid commenters and social-media users were also discussed.  Both countries have used paid online trolls to target known Yemeni activists and journalists in the past.


Blacklisting critical coverage

Journalists providing coverage of the war have also been subject to harassment by Saudi Arabia and the UAE, often being blacklisted or threatened if they refuse to curb their reporting.  A Yemeni journalist embedded with Houthi forces told MintPress on condition of anonymity that he received a strange phone call from someone claiming to be from the ‘Coalition Operations Room:’

I got a call days ago from an unidentified person who said he was from the Coalition Operations Room. He told me I should leave the Houthis and join the coalition; he promised me legitimacy and financial advantages and told me I would be targeted if I didn’t comply.”

Well-known Yemeni activist and journalist Rand Al-Adimi told MintPress that dozens of journalists and outlets have been blacklisted, adding that “the Saudi-led coalition blacklisted my name, adding it to a list of journalists who threaten their genocide.”  Al Adimi runs a website covering the coalition’s war on Yemen with a special focus on her home province of Taiz.

A source who was attending the meeting in Jeddah confirmed that the harassment campaign was one of the strategies discussed in the meeting.

Local journalist and fixer Hussein al Bukhaiti isn’t deterred by news of the coalition’s efforts to step up attacks on the media. In fact, he recently traveled deeper behind the frontlines of the battle for Hodeida, hoping to capture images and videos that provide evidence to counter Saudi-coalition claims.  He told MintPress,

The coalition Ministers of Information meeting will not affect Yemeni journalists and activists; what those ministers couldn’t do in past three years they can not do in the coming days. The meeting have actually made us more determined to fight back by all means and tools available.”  

Top Photo | Information Ministers from the Saudi-led coalition speak during a meeting probing ways to curb critical coverage of their war on Yemen in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. June 24, 2018. Ghazi Mahdi | AN

Ahmed AbdulKareem is a Yemeni journalist. He covers the war in Yemen for MintPress News as well as local Yemeni media.

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


In Part 1 of our investigative series on Surveillance Capitalism, MPN spoke to author Yasha Levine and Monthly Review editor John Bellamy Foster about the rise of the empire and its fusion with the U.S. state apparatus.

In our next installments, we will continue exploring the rise of Surveillance Capitalism and the implications of Amazon-fueled spying technology, both in the workplace and in U.S. city streets.

“Capitalism is a system that seeks to transgress all boundaries in its production and sale of commodities, commodifying everything in existence, which today, in the age of monopoly-finance capital and surveillance capitalism, means intruding into every aspect of existence,” John Bellamy Foster told MPN.

SEATTLE – This year may go down in history as a turning-point when the world finally woke up to the dark side of the ubiquitous presence of popular Silicon Valley companies in our daily lives. One can only hope so, at least.

From Amazon to Facebook, Apple, Google, Microsoft and PayPal – among others – revelations poured out confirming the ongoing abuse of user data by monopolistic corporations, as well as their growing role as vendors of surveillance technology to the U.S. police state, military, and migrant detention agencies.

In March, the lid was blown off of the violation of user data on Facebook, with Cambridge Analytica mining user information for the purpose of providing millions of detailed “psychological profiles” to the Trump campaign, among others. Scarcely two weeks later, the Google campus was in an uproar over the development of its “Project Maven,” which was building an AI-fueled platform to vastly upgrade the automatic targeting abilities of the U.S. military’s global drone fleet. Faced with public outrage and internal dissent, the company pulled out of bidding to renew its Pentagon contract, which ends next year.

Now, employees and shareholders of – the world’s largest online marketer and cloud-computing provider – are demanding that chief executive Jeff Bezos halt the sale of its facial recognition or Amazon Web Services (AWS) Rekognition service to law enforcement agencies across the U.S., including to the Department of Homeland Security – Immigration and Customs Enforcement (DHS-ICE).

“As ethically concerned Amazonians, we demand a choice in what we build, and a say in how it is used,” the letter said. “We learn from history, and we understand how IBM’s systems were employed in the 1940s to help Hitler.

“IBM did not take responsibility then, and by the time their role was understood, it was too late,” it continued, referring to collusion with the operation of Nazi extermination camps during the Second World War. “We will not let that happen again. The time to act is now.”

Unveiled in November 2016 as a part of the AWS cloud suite, Rekognition analyzes images and video footage to recognize objects while providing analytics to users. It also lets clients “identify people of interest against a collection of millions of faces in near real-time, enabling use cases such as timely and accurate crime prevention,” according to promotional material. Law enforcement agencies like the Washington County Sheriff’s Department pay as little as $6 to $12 a month for access to the platform, giving deputies the ability to scan its mugshot database against real-time footage.

Amazon employees cited a report from the ACLU that notes that AWS Rekognition “raises profound civil liberties and civil rights concerns” owing to its “capacity for abuse.” Its uses could include monitoring protest activity, as well as the possibility that ICE could employ the technology to continuously track immigrants and advance its “zero tolerance” policy of detaining migrant families and children at the U.S.-Mexico border.

In the letter distributed on email list “we-won’t-build-it,”  Amazon employees lay out their opposition to their employer’s collusion with the police and the DHS-ICE migrant-capture and mass-incarceration regime:

We don’t have to wait to find out how these technologies will be used. We already know that in the midst of historic militarization of police, renewed targeting of Black activists, and the growth of a federal deportation force currently engaged in human rights abuses — this will be another powerful tool for the surveillance state, and ultimately serve to harm the most marginalized.”

The furor surrounding AWS Rekognition is hardly a revelation to journalist Yasha Levine. Instead, as is the case with Google and other flagship firms’ work for Washington, it’s just another chapter in Silicon Valley’s long-time integration into the repressive state apparatus.

“This isn’t so much a big step to some ‘Surveillance Apocalypse,’ it’s just an indication of where we’ve been for a long time,” Levine told MintPress News.

Yet the Amazon workers’ outrage was likely provoked by recent headlines highlighting the Trump administration’s separation of Central American migrant families at the concentration camps along the Southern border — along with the key role Amazon plays for ICE’s data “ecosystem,” crucial to the operation of ICE’s immigrant enforcement, mass incarceration, and removal regime.

In their letter, Amazon’s employees decried the role the company plays in the platform Palantir provides for ICE:

We also know that Palantir runs on AWS. And we know that ICE relies on Palantir to power its detention and deportation programs. Along with much of the world we watched in horror recently as U.S. authorities tore children away from their parents. Since April 19, 2018 the Department of Homeland Security has sent nearly 2,000 children to mass detention centers … In the face of this immoral U.S. policy, and the U.S.’s increasingly inhumane treatment of refugees and immigrants beyond this specific policy, we are deeply concerned that Amazon is implicated, providing infrastructure and services that enable ICE and DHS.“

In 2014, ICE gave Palantir a $41 million contract for the Investigative Case Management (ICM) system, which expanded its capacity for data-sharing between the bureau and other agency databases including those of the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, among others. The contract allowed ICE to significantly boost its ability to capture and incarcerate unauthorized migrants based on the disparate data Palantir collated and hosted on Amazon Web Services’ servers.

Watch | Palantir 101

“What Amazon has simply done is allow everyone to lease that [Rekognition] capability the way that you would lease its web space, or have a pay-as-you-go plan with Amazon,” Levine commented.

In his new book, Surveillance Valley: The Hidden History of the Internet, Levine details the romance enjoyed between Big Data and the U.S. repressive state. In the introduction to his book, he notes :

From Amazon to eBay to Facebook — most of the Internet companies we use every day have also grown into powerful corporations that track and profile their users while pursuing partnerships and business relationships with major U.S. military and intelligence agencies. Some parts of these companies are so thoroughly intertwined with America’s security services that it is hard to tell where they end and the U.S. government begins.”


Having conquered retail and the internet, Amazon looks to the state and says “Forward”

President Barack Obama shakes hands with workers after speaking at the Amazon fulfillment center in Chattanooga, Tenn., July 30, 2013. Susan Walsh | AP

Conceived by founder Jeff Bezos as an “everything store” selling products from books to DVDs and music, Amazon has long been a scourge to the traditional brick-and-mortar marketplace, spending the late 1990s and the 2000s sweeping big and small booksellers alike into the ash-heap of retail history.

facto store for everything in America –  it’s shocking to think about how much we buy from it and how much money we give away to it,” Levine said, adding that the company’s power as a business “is kind of depressing.”

The company has also become the world’s premier internet hosting firm through its Amazon Web Services cloud computing platform. From 2006 on, AWS played a similar role to’s retail platform in regard to small-fry-displacing traditional corporate data centers and information technology (IT) professionals, providing a previously unimaginable level of centralization in terms of data storage and IT functionality at a low cost. For some time even Dropbox found shelter under the AWS cloud.

Watch | and Jeff Bezos In 1999

The company’s success as the world’s biggest retailer and cloud computing service was closely related to Amazon’s surveillance efforts directed not only toward consumers, but against its huge and heavily-exploited employee workforce. As Levine detailed in his book:

[Amazon] recorded people’s shopping habits, their movie preferences, the books they were interested in, how fast they read books on their Kindles, and the highlights and margin notes they made. It also monitored its warehouse workers, tracking their movements and timing their performance.

Amazon requires incredible processing power to run such a massive data business, a need that spawned a lucrative side business of renting out space on its massive servers to other companies.”

In the 2012 U.S. presidential election, AWS software provided nearly all aspects of then-incumbent President Barack Obama’s reelection campaign software and big-data analysis, ranging from web management to mailing-list management, data modeling, volunteer dispatching, voter-information database maintenance and “massive transaction processing” for donations.

Watch | Obama for America on AWS

By early 2013, a secretive deal awarded Amazon a 10-year, $600-million contract to provide cloud services to the Central Intelligence Agency and the 17 agencies comprising the intelligence community.

Langley’s contract with such a commercially-oriented company as Amazon, rather than rival bidder IBM, sent shockwaves through the tech industry, but the company boasted that it reflected the “superior technology platform” it could provide to the CIA along with its ability to deliver “the confidence and security assurance needed for mission-critical systems.”

Amazon’s platform will soon be the venue for a major intelligence project by the CIA dubbed “Mesa Verde,” which will see the agency’s AWS-built C2S cloud software deployed in multiple experiments meant to parse thousands of terabytes of data, including public web data, using natural language processing tools, sentiment analysis, and data visualization.

According to a Bloomberg Government report in May, AWS is the only private cloud platform granted clearance to store agency information marked “Secret.”


Amazon’s CIA partnership: Surveillance Capitalism in action

Rev. Paul Benz, center, and Shankar Narayan, legislative director of the ACLU of Washington, right, stand with others as they wait to deliver petitions at Amazon headquarters, June 18, 2018, in Seattle. Representatives of community-based organizations urged Amazon at a news conference to stop selling its face surveillance system, Rekognition, to the government. They later delivered the petitions to Amazon. Elaine Thompson | AP

Amazon’s partnership with Langley is just another case of surveillance capitalism in action, according to sociology professor and author John Bellamy Foster, the editor of the venerable independent socialist journal Monthly Review.

Speaking to MintPress News, Foster explained:

Amazon now seems to be landing one contract after another with the military and intelligence sectors in the United States … [The CIA cloud] is built on the premises of a private corporation, a kind of ‘walled castle’ for intelligence [spy] agency communication separate from the rest of the Internet, but principally operated by a for-profit corporation. Amazon also has a $1 billion contract with the Security and Exchange Commission, works with NASA, the Food and Drug Administration and other government agencies.”

In a 2014 essay for Monthly Review, Foster and Robert W. McChesney introduced the term surveillance capitalism in reference to the process of finance capital monetizing data extracted through surveillance operations performed in collusion with the state apparatus. The two trace the political-economic roots of the the data-driven Information Age from the early stages of the military-industrial complex to the 1950s fusion of consumer capitalism – corporations, ad agencies, and media – with the permanent warfare state, eventually leading to the birth of satellite technology, the internet, and the domination of a handful of monopolist tech firms during the present era of neoliberal globalization.

From the tech sector’s role in police-state operations to the expansion of “Smart” technology like Amazon’s Alexa into our homes, the use of drones and AI for keeping tabs on the entire population, and the manipulation of Facebook user data by the Trump campaign’s partnership with Cambridge Analytica, Foster is unequivocal in his judgment of surveillance capitalism’s metastasizing growth and its omniscient role in our daily lives:

The implications for the future are staggering.”

Not everyone shares Foster’s pessimistic perspective. To former CIA cybersecurity researcher John Pirc, the agency contract with Amazon represented the removal of a “clouded judgment”-based stigma over cloud computing security. Speaking to The Atlantic, Pirc commented:

You hear so many people on the fence about cloud, and then to see the CIA gobble it up and do something so highly disruptive, it’s kind of cool.”


Holy Disruption and the “Gale Force of Creative Destruction”

Creation, epiphany, genesis, prophecy, rapture, sacrifice, wrath; such sacred words pepper the Old and New Testaments and still carry divine significance for the faithful. Beloved by clergy and revered by the flock, such consecrated terms hardly apply to Apple’s bitten-fruit logo or Alexa’s profanely secular robotic voice.

But in today’s cult of high technology and the internet — where entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg have been elevated to the level of prophets or pharaohs, and start-ups are evangelized at TED Talks as the panacea to problems ranging from physical fitness to refugee crises — a new ecclesiastical lexicon is used. Central to this pseudo-religion of Big Data is the phrase disruption, an oft-invoked term signifying the replacement of old markets and business models by new technological innovations.

As Silicon Valley pioneer, computer scientist, and critic Jaron Lanier noted in his 2013 book Who Owns the Future?:

The terminology of ‘disruption’ has been granted an almost sacred status in tech business circles … To disrupt is the most celebrated achievement. In Silicon Valley, one is always hearing that this or that industry is ripe for disruption. We kid ourselves, pretending that disruption requires creativity. It doesn’t. It’s always the same story.”

For Lanier – a fervent defender of capitalism —  the D-word is misused to convey the liberating potential of new technology, when in fact the reign of big tech firms has led to a shrunken market dominated by “a small number of spying operations in omniscient positions.” Thus the digital landscape has become the fiefdom of monopoly firms who exercise an iron grip on competitors and Big Data’s primary commodities – internet users and their data.

To Foster, this process is little more than neoliberalism – the prevailing capitalist ideology dictating the unimpeded control over all aspects of public life by finance capital and the market. Foster notes that neoliberal orthodoxy is rooted in the concept of creative destruction, the concept from which the “disruption” buzzword is derived.

Creative destruction was introduced in 1942 by Austrian-American economist Joseph Schumpeter to describe a process of constant change under capitalism, whereby emerging entrepreneurs act as “innovation powerhouses” through a “perennial gale of creative destruction” that disorganizes and displaces competition, reshapes global markets, and paves the way to an emergence of new monopolies such as, for example, Silicon Valley’s leading firms.

Watch | Greenspan on Schumpeter’s “Creative Destruction”

“One of the key components of neoliberal ideology has been the opening up of the system to the unrestricted growth of monopolistic corporations and monopoly power,” Foster said to MintPress News, adding:

The neoliberal age has thus seen one of the greatest periods of growth of monopoly power, particularly in the cyber or digital realm, in all of history. If you take Google, Amazon, and Facebook, none of them even existed 25 years ago, and Facebook didn’t exist 15 years ago. Amazon had a 51 percent increase in market capitalization between 2016 and 2017 alone. These are giant monopolistic enterprises.”

Continuing, Foster explained:

In general, capitalism is a system that seeks to transgress all boundaries in its production and sale of commodities, commodifying everything in existence — which today, in the age of monopoly-finance capital and surveillance capitalism, means intruding into every aspect of existence as a means of manipulating not only the physical world, but also the minds and lives of everyone within it. It is this that constitutes the heart of surveillance capitalism.

But this same system of monopoly-finance capital has as its counterpart a growing centralization of power and wealth, increasing monopoly control, expanding militarism and imperialism, and an expansion of police power. It is what the political theorist Sheldon Wolin called ‘inverted totalitarianism,’ the growth of totalizing control of the population, and the destruction of human freedom under the mask of an ideology of individualism.”

As Amazon now approaches its 25-year anniversary, Foster notes, it’s become “a vast cultural (or anti-cultural) commodity empire” – and its wnership of The Washington Post has made clear the monopoly firm’s fusion with the state apparatus of U.S. imperialism.


Amazon clutches the “Newspaper of Record,” or “Democracy Dies in Darkness”

The front page of the Washington Post is displayed outside the Newseum in Washington, , 2013, a day after it was announced that founder Jeff Bezos bought the Washington Post for $250 million. Evan Vucci | AP

Since Jeff Bezos bought The Washington Post in 2013 for $250 million, the leading newspaper of the U.S. capital has stood at the ramparts of Fortress Amazon. Beyond any elite squadron of lobbyists or contracts with the Homeland Security or National Security State, the newspaper’s influential role shaping public and policymaker opinion gives Jeff Bezos and his fellow Amazon executives unparalleled access to the halls of imperial power.

“Of course it’s a problem when a powerful, monopolistic business like this with a very controlling owner is in the media business as well,” Yasha Levine commented, adding:

Let’s be honest, Amazon is a major CIA contractor now, and now this major contractor owns one of the most important newspapers in the country – which also happens to report on the CIA and national security issues.”

Since President Donald Trump came to power last January, “Amazon Washington Post” has been the target of the former reality-TV star’s ire as a top example of “fake news media.” While many of Trump’s attacks on the Post have been his standard Twitter outbursts against legitimate journalistic scrutiny, the newspaper once celebrated for publishing the groundbreaking 1971 Pentagon Papers is now both a bully pulpit for the president’s detractors in the Beltway liberal “resistance” and a mouthpiece of an aggressively neoliberal wing of the U.S. establishment.

“The Washington Post was always a liberal-capitalist paper, an arbiter of capitalist ideology and a defender of U.S. empire, [but] it has now become, as part of the Bezos empire, something worse,” Foster observed.

Scarcely a day passes without the Post publishing a torrent of stories seeking to expose “Russian interference” favoring Trump through social media or “fake news.” Citing the “experts” in “nonpartisan” media criticism group PropOrNot, the Post has smeared MintPress News and publications like Black Agenda Report, CounterPunch, and Truthout as propaganda platforms tied to the Kremlin without citing so much as a shred of evidence. Through its de facto blacklist, the group has also attempted to tie disparate independent media organizations to hard-right and white-supremacist outlets like Alex Jones’ Infowars and neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer.

Watch | WaPo refuses to add disclosure about $600M CIA contract

The Washington Post has generally waged what amounts to an ideological war on basic progressive causes, Foster explained:

It recently ran an article describing the ‘far left’ as those who believed in single-payer health insurance or protecting national parks, as if even these traditional left-liberal causes were now far outside the range of acceptable political discourse — a stance clearly designed to ratchet the political discourse further to the right. Bezos and Amazon are simply symbols of this social retrogression, as is the current autocrat in the White House.”

To Levine, the trend – like the ownership of muckraking news website The Intercept by billionaire Silicon Valley entrepreneur and eBay co-founder Pierre Omidyar — goes beyond the Post alone. Levine commented:

It’s a larger issue of Silicon Valley coming into its own, and businesses built on top of the internet dominating business; and if you dominate business, you dominate society and news media coverage – that’s just the way things work.”

Foster agrees, and minces no words depicting the danger Amazon’s growing power in U.S. society represents:

Democracy can be judged in various ways, but no definition of democracy – no matter how specious – is consistent with a society in which such vast class and monopoly power exist, and where the infrastructure of genuine democracy (education, communications, science, culture, public discourse, means of public protest) is demolished.

For this and other reasons, U.S. society and much of the capitalist world is shifting from neo-liberalism to something better described as neo-fascism.”

In our next installments, we will continue exploring the rise of Surveillance Capitalism and the implications of Amazon-fueled spying technology, both in the workplace and in U.S. city streets.

Top Image |  Elliott Gabriel | MintPress News

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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Arctic stronghold: Might of Russia’s Northern Fleet shown in anniversary video – By RT


Arctic stronghold: Might of Russia’s Northern Fleet shown in anniversary video
The Northern Fleet, which is arguably the most powerful Russian naval force, is celebrating 285 years of operations. Its anniversary video shows state-of-the-art vessels and unique installations in the Russian Arctic region.

Established back in 1733, the Northern Fleet comprises some of Russia’s most remarkable military hardware, with 41 submarines, 37 surface vessels and ground troops making it a “cross-branch strategic force”, as the Russian Defense Ministry puts it in a Twitter post. Its anniversary video shows various military exercises staged by the Northern Fleet forces, including submarines firing cruise and ballistic missiles, Tu-95 strategic bombers flying training sorties and military divers holding underwater firing drills.

The flagship of the fleet is a nuclear-powered battlecruiser the ‘Pyotr Velikiy,’ one of the biggest nuclear-propelled ships in the world. The ‘Admiral Kuznetsov,’ Russia’s only serving aircraft carrier, which took part in the fight against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) terrorists in Syria in 2016, is also part of the Northern Fleet.

The naval force also has some of Russia’s most advanced nuclear-powered multipurpose submarines equipped with cruise and ballistic missiles. Two state-of-the-art submarines – a Yasen-M class vessel the Severodvinsk, carrying as many as 32 Onyx and Kalibr supersonic cruise missiles, and a Borei-class submarine the Yury Dolgorukiy, equipped with 16 Bulava nuclear ballistic missiles – are already in service in the fleet, while another Yasen-M class submarine, the Kazan, is currently undergoing sea trials.

The strategic force, which is particularly tasked with “defending Russia’s national interests in the Arctic,” also controls some unique military bases within the Polar circle. Of particular interest is Russia’s northernmost military base, called Arctic Shamrock.

The unique base is the world’s only permanent infrastructure facility built in the area located 80 degrees of latitude north of the Equator. The autonomous complex, which occupies an area of 14,000 square meters, allows up to 150 people to live and work there for as long as 18 months without any external support.

The Russian infrastructure in the Polar region is “unmatched” by any other country, the country’s Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said, in December 2017.

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The Politics of the Salisbury Farce – By Matthew JAMISON (Strategic Cultural Foundation)

The Politics of the Salisbury Farce
Matthew JAMISON | 01.06.2018 | WORLD / Europe

The English seem to have very short memories indeed. At the moment most of the English population, mainly male, are getting very excited and whipped up into a frenzy over their favoured sport – football – with the impending World Cup. As ever with the England football team there is always a great nationalistic burst of pride and joy from the English for their football team, not a United Kingdom or even British football team – just England – on the eve of the World Cup. It happens all the time. The media get every English person excited at the prospect of a great glorious victory and then the mediocre, if that, England football team go out and play pathetically and end up returning home very quickly with their tail tucked firmly between their legs. If I recall correctly the last time that England made it anywhere near the finals was sometime in the 1960s. Because the reality is that the English national football team just like their domestic security service MI5 and their current Theresa May Government, are in reality rubbish.

Yet this is very curious. It was only weeks ago that that the May MI5 and prime minister Theresa May where trashing Russia, the Russian peopleRussian moneyRussian citizens living in Londonthe Russian Government and Russian President, and whipping up and leading the most horrendously racist, xenophobic, nasty campaign of anti-Russian propaganda and smears – just on the eve of the World Cup in Russia and upon President Vladimir Putin’s brilliant achievement of winning a fourth term in office in service of his great people, something which even Margaret Thatcher had wanted to achieve but had been denied by her very own Party. This time, on this subject, the English have gone too far and cannot be allowed to have their cake and eat it as with Brexit. They and their domestic security service MI5 and Theresa May’s Government have turned Britain into a complete laughing stock in the eyes of the world and destroyed whatever credibility the British had left after the circus of the EU referendum campaign.

Mrs. May and her MI5 jump around and flip flop perhaps more so than the abysmal, miserable excuse for an American President called Donald Trump. Both the pathetic disastrous Trump administration and the equally feckless May administration have something in common. There has been a tremendous amount of leaking of State secrets and confidential information on an industrial scale, so much so that neither the American Government nor the British Government can keep a secret any more. This situation is completely intolerable for any functioning Government and State. The British domestic security service MI5 on the orders of Theresa May the prime minister and the now defunct Home Secretary Amber Rudd were responsible for the Salisbury farce. It is indeed quite an ironic coincidence given that it happened in Salisbury having hosted the Marquis of Salisbury some years ago and then also having worked with the current MP for Salisbury John Glen MP.

Remember Sergei and Yulia Skripal being poisoned with the deadly nerve agent Novichok? What was all that really about Mrs. May? Theresa May stated on March 12th:

“Mr. Speaker I set out that Mr. Skripal and his daughter where poisoned with Novichok, a military grade nerve agent developed by Russia. Based on this capability and their record of conducting state sponsored assassinations… the UK Government concluded that Russia was highly likely responsible for this reckless and despicable act.” Note no evidence, hard concrete evidence presented just assertions from the mouth of the arch flip flopper Theresa May.

Then Mrs. May went further. Not content with falsely and deliberately smearing the Russian State of carrying out the so-called Salisbury poisoning, presenting no hard evidence, the prime minister went on the anti-Russian rampage and expelled Russian diplomats from the Russian Embassy in London. Mrs. May began a tour round the country bashing everything Russian, constantly trashing the Russian people’s reputation, badly needed Russian investment in London and the bankrupt dilapidated UK, introducing sanctions against Russian investment, branding Russian money ‘dirty’, whipping up her MI5 into the most ridiculous, offensive and frankly disgusting anti-Russian English circus act and then the most egregious act of all.

Rather than simply leaving it at the bi-lateral level in the full knowledge that the Salisbury farce was staged managed and produced by Theresa May’s MI5 – May had the brass neck, arrogance and two faced cowardice [which I am afraid to say is a hallmark of her MI5] and the stupidity to take it to another extremely dangerous and reckless level entirely with a push at the EU Council Summit in March for a full blown anti-Russian global campaign with mass global expulsions of Russian diplomats throughout North America, the EU and around the world and the attempted fashioning of a broader anti-Russian campaign of interference to destabilise the Russian State. Mrs. May also banned all Government Ministers of the United Kingdom and all members of the British Royal Family from attending the World Cup which was a spiteful, vindictive and totally unnecessary counterproductive move designed only to inflame anti-Russian prejudice among the very anti-Russian English MI5 populace and indeed sadly some in the elites as well. We had our Foreign Secretary label President Putin a name which I will not repeat in the same sentence as a great heroic leader like President Putin.

That was deeply offensive and revolting. I doubt this was paid much attention to in the Kremlin when compared to a brilliant strategic resilient and visionary leader like President Putin who has successfully restored his country to greatness, Boris Johnson pales in comparison. We had our Chancellor state that despite the generosity of Russian citizens the Tory Party would be keeping the almost £1 million and had no intention of returning it despite telling the rest of the country how ‘dirty’ Russian money is. There is no such thing as ‘dirty’ money though some of the English get very particular about money but do not mind in the least taking other people’s money, wasting other people’s money while wasting the givers time and souring the relationship between paying customer and business. It has also seemed to escape some in the Cabinet and Government and population at large that Britain is bankrupt and will depend heavily on international investment and international finance going forward to keep itself afloat in a highly competitive, interconnected and globalised world economy where a great deal of global economic growth this century will be coming from the East.

From start to finish the whole Salisbury farce stank of one of Mrs. May’s false flags gone badly wrong. Her MI5 had us all believe that Lee Rigby was killed. There is the issue regarding the death of Jo Cox. The Westminster Bridge terror attack. The Manchester bombing. The London Bridge attack. Parsons Green. And then the Salisbury farce. If you are going to lie Mrs. May to the nation and then to the world at least get the story straight from start to finish. First, if MI5 is such a great amazing world class security service how on earth did MI5 allow Novichok, one of the most deadly of deadly chemical nerve agents to get into Britain, get on British soil, get transported all the way to Salisbury? Are MI5 really that incompetent and rubbish? Surely if you have high ranking Russian defectors under your protection you would have all kinds of special security systems and protections in place all ready to anticipate and prevent such an attack?

And if not, why not? If so, what happened with MI5’s much vaunted all seeing, all hearing, all knowing monitoring and surveillance capabilities? Where they switched off for some reason? Where they not working properly that day? Where the MI5 ‘oscars’ drunk as per usual on the job? If we are to take what Mrs. May told us at face value then once again this raises serious questions about how effective, efficient, competent, professional, intelligent and fit for purpose MI5 really are from the so-called leadership of Parker and the Home Secretary and PM at the top and the Chairman of the JIC to the ‘helpers’ at the bottom.

Then let us again take Mrs. May’s script at face value. First somehow this deadly chemical nerve agent after being transported into the UK and driven all the way down to Salisbury was administered in Zizzi restaurant. Then it became the Mill pub. Then it was Yulia’s car. Then it became the door handle. And I think there were a few other alterations as well but quite frankly there really is not much point in trying to keep track because it was so totally inconsistent to be unbelievable. Totally unbelievable. Then there is the large elephant in the room of scientific and medical facts that just will not disappear. If Novichok had really been used on a door handle or a car or in a restaurant or a pub, there would have been hundreds if not thousands dead already. In fact, no one died and no one has been hurt. Everyone from the police man to Yulia to Sergei all made miraculously, totally miraculous recoveries. Yulia was up and dancing and singing and able to discharge herself from the hospital. Where she is now and how she is, is anybody’s guess? Her father Sergei is also doing very well and has made a full speedy recovery and is out and about. And the police man is also up and about and singing and dancing. The creator of Novichok told the world that death was most likely from being infected with Novichok and if death could be prevented then in all likelihood the victims would be vegetables the rest of their lives and need around the clock assistance. What wonder drug do they have in Salisbury that the rest of the world has been unable to produce yet? Then there was the confession from the Chief Executive of Porton Down that they were unable to verify that the Novichok came from Russia. Then there was unfortunately the very biased OPCW investigation conducted under the most bizarre of rules.

The fact is, to clear the air before the beginning of the historic and fantastic impending World Cup in Russia, I think it would be best and appropriate for Theresa May to apologise to the Russian Government, President Putin and the Russian people. May will never have the backbone and courage to admit in the National Interest that it was she and her appalling former Home Secretary Rudd and co. Along with some of their more crazed Clinton-Obama CIA friends who cooked up the whole plot to undermine Russia before the World Cup and damage also Jeremy Corbyn and any hope of detente between the United States and Russia. Jeremy Corbyn who has been doing an outstanding job as Leader of the Labour Party and Her Majesty’s Official Opposition under very difficult circumstances deserves enormous praise and credit for being the only major British political public figure and Leader to call this nonsense out for what it was. Jeremy Corbyn called it right and should receive the full backing of his Parliamentary Party instead of constantly being undermined and sniped at by the likes of Barry Sherman.

So perhaps either a new Leader could do so or May might just state that she got the whole matter wrong. Either way it would greatly help improve UK-Russia relations and the wider Western-Russo relationship to lift the ban on the British Royal Family attending and also send some high ranking Government Ministers to make peace and offer an olive branch in the spirit of reducing global tensions and enhancing international peace, stability and security. After all, as Mrs. Thatcher said: ‘There is a great strand of equity and fairness in the British people. This is our national characteristic.’ I can think of no better way to demonstrate to the world and international community than to admit somehow Theresa May got it wrong and the English and British in their entirety are big enough to admit when they are wrong and have wrongly slandered another great nation.

Tags: UK 

Forget WW3: What We Just Saw Happen In Syria Is The Extent Of Western Power – By Niall Bradley (

dancing airstrike damascus

© FB / Rosa Guimarães
Photo of Damascenes dancing this morning following the Syrian military’s successful repulsion of an attempted Western bombardment

It’s a sad day for the US, Britain, France and Israel. Their proxy terror war in Syria is lost, and this latest maneuver was a desperate attempt to save face.

‘Shock-and-awe’, it most certainly was not, but it was nevertheless illegal and reckless. The US, UK and France jointly produced a ‘show of force‘ in Syria last night after a tense week in which Western threats of bombing Syria as ‘punishment’ for its government’s alleged use of chemical weapons against civilians in Douma left many wondering how Russia would respond, and whether that would spark off ‘WW3’.

This time around, the declared mission was to “take out Assad’s chemical research infrastructure,” a military strike that amounted to 103 cruise missiles – almost twice as many as the 59 the US fired at Shayrat airbase almost exactly one year ago – targeting mostly empty buildings and airfields on the outskirts of Damascus and Aleppo. Among the targets, however, were also alleged “chemical weapons sites in areas around Damascus and Aleppo”. Forgive me for nitpicking, but doesn’t that mean that FUKUS (France, UK, US) used missiles to explode chemical weapons sites in residential areas in Syria in order to make sure that Assad cannot use those chemical weapons against civilians, for example, by exploding them in residential areas?

Anyway, Syrian media is reporting that just three people were injured. Russia claims that it did not even bother to activate its own anti-aircraft/missile systems in Tartus and Latakia, although they did mention that, since 2016, they have been upgrading and modernizing older Syrian systems.

Highlighting the limited extent of US capability in the region, Defense Secretary Mattis announced today that this operation was a “one time shot.” The Syrian and Iranian governments of course condemned this as a “barbaric” and “criminal” violation of Syria’s sovereignty that would only embolden the remaining terrorists there – which it will – while Putin described it as “an aggression against a sovereign state which is at the forefront of the fight against terrorism.

The British government stated that its airstrikes were carried out by four Royal Air Force Tornado GR4s, which launched ‘Storm Shadow’ missiles at a former missile base 15 miles west of the city of Homs. Why did they target that site? Because, they said, the Syrian government keeps a stockpile of chemical weapons “precursors” there, which could of course be any multiple-purpose chemicals. Another of the destroyed targets was a ‘scientific research center’ outside Damascus, a facility that housed civilian educational and scientific laboratories. Anything, it would seem, that could be associated with ‘chemicals’ was fair game.

The Western Coalition of the Dubious is hyping up the operation as a successful show of force. France released videos of the jets’ takeoff, and the UK released video of their jets’ prep work. They all insist Assad’s guilt is “beyond doubt” (Macron), that the attack was “right and legal” (May).

The fact that last night’s airstrikes occurred just hours before OPCW (Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons) investigators were due to arrive at the scene of the alleged chemical weapons attack in Douma, near Damascus, also speaks to the West’s desperation. Rather than wait to hear news from those inspectors that would likely indicate or prove that no such chemical attack had occurred there last week, the Americans, French and British raced to ‘spend’ their ‘justification’ for military action before the cheque bounced. The investigators have now reached Damascus, and if they’re allowed to actually do their work properly, they will discover what their organization certified four years ago: the Syrian government has neither ‘stockpiles’ nor ‘production facilities’ of chemical weapons.

The Russian Ministry of Defense says that 71 of these missiles were shot down by Syrian anti-missile defenses. The Russian MoD also made a point of stating that the Syrian anti-missile defenses used (S-120, S-200, BuK) were “Cold War era“. All in all, the ‘precision’ attack on three ‘chemical weapons’ facilities was a farce. Syrians were dancing on the streets of Damascus this morning, even as their city’s air defence systems launched missiles to meet one of Trump’s shiny, “smart” Tomahawks:

This round of airstrikes now marks two successive incidents in the space of one year in which a contrived ‘chemical attack’ false-flag event in Syria has sparked howling in the Western media about ‘chemical weapons’, Trump and other Western leaders promising hell to pay, and NATO forces subsequently launching what amounts to token airstrikes.

Like last year, both Russia and Syria were informed of the airstrikes – although not the exact targets – in advance. This time, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Joseph Dunford, said that the US did not “do any coordination with the Russians on the strikes, nor did we pre-notify them,” while also stating that the Pentagon “specifically identified targets” to “mitigate the risk of Russian forces being involved.” To whatever extent ‘deconfliction’ took place, the message was implicitly communicated by the West’s limited choice and scope of military action.

Echoing George W Bush’s premature statement about the Iraq invasion in 2003, Trump declared ‘Mission Accomplished!’, praised the “perfectly executed strike” and thanked the UK for its “wisdom and the power of their fine military.” A perfect counter to such bluff and bluster, and the impotency of the West’s airstrikes, was a video posted on President Assad’s Twitter account of him nonchalantly going to work this morning, as usual:

This video shows a successful intercept of one of Trump’s “smart” missiles:

Not so smart then.

In his televised speech announcing the airstrikes, Trump twice referred to WW1. I find it fitting that the US president’s speech-writers should frame this flaccid attack in the context of the ‘Great War’. Chemical weapons, though first used to deadly effect in that war by the German military, were substantially used by the British and French forces. Porton Down was established at that time, first as a testing facility, and remains today a major center for the production of chemical weapons. While its chemical weapons facilities in and around Salisbury are officially limited to the production of ‘non-lethal’ chemical weapons like ‘tear gas’, it is no coincidence that canisters of smoke bombs marked ‘Made in Salisbury, England’ were among the arsenals of weapons discovered by Syrian forces as they cleared terrorist enclaves in Ghouta last month.

canister salisbury ghouta syria

© Sputnik
‘Made in Salisbury, England’ – Canister found in the possession of terrorists in Ghouta last month.

But the larger point concerning WW1 as a frame of reference for this American-British-French assault on Syria is the fact that that war marked the beginning of those three countries’ domination of the Middle East – along with the bastard child they initially birthed during that war: Israel. As part of the primary goal of destroying German military and trade competitiveness with Anglo-American-French ‘management’ of the world, the Western Order was keen to cut off German and Russian ‘incursion’ into the oil-rich Middle East. And so they rallied the Arabs to rise up against Ottoman rule, then betrayed them mercilessly by carving the region into ‘protectorates’ we today call Syria, Iraq, Turkey, Jordan, etc. They have been playing one Middle Eastern country against another ever since. But now there’s a new sheriff in town, and this one plays fair: Russia has brought order to the region, heralding the end of the West’s domination there.

Trump concluded in his pre-bombing speech:

“What kind of a nation wants to be associated with the mass murderer of innocent men, women and children? The nations of the world can be judged by the friends they keep. No nation can succeed, in the long run, by promoting rogue states, brutal tyrants, and murderous dictators.”

Wise words. Now if only the US establishment would apply them to itself.

The farce we witnessed in Syria last night is why this is not a ‘nuclear Armageddon’ scenario. Russia and the US (including all other parties in Syria) are conducting a dance of sorts there. Sure, it’s dangerous, and yes, it’s serious – people get killed after all – but the situation is nowhere near as literally existential for life on Earth as they make it out to be.

The bottom line for the US, UK and France is that they need to be SEEN to be powerful. Weapons manufacturers depend on it; their reputation as ‘leaders of the free World’ depends on it; and, most critically, petrodollar hegemony depends on it. The bottom line for Russia is, apparently, that it is content to cater to that need provided it is limited to just that – a DISPLAY of power.

Some are wondering why the Russians “didn’t do anything to stop this.” If the interception success rate was as good as claimed by the Russian MoD (and there is no reason to believe it wasn’t), then this points to the Russians having successfully upgraded those systems since arriving in Syria three years ago. In addition, the Russian MoD has in the past claimed that it has advisors and military personnel are embedded throughout Syria’s military infrastructure, and that all of Syria’s military activity is centrally coordinated from the Russian base in Latakia. And so, in effect, Russia ‘pretended’ that Syria alone defended itself from the Western powers.

There will be no regime change in Syria. There will be no ‘hot war’ between the US and Russia. The Western Alliance arguably lost this back in August 2013 when the first fake ‘Ghouta chemical weapons attack’ failed to galvanize sufficient confidence for ‘shock-and-awe’ in Syria. In the meantime, the Syrian government has become impenetrable to ‘decapitation from the air’, and Russia has acquired the might to neutralize the West’s doctrine of ‘might makes right’.

And the rest, as they say, is propaganda.


Niall Bradley (Profile)

Niall Bradley has a background in political science and media consulting, and has been an editor and contributing writer at for 8 years. His articles are cross-posted on his personal blog, Niall is co-host of the ‘Behind the Headlines’ radio show on the Sott Radio Network and co-authored Manufactured Terror: The Boston Marathon Bombings, Sandy Hook, Aurora Shooting and Other False-Flag Terror Attacks with Joe Quinn.

Syrian Air Defenses Conduct Live Exercise in Preparation of US Attack – Reports – By Sputnik



© AFP 2018 / Nazeer al-Khatib

Middle East

21:07 13.04.2018(updated 21:23 13.04.2018) Get short URL

Suliman Mulhem

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An alleged chemical attack on the city of Douma prompted threats of military intervention against the Syrian Army and other branches of Syria’s armed forces by US President Donald Trump, who warned that President Bashar al-Assad will pay a “heavy price.”

Syrian military monitor and analyst Wael al-Hassani reported on Friday evening that the Syrian Air Defense Force (SyADF) carried out “live air defense exercises” today, citing his informed military sources.

The monitor told Sputnik reporter and columnist Suliman Mulhem that he couldn’t provide any further information on the drills, which are being held in preparation of an attack by the US or a military coalition it assembles to concertedly strike Syria.

Syrian Defense Capabilities

Syrian air defenses are able to down air-to-surface missiles (ASMs) fired by warplanes – as they demonstrated during Israel’s recent attack on the T-4 airbase – and cruise missiles fired by warships, such as the tomahawk cruise missiles which can be launched from the USS Donald Cook Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, which has reportedly sailed closer to Syria in recent days.

© AP Photo / Ariel Schalit, file

US Reportedly Confirms Israel Informed It About Strike on Syrian T-4 Base

Additionally, Syria has utilized Russian surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) to down two warplanes – a Turkish F-4 Phantom reconnaissance jet and an Israeli F-16 – throughout the ongoing conflict, and reportedly possesses advanced anti-ship missiles.

Syrian air defenses have been on high alert ever since Trump made the threats against Damascus via Twitter.

READ MORE: Iran Vows to Stand With Damascus Against US and Israeli ‘Foreign Aggression’

Russia has stepped up arms shipments to Syria since the escalation with Trump began, and an observer situated near the Bosporus Strait reported that a Russian tank landing ship (LST) crossed the strait on April 13 en route to Tartus, loaded with an unknown number of BTR-80 amphibious armored personnel carriers (APCs) and GAZ Tigr combat vehicles.

Although these armaments have no air defense capabilities, they may well be used by Syrian troops to defend against militants who are likely to attempt to capitalize on foreign military intervention by launching a series of ground offensives.

It’s unclear if the military hardware will be handed over to Syrian government forces or will be operated by Russian servicemen to defend and bolster security at their bases in the Arab state.

Alleged Chemical Attack in Douma

Last weekend, reports emerged of a chemical attack in the Syrian city of Douma in Damascus killing dozens of locals.

© Sputnik / Evgeny Biyatov

WATCH Top Russian General Predict Douma Provocation a Month in Advance

The suspected chlorine attack was quickly blamed on Syrian government forces, despite there being no implicating evidence or motive for President Assad to sanction such an attack, given the string of victories his forces have achieved on numerous fronts in the past 12 months.

Damascus has denied all allegations of using chemical weapons and has vowed to defend itself in the face of any military aggression by the West. Meanwhile, the Russian Ministry of Defense said it found no evidence of chemical weapons being used in Douma and has called on Trump to exercise caution.

READ MORE: Greece Won’t Participate in Possible Military Op in Syria — Reports

Common Sense or Crying Havoc? Int’l Community Reacts to Looming US Op in Syria – By Sputnik

USS Donald Cook

A child runs along a street in front of clouds of smoke billowing following a reported air strike on Douma, the main town of Syria's rebel enclave of Eastern Ghouta

If the cabinet supports May’s proposals then she may have sufficient political strength to bypass the British Parliament and order an imminent military strike without the consent of lawmakers.For this purpose, Royal Navy submarines have been deployed in striking range of Syrian Army positions, according to The Telegraph.

Bypassing the Parliament, however, is a risky move for the embattled Conservative prime minister, whose party has lost its clear majority in the legislature in the 2017 elections.

READ MORE: Not in My Name, Theresa May: Social Media Users Oppose UK Strikes in Syria

As a result, during her telephone call with Trump, May reportedly stated that she required more evidence of Assad’s culpability for the strike, therefore leaving herself a certain amount of wiggle room.

France: Globalist President up for Colonial Adventure

A somewhat less expected participant in the looming strike is France, owing to the country’s previous resistance to being dragged into the Iraq War, where no weapons of mass destruction were found, despite claims by the US government.

Nevertheless, France has been steadily increasing its military presence abroad, conducting numerous operations in its former colonies in Africa and the Middle East.The new French president, Emmanuel Macron, has decided to follow in the footsteps of his predecessors by agreeing with Trump to conduct a joint operation against the Syrian government.

“Regimes that think they can do everything they want, including the worst things that violate international law, cannot be allowed to act,” he said in a TV interview.

It seems that Macron even managed to overcome May in his eagerness to join the Americans, as he claimed that France actually has evidence against the Syrian government to “take a decision in due course.”

“We have proof that last week chemical weapons, at least chlorine, were used by the regime of Bashar al-Assad,” he said without giving details.

Macron’s readiness to use military force against Syria may be explained by the desire to boost his dwindling approval ratings, which have fallen by some 12 points over the past couple of weeks.

READ MORE: Macron Claims to Have Proof of Chemical Weapons Use by Syrian Government

According to Le Figaro, the French military has already submitted plans for the Syrian operation to Macron, confirming the willingness of the French president to intervene in yet another former protectorate.

Germany and China: Voices of Reason

Despite the increasingly militaristic stance of the French government, the EU remains fragmented over the various aspects of the Syrian crisis.

This time, the major dissenting voice was Germany, whose chancellor, Angela Merkel, refused to participate in the US strike.

READ MORE: Germany Will Not Join Bombing Campaign in Syria — Chancellor Merkel

Although Merkel expressed limited formal support to the Western actions against Assad, stating, “It is important to show unity on Syria,” she deprived the US and Britain of comprehensive EU support for the operation.

“Germany will not take part in possible military action — I want to make clear again that there are no decisions — but we see, and support this, that everything is being done to send a signal that this use of chemical weapons is not acceptable,” she said Thursday.

Berlin’s stance reflects a compromise between the need to stay nominally in line with the actions of its major allies and unwillingness to escalate the already complex crisis.Another major opponent of the West’s rushed decision to intervene in Syria is China, which has reasonably taken a cautious approach to the alleged Douma incident.

Speaking to the media, Foreign Ministry Spokesman Geng Shuang reiterated that China “opposes any use of chemical weapons by any country or individual under any pretext,” branding such actions as “unacceptable.” 

At the same time, Geng Shuang expressed China’s support of the OPCW’s fact-finding mission, which is yet to reach the site of the alleged attack.

“Concerning the recent incident in Syria, we are calling for a comprehensive, impartial and fair investigation,” he said.

The spokesman also called upon all participants of the conflict to show restraint until the investigation is complete.

“We also hope that all the parties will demonstrate a constructive approach and promote a solution of the issue via consultations, as well as stimulate efforts toward a political solution to the Syrian crisis,” he added.

Iran: Regional Powerhouse Vows Resistance

The strongest reaction to US military intervention in the Middle East came from Iran, which has aided the Syrian government from the start of the conflict.

Speaking to IRNA on Sunday, a spokesman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry, Bahram Qasemi, said that the reports of the alleged gas attack “do not match facts” and are nothing more than “an excuse” for the US and its allies to forcefully intervene in Syria.

READ MORE: Iran Vows to Stand With Damascus Against US and Israeli ‘Foreign Aggression’

“Such claims and allegations by the Americans and some Western countries point to a new plot against the Syrian government and people, and are an excuse to take military action against them,” he said.

Speaking to IRIB, a state-owned broadcaster, Ali Velayati, the senior foreign policy adviser to Iran’s supreme leader, was even more vocal in criticising the Western actions and vowed that Iran would “stand by Syria’s government” if the US and its allies attack.

“We will stand by Syria’s government against any foreign aggression… Iran backs Syria in its fight against America and the Zionist regime [Israel],” he said.

Tehran remains a major player in the region, offering extensive support to the Syrian government and acting as a counterbalance to the increasingly expansionist Western actions in the region.

Russian Military to Get Several New S-400 Air Defense System Regiments – By Sputnik

The S-400 regiment deployed. File photo

© Sputnik/ Sergei Malgavko
Military & Intelligence

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MOSCOW (Sputnik) – Three new regiments of S-400 Triumf air defense systems will enter operational service of the Russian Aerospace Forces in 2018, Russian Aerospace Forces Commander Col. Gen. Sergei Surovikin said Sunday.

“Modern S-400 Triumf, S-300 Favorit air defense systems, Pantsir-S anti-aircraft missile and gun systems are operational in anti-aircraft missile troops of the Russian Air Force. In 2017 only, four anti-aircraft missile regiments were re-equipped with S-400 Triumf. Another three S-400 will enter service of the Russian Aerospace Forces in 2018,” Surovikin told reporters.

He added that a total of five anti-aircraft missile regiments equipped with S-400 systems were maintaining air defense of Moscow and Russia’s central industrial district.

“The task of air defense of Moscow and the central industrial district of the country is assigned to the air and missile defense special operations unit of the Russian Aerospace Forces… At present, five anti-aircraft missile regiments, equipped with the latest S-400 Triumf air defense systems, are maintaining air defense of the area within this unit,” Surovikin said.

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© Sputnik/ Grigoriy Sisoev
S-400 Triumf anti-aircraft weapon systems during combat duty drills of the surface to air-misile regiment in the Moscow Region.

The S-400 Triumph is Russia’s next-generation mobile surface-to-air missile system and can carry three different types of missiles capable of destroying aerial targets at a short-to-extremely-long range. The weapon is designed to track and destroy various types of aerial targets, from reconnaissance aircraft to ballistic missiles.

The S-400 Triumf Mobile Multiple Anti-Aircraft Missile System (AAMS)
© Sputnik/
The S-400 Triumf Mobile Multiple Anti-Aircraft Missile System (AAMS)

Russian Exodus from the West – by Peter Koenig for the Saker blog


by Peter Koenig for the Saker blog

By now the West – the US, Canada, Australia and the super-puppets of Europe, overall more than 25 countries – has expelled more than 130 Russian diplomats. All as punishment for Russia’s alleged nerve gas poisoning of a former Russian / MI6 double-agent, Sergei Skripal (66) and his daughter Yulia (33), who was visiting her father from Moscow. Sergei Skripal lived in the UK for the last seven years, ever since President Putin lifted his prison sentence in 2010 in a spy swap with the UK. The pair, father and daughter, was discovered on 4 March slumped on a park bench in Salisbury, England, not far from Sergei’s home. Apparently traces of the same nerve agent were found at the Skripal home’s door.

Russia in the meantime has started in a tit-for-tat move expelling western diplomats – in a first round 60, plus closing the US Consulate in St. Petersburg. According to Mr. Lavrov, more will most likely follow. – There will be an exodus and a counter-exodus of diplomats, west-east and east-west. It looks like a Kindergarten at play – but is of course a blatant provocation by the west on Russia and a continuation of the vilification of President Putin – especially after he has just been reelected with an overwhelming majority of over 76%. It’s a provocation with zero substance, to further justify an escalating NATO aggression against Russia. The war-bells are ringing – for a lie, an abject farce, visible to a child. Only the blind, those puppets, because out of fear or out of stupidity, who do not want to see – are supporting this new US instigated, UK executed drive against Russia.

The nerve gas, called Novichok, had been produced by the Soviet Union in the 1970s, but was subsequently banned and destroyed under international supervision. The ‘inventor’ of Novichok lives apparently in the US. Mr. Putin said, if the military-grade Novichok would have been used, the only form the USSR ever produced, there would have been no survivors.

What hardly anybody talks about is that the secretive UK Defense (War) Ministry’s laboratory of Porton Down, is but 13 km away from where father and daughter were allegedly found unconscious on a park bench. Porton Down is a highly sophisticated chemical and biological weapons lab that entertains contracts with the Pentagon of more than US$ 70 million for carrying out “experiments”, including on humans and animals. Porton Down has the capacity to produce Novichok. See the full story on Porton Down, by Bulgarian investigative journalist, Dilyana Gaytandzhieva – .

At this point there is no prove – other than what the police reported – that Sergei and Yulia Skripal were found on that dubious park bench. There are no civil witnesses. The UK government does not disclose where the two are treated, what their current health status is. Only on the repeated insistence of Mr. Lavrov that according to an agreement between the UK and Russia (the USSR) in the 1960s, both countries have the right to inquire and investigate about the wellbeing of their respective citizens, an official statement today from the UK said that Yulia is doing better and is on her way to recovery, while her father is still in critical but stable conditions (The Guardian, 29 March 2018). Is it true? – What if one or both recover and have enough memory of the events to go public?

What if the two have indeed been poisoned at Sergei’s home, or abducted and brought to the Porton Down laboratory to be infected with the nerve gas and then later dumped to the park bench? Why does the UK not disclose any ‘evidence’ they apparently have against Russia? – No details of where the two are being treated? – No visits allowed. Russia’s offer to collaborate in the investigation is laughed off and refused. Is this a well-orchestrated MI6 / CIA false flag, followed by outrageous lambasting by the UK’s highest leadership against Russia and her newly re-elected President Putin?

This criminal propaganda event is so full of lies, false accusations and deceit, pulling along more than 25 (so far) western nations to condemn and sanction Russia in unison for something Russia has with absolute certainty not committed. Just apply logic – a tough challenge, I know, these days for the dumb-folded west – but logic would tell a child that there is no sense, absolutely no sense, for Russia to carry out such an evil act. So, the usual question is: cui bono – who benefits? – And the answer is also crystal clear: Profiting from this sham are the war-mongering US / NATO and their miserable vassal-allies – spineless for years – following lies, their governments are fully aware of the lies, of the untruth Russia is accused of.

Let’s take this a step further. Diplomatic relations between the west and Russia have totally fallen apart. The doors are closed. Russia doesn’t need the west. But the west, especially Europe, badly needs and will every day more need Russia, a close ally and trading partner for hundreds of years. The west, eventually abandoned and every day more enslaved by Washington with weaponized refugees, with false flag terror attacks, leading to increased militarization, to oppression and censorship, privatization of public goods and infrastructure – Greece is but an example – and strangulation by Wall Street private banking and troika (IMF, European Central Bank, European Commission) imposed debt, the west will beg Russia to open her doors and show them their kindness – the kindness and openness Russia has been demonstrating to the west over the past almost 20 years, despite flagrant western abuse and demonization no end.

The western Anglo-Zionist-led empire will collapse. It’s a mere question of time but collapse it will. Today, not only a few, but all western “leaders” (sic) know that they are committing suicide by teaming up with destructive Washington – and this against the will of the majority of the European people. – Yet, they push a long this path of auto-destruction. Why? – Have they been personally threatened, or else lavishly rewarded if they follow the dictate of deep state-led White House and Pentagon?

The day may come when the west will knock desperately at Russia’s door – please talk to us, we need you. But this may happen only if they have not let themselves be pulled into the abyss of annihilation by Washington. Their stupidity may just do that – another few lies, accusing Russia of crimes against humanity she didn’t commit and prompting a war, an all-destructive nuclear war. The pretext could be another false flag Syrian sarin attack on “her own people”, wrongly blaming Bashar al-Assad; or a missile landing in Israel, blaming Iran with the same no-proof propaganda fervor applied by the UK in the Sergei and Yulia Skripal case; or North Korea – in the course of negotiations between Trump and Kim Jong-un next month (April), the US / west launches a false flag missile, for example, from Guam, that lands in Japan, destroying infrastructure and killing people, blaming it immediately on DPRK, without any evidence whatsoever, but with a rigorous campaign UK-style, to the point that nobody dares to contradict the obvious lie.

What if the current UK virulent and violent Russia slandering campaign is but a dry-run for much worse to come? – By now the mental state of western society is at the level of Hitler’s Propaganda Minister, Goebbels’, statement – “Let me control the media, and I will turn any Nation into a herd of Pigs”. Yes, that’s what the west has become, a herd of pigs.

Peter Koenig is an economist and geopolitical analyst. He is also a water resources and environmental specialist. He worked for over 30 years with the World Bank and the World Health Organization around the world in the fields of environment and water. He lectures at universities in the US, Europe and South America. He writes regularly for Global Research; ICH; RT; Sputnik; PressTV; The 21st Century; TeleSUR; The Vineyard of The Saker Blog; and other internet sites. He is the author of Implosion – An Economic Thriller about War, Environmental Destruction and Corporate Greed – fiction based on facts and on 30 years of World Bank experience around the globe. He is also a co-author of The World Order and Revolution! – Essays from the Resistance.

Maria Zakharova: West is Launching an All-Out Anti-Russian Campaign – Published by The Saker

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