Washington, D.C. – The epicenter of psychopathic crazy – By Justin Raimondo ( AntiWar.com) (SOTT)

psychopathy poster

© SOTT

A study shows that the greatest concentration of psychopaths is in Washington, DC. This is a contest in which it isn’t even close, as Politico informs us. But then again, you knew that, right?

Ryan Murphy, an economist at Southern Methodist University,

“matched up the ‘constellation of disinhibition, boldness and meanness’ that marks psychopathy with a previously existing map of the states’ predominant personality traits, he found that dense, coastal areas scored highest by far – with Washington dominant among them. ‘The District of Columbia is measured to be far more psychopathic than any individual state in the country,’ Murphy writes in the paper.”

That explains an awful lot, now doesn’t it?

Surely this “disinhibition” business explains the willingness of someone like Samantha Power, the destroyer of Libya, to denounce the President’s Korean peace initiative: apparently, we have a “responsibility to protect” virtually everyone on earth, but there is no responsibility to prevent a nuclear exchange on the Korean peninsula. And as for meanness, well there are plenty of examples to choose from, notably the Trump administration’s cooperation with the Saudi-Emirati invasion of Yemen. (That this may be ending is something that, as far as I can see, only Antiwar.com has reported in any noticeable way.)

Speaking of Korea, both North and South are ignoring the nearly universal disdain with which the US media is treating the summit and its results, and they are going ahead with more confidence-building measures. In a couple of weeks when the separation of families is in our headlines, in Korea families that have been separated since the Korean war broke out are being reunited:

“North and South Korea agreed on Friday to allow families who were separated during the Korean War to meet in August – the first such reunions since 2015. Each side will choose 100 people to meet at the scenic Mount Kumgang resort in North Korea from August 20 to 26, according to a statement released by the South Korean Unification Ministry.

“Many families have been split across the border with little to no contact since the war ended with an armistice in 1953.

“South Korean government figures from May showed 132,124 citizens had registered since 1988 to be included in a lottery for reunion visits. More than 75,000 have since died and 60 percent are aged 80 or older.”

Oh but American “liberals” don’t care about those separated families, because [something-something] Trump [something-something]. Besides which, there are no virtue-signaling opportunities inherent in the plight of the Koreans.

While you’re unlikely to hear much about the fast-moving Korean peace initiative in the Western media – it redounds to Trump’s credit, and is therefore not worth reporting or even commenting on – you can always come here, to this space, for your hit of the good news coming out of the country formerly known as the Hermit Kingdom. The latest evidence for my view that Kim Jong-un is going whole-hog and is not only making peace with the West but is also pulling a Gorbachev is coming out in the North Korean media:

“For decades, the US was a ‘rotten, diseased, pirate nation’ in the eyes of North Korea’s propagandists. Then almost overnight the hate stopped. Following a landmark summit between Pyongyang and Washington on June 12, anti-US vitriol has disappeared from state media reports – a development that some analysts see as preparing North Koreans for a new era in relations between the two longtime adversaries. ‘The anti-American slant is just gone. North Korea appears to be preparing people for a new beginning,’ said Peter Ward, an expert at Seoul National University who studies the North’s propaganda.”

After demonizing all things American for decades, the North Korean propaganda machine is making a 180-degree turnaround. If they were just making an adjustment to their foreign policy by making peace with the West, and abandoning their nuclear program, such a radical reorientation would be unnecessary. But this, combined with their ditching of the “military first” doctrine and the adoption of liberalized economic measures, augurs a new era for North Korea. Trump’s suggestion that the North Koreans could have some great condos overlooking their pristine beaches may not be that far in the future.

This is good news for sane people all over the world, and very bad news for the anti-Trump fanatics who pollute the political landscape with their hate-filled screeds and wacko conspiracy theories. Yes, if you are one of these lost souls, it must be very disappointing to read the following:

“Once filled with visceral anti-American screeds, the pages of Rodong Sinmun, the state’s main newspaper, have not featured a direct attack on Mr. Trump since March, when diplomacy on the Korean peninsula began picking up pace. The most recent mildly negative reference was on May 20 and since then critical comments had been dropped altogether, Mr. Ward said.”

Pyongyang has quit #TheResistance! Oh well, they’ll just have to make do with Canada.

If you thought hating on our President has reached its peak, you ain’t seen nothing yet! Just wait until the Trump-Putin summit comes to town! Oh, he’s giving away the store! He’s colluding! It’s “Red Dawn, Revisited”! I can hear the “liberals” now, can’t you?

If peace can break out on the Korean peninsula, it can break out practically anywhere: it can even warm the winds of Cold War II before they really get started. That’s what the War Party is deathly afraid of: it’s why the Deep State and its foreign collaborators have launched their unprecedented assault on this White House.

Here’s a good place to make an announcement:

I’ve been the Editorial Director of Antiwar.com since around 1995, when we started. My role, however, soon evolved into something quite different. It used to be that I chose many if not most of the opinion pieces you see featured on the front page: working with Eric Garris, our managing editor, I did this and wrote my column (which used to be daily) for many years. However, the burden of turning out so much original material soon weighed on me, and the task of choosing op-ed pieces fell to the heroic Scott Horton, whose radio program is the go-to place for interviews with noninterventionist authors and activists. He’s been doing the Editorial Director’s job for quite some time, and so we’ve decided it’s time to give him the title: I am now “Editor at large,” which means whatever you want it to mean.

This is a generational change: I’m pushing 70, and I’m quite ill – although I’m getting better every day! – and that’s reason enough for this change, but it also has political-ideological significance. I won’t pretend that my political views have nothing to do with this bout of editorial musical chairs: the rest of the Antiwar.com staff is considerably less enthusiastic about our President than am I. And while no one has actually attempted to refute or in any way answer what I have written about Trump – that would be too hard! – there is indeed a chasm there, and I won’t deny it. Indeed, I’ve been told by an insider that the left-libertarians who constantly complain about me “hate your guts.” Which is fine by me. As Franklin Roosevelt said about the “economic royalists,” “I revel in their hatred!”

I revel in it because I will eventually be proved right, just as the Korean peace initiative is proving me right every day. Trump, for all his faults, represents a sea-change in the foreign policy realm, a breakthrough that has destroyed the old GOP consensus of perpetual war and augurs a renaissance for opponents of global intervention. If I’m wrong, let history judge. If I’m right, then a lot of very foolish luftmenschen are going to look even sillier and more shortsighted than they actually are.

On a personal note: This Monday I am seeing my oncologist for an update and evaluation of my case so far. I’m feeling 500% better than I did only a few months ago, and if this optimistic prognosis is confirmed we’ll see about returning to my old thrice-weekly schedule. Which means: I’m making no promises, but it’s very possible. Stay tuned.

Charles Krauthammer, RIP: The death of Charles Krauthammer was an opportunity for the pundits and the media to acknowledge a very smart – and apparently very personable – man. I did not agree with his politics, particularly when it came to foreign policy, and yet, when it came to his commentary, he was capable of objectivity and great depth of perception. In that he was very like Pat Buchanan, his ideological opposite number in many respects (and of course much closer to my own views): he had an almost instantaneous grasp of essentials, and a rare ability to communicate in clear, clean, thoughtful prose. Requiescat in pace.

Justin Raimondo is the editorial director of Antiwar.com, and a senior fellow at the Randolph Bourne Institute. He is a contributing editor at The American Conservative, and writes a monthly column for Chronicles. He is the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement [Center for Libertarian Studies, 1993; Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2000], and An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard [Prometheus Books, 2000]. Follow him on twitter here

Comment: SOTT has been pleased to carry many of the esteemed Mr. Raimondo’s columns over the years. They are gems of common-sense analysis on a wide range of topics. We wish him the very best and look forward to new articles.

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

US Challenges Russia to Nuclear War

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From Deir Ezzor to Haifa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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SAUDI SNAFU IN LEBANON; MORE RODENTS LEAVE TOWNS FOR LALA LAND – By ZIAD FADEL

DAMASCUS-BAYT SAHM:

“RIDE GREYHOUND AND LEAVE THE DRIVING TO US”.  That’s right folks.  Buses clad in a variety of colors, 40 to be exact, have left Bayt Sahm in the East Ghouta to take remnant rodents to either Jaraablus on the Turk border or to Idlib where they can disport with fellow vermin of every ethnicity and culture.  Like backpacking college students of the 70’s, they can now engage in cultural exchanges with Chechens, Uighers, Uzbekis, Albanians, Eskimos and Trobriand warriors.  With their caterwauling brats screeching their lungs out like the nocturnal cats of Beirut, they shall wend their way into a new world of malignancy – where homosexuals are routinely put to death because of they way they were born; where non-rodents can be swindled and shook down for the dishonest tax that’s meant to protect them; where women are handed from one rat to another in a solemn ritual of brotherliness and sexual socialism.  It’s all coming to Idlib and Jaraablus.  And so is the Syrian Army.

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HOMS: 

Al-Rastan:  The birthplace of legendary Minister of Defense, Lt. Gen. Mustafaa Talaas, has become the new focal point of humiliation for Ahraar Al-Shaam, inter alia, with the turnover of all heavy weapons and the departure of their thieves on government- supplied buses.  Included in the handover were 6 T-62 tanks, 3 BMB armored vehicles, 2 Shilkas, a huge number of mortars and cannons.  Al-Rastan, which is, frankly, like Jisr Al-Shughoor, a hotbed of ignorance and minoritarian bigotry, is going back to being what it has always been historically:  the city you least like to visit in Syria.  Why Al-Rastan is as welcoming as Gary, Indiana, Newark, New Jersey, Flint, Michigan or even Tizi-ouzo, Algeria.  An invitation to Al-Rastan should be treated with the same zeal as one to spend an afternoon under the boardwalk in Coney Island, Brooklyn, the rats fighting for first dibs on your buttocks.

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LEBANON:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wearing his iconic Italian restaurant tablecloth, MBS beams for the camera while singing:  “I’m the one who broke the bank at Monte Carlo.”………He’s not smiling today.

You all read my last exclusive post which revealed 2 “top secret” memos indicating a strong Saudi preference for Sa’ad Al-Hareeri, the stillborn, oaf son of the late gazillionaire and atomized prime minister of Lebanon whose assassination sparked a fitful withdrawal of Syrian Deterrent Forces from the country.  The memos made very clear the generous support Saudi Arabia was going to unload on Hareeri to strengthen his hand in the Lebanese Parliament.  And just as you might think, whenever the Saudis apply their Lilliputian brains to anything, it was going to be a devastating fiasco!

Yeah, sure.  I know.  Geagea did okay,  In fact, better than ever with his rabid Lebanese Forces candidates.  It’s true.  But, it just ain’t enough to get him over any hump in Leb politics.  I’m afraid that Geagea will always be the proverbial “also-ran”.

Hizbollah’s victory is all the more sweet because the Saudis are gnashing their teeth over how they managed to lose their grip on Lebanon.  Financially, they were top dog.  Now, with MBS’s realignment with the Zionist Settler State, Lebanon correctly saw the twilight of Saudi involvement coming, strengthened all the more by MBS’s curious vilification of Palestinians for not returning to the nauseating, episodic dead-end of peace negotiations under the aegis of the perversely pro-Zionist United States.  What other nincompoop but Trump would send 3 rapacious, Ashkenazi Zionist zealots to strike a deal with the Palestinians over land the negotiators believe was given to Jews by some imaginary deity?

Hizbollah and its allies now have a full majority in the Parliament.  With 128 seats available, HZB and its allies control 67, giving them a “veto” vote over any legislation deemed unacceptable.  Even, dedicated, pro-Assad politicians like Jameel Al-Sayyid won a seat.  Al-Sayyid won his seat despite a 4-year stint in prison on orders from German democracy-loving judge, Detlev Mehlis, who didn’t mind having 4 Lebanese generals wallow for 48 months without charges.  They were released eventually and never indicted for anything.  German justice.

Syria, despite the tumult of a 7-year insurgency, still managed to win on this front, also, handing Saudi chimpanzees a stinging defeat at every level, on every front and in all political dimensions.  The biggest winner,is, of course, Iran.

 

 

 

 

 

US and imperialist allies launch strikes against Syria – By WSWS.ORG

CONSERVATISMTHINKING

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14 April 2018

The World Socialist Web Site condemns the strikes against Syria carried out Friday night by US, French and British forces. The attack is a flagrant and illegal act of aggression. The administrations of American President Donald Trump, French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Theresa May are guilty of a war crime, which poses the danger of triggering a conflict with nuclear-armed Russia.

The pretext for the attack on Syria is unproven allegations that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s military forces used banned chemical weapons against US-backed rebel militias in the city of Douma. Russia, which has significant military contingents in Syria to support Assad’s government in its seven-year civil war against predominantly Islamist-based militias, has categorically rejected the US and allied propaganda. It has openly accused British intelligence of pressuring Syrian rebel organisations to manufacture a video that purports to show victims of a chemical weapons attack.

A team from the ostensibly independent Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) was scheduled to arrive in Douma to carry out an inspection of the alleged site this weekend. Trump’s order to initiate strikes was calculated to pre-empt such an inspection and a confirmation by the OPCW that the entire pretext for any attack on Syria was a lie.

The fraudulent basis for the assault was underscored shortly after Trump’s broadcast, during the subsequent press briefing by his defense secretary, General Jim Mattis. Mattis could not provide any coherent details as to the US accusations. Moreover, contradicting the president’s vow of a protracted campaign against Syria, the general appeared to indicate that there would be no more action apart from the missile strikes that had already taken place.

If this does prove to be the case, the action ordered by Trump will fall far short of what was being demanded within the American political and media establishment.

Given the extreme vitriol directed against Bashar al-Assad, there is no doubt that advocates of a military strike expected that any attack would include an attempt to assassinate the Syrian president.

A column in the German journal Die Welt provided one indication of the homicidal nature of what large sections of the imperialist ruling class internationally want unleashed against Syria. It declared: “War against Assad should be guided by one goal… Can the Assad regime be exterminated (auslöschen) with a missile strike?” In using the term “auslöschen” to refer to the Syrian president, the German publication adopted a term associated with the extermination of the Jews under the Nazis—that is, using language that could have appeared in Hitler’s Völkischer Beobachter .

Far from the destruction of the Assad government, however, the strike against Syria appears to have had minimal impact. The Russian military has boasted that Syrian air defenses shot down most of the missiles fired into Syria, and that none of its personnel or assets in the country were impacted. Bashar al-Assad reportedly walked to his office on Saturday morning.

At this point, the attack has served primarily to underscore the debacle facing the US-led imperialist intrigues for regime-change in Syria. It will most likely not be long before sections of the American political and media establishment are accusing Trump of a climb-down and capitulation to Vladimir Putin. Demands will inevitably be made for far more extensive, and murderous, operations.

The propaganda campaign justifying the attack on Syria was concocted to provide a pretext for a massive military onslaught—not one-off missile strikes.

Facing the prospect of a military rout of its Islamist proxy forces fighting to overthrow the Syrian government, the decision for an escalation was made in Washington and London, and it was left to the CIA, MI6 and their Syrian agents to manufacture a pretext.

On Friday, the Russian Ministry of Defense provided the most coherent and logical account given so far regarding the incident in Douma on April 7, which the Western press has unanimously proclaimed a chemical weapons attack on civilians by the Assad government.

“We have irrefutable evidence that it was another staged attack, and the special services of a state which is in the forefront of the Russo-phobic campaign had a hand in staging it,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said.

The Russian Defense Ministry showed a video interview with two people, one of whom was a medical student working at Douma’s only operational hospital. The witnesses said that after a Syrian Army artillery barrage hit a building, people suffering from smoke inhalation were being treated at a hospital. Then, unknown individuals—later revealed to be associated with the CIA-backed Syrian rebel “White Helmets”—ran into the hospital screaming that there had been a chemical weapons attack. They encouraged the victims to douse each other with water, which they then proceeded to film.

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Major-General Igor Konashenkov stated: “We know for certain that between April 3 and April 6 the so-called White Helmets were seriously pressured from London to speed up the provocation that they were preparing.”

RT.com reported: “According to Konashenkov, the group, which was a primary source of photos and footage of the purported chemical attack, was informed of a large-scale artillery attack on Damascus planned by the Islamist group Army of Islam, which controlled Douma at the time. The White Helmets were ordered to arrange the provocation after retaliatory strikes by the Syrian government forces, which the shelling was certain to lead to, he said.”

Despite vehemently denouncing the Russian claims, neither Washington nor London made any attempt to factually refute them. In contrast to the categorical statements of the Russian government, backed up by video testimony, Theresa May has only claimed it was “highly likely” that Syria carried out the attack. But even that was more definite than the statements of Defense Secretary Mattis, who declared the United States was still “looking for the actual evidence.”

With the initiation of attacks on Syria, the US and its allies have signaled that the unravelling of the nominal reasons for war is irrelevant. Their onslaught is driven by far deeper causes than the lies used to justify them.

What is taking place is directly in line with the analysis of imperialism made by the great 20th century Marxists, Lenin and Trotsky. World imperialism is undertaking a new re-division of the world. Britain and France want to be recognized as full-scale participants in the new carve-up of the Middle East and its effective recolonization: their oil corporations do not want to be left out of the plunder.

All of the governments participating in this new onslaught are crisis-ridden and lack any electoral legitimacy. The vast gulf between them and their populations is expressed in the fact that none of them has been able to create any broad-based support for war. According to one YouGov poll, only 22 percent of the British population supports a military strike on Syria.

Moreover, the launching of a major new military campaign is seen in London, Paris, and Washington as a means of implementing police-state rule, including mass censorship, to prop up their crisis-ridden governments in the face of mounting popular opposition and a growing strike movement by the working class.

This new conflict will not stop with the attack on Syria, just as the expansion of war did not stop with the invasion of Iraq. The stage is being set for a confrontation with Iran, Russia and, ultimately, China. More and more, imperialist policy is acquiring a completely reckless and unhinged character.

So far, the ruling class has been able to rely on the absence of any organized resistance to war. But popular anti-war sentiment will inevitably take on active forms and meet up with rising opposition to austerity and the destruction of democratic rights.

The World Socialist Web Site Editorial Board

With War Looming, the Voices of Syrians Are Being Suppressed Once Again – by Bas Spliet (THE MINT PRESS)

Civilians from Eastern Ghouta wait in line to receive free food from the al-Harjallah centre. (Photo: © Bas Spliet)

Civilians from eastern Ghouta tell a horrifying story of starvation, withholding of food and medical aid, rape, and the imprisonment and murder of innocent women and children. Their voices are suppressed, however; for their testimonies expose the true nature of the armed opposition and the insanity of world leaders who are currently threatening a global war, supposedly on behalf of the Syrian people.

GHOUTA, SYRIA (War report) — With the danger of a new artificial war in the Middle East looming, the whole world is talking about Syria. People in Damascus rejoice in the long-desired cessation of the heavy indiscriminate shelling of the capital, with the liberation of Douma, the last Eastern Ghouta town under control of the armed opposition, completed. Peace was made possible by a deal between the Syrian government and Jaysh al-Islam, the last remaining militant group in Eastern Ghouta, which stipulated the evacuation of the rebels and their few supporters to other parts of rebel-held Syria in exchange for the liberation of dozens of hostages held by Jaysh al-Islam. This, rather than the alleged use of chemical weapons, is what occupies the mind of most Syrians at the moment.

Yet aggression replaced arrogance when Israel took it one step further than the threatening rhetoric of Western and allied heads of state by bombing a Syrian airbase on Monday, killing at least 12 people. Although all these countries – the U.S., France, Britain and Israel chief among them – claim to do this in the name of the Syrian people, they somehow manage to completely ignore the opinions of those who have an actual say in all of this —  i.e., the civilians in and around Damascus.

I was in Damascus from the moment the reciprocal bombardment of Douma and the capital resumed, after negotiations broke down on Friday, through the signing of the final deal, the release of hostages, and the start of the evacuation of the militants out of Douma. During my stay, I visited both the Eastern Ghouta town of Zamalka and al-Harjallah center for internally displaced Syrians, where I had the honor to talk to some of the civilians who have lived under the occupation of the jihadis.

This article tells their tragic and horrendous testimonies.

 

A first glance: my visit to Zamalka

On Sunday, while the fighting was still ongoing, I had the chance to visit Zamalka, a town in Eastern Ghouta that was liberated close to three weeks ago. I was visiting the area on a tour organized by the Ministry of Information, the government agency that supervises foreign journalists. Not a lot of civilians were present because most of them had temporarily moved elsewhere owing to the immense destruction of the town.

We mainly walked around and took pictures of the neighborhood, including of multiple mortar launch pads that had been used over the past couple of years to kill and maim thousands of civilians in Damascus. Inside a house, an army officer showed us a number of heavy-arms, some of which, according to the officer, were of Israeli origin. The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) has recently found other Israeli-made weapons in Harasta and Douma, two additional Eastern Ghouta municipalities. Similar discoveries have been made in the last few years in rural Damascus and even in the ISIS-controlled areas of Mayadin and Deir Ezzor.

A mortar launcher left behind by rebels in Eastern Ghouta. The freshly liberated district of Damascus was used as launching pad for indiscriminate shelling of Damascus by rebel groups. (Photo: © Bas Spliet)

After having walked around a bit, I did manage to find some civilians to talk to. One man, aged around 60, was happy to answer some questions. When I asked him about the food aid that had been brought into Eastern Ghouta from outside, he made the startling remark that the militants kept 80 percent of it for themselves.

A while later, I asked another man the same question, and he went as far as to claim that all of it was kept by the militants. Although the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle, this is baffling, especially because Western mass-media accounts have consistently attempted to blame the suffering of civilians from Eastern Ghouta on the siege the SAA imposed on the enclave, selectively drawing from comments by international aid organizations.


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Yet, when I questioned Marwa Awad – a representative of the UN World Food Program (UNWFP), the organization that, together with Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC), is actually responsible for the transport of aid into Eastern Ghouta – about the disturbing testimonies on Monday, she acknowledged that the aid was indeed “not equally distributed.” In order to try to extinguish this “war economy,” UNWFP put the sign “not for sale” on the aid boxes and divided the aid in small separated quantities.

This issue was extensively discussed internally according to Awad, and the UNWFP and SARC on multiple occasions pressed the local rebel councils to distribute the aid fairly. Not only did Western media ignore this stunning modus operandi, in which the jihadis strengthened their grip on the civilians by withholding and selling humanitarian aid, they relied on these exact same leaders to provide answers as to why civilians were suffering. The Guardian, for instance, gave the following reason for the premature departure of aid convoys out of Douma on March 5, 2018:

Iyad Abdelaziz, a member of the Douma Local Council, said nine aid trucks had to leave the area after government shelling and airstrikes intensified in the evening. Observers say the continuing offensive in Eastern Ghouta appears to be following similar tactics to those that Assad and his allies have used at other key points of war: laying siege to rebel-held areas, bombing them fiercely, launching a ground assault and offering passage out to civilians who flee and fighters who withdraw.

Wael Alwan, the spokesman for one of the main rebel groups in Eastern Ghouta, Failaq al-Rahman, said Russia was ‘insisting on military escalation and imposing forced displacement’ on the people of Eastern Ghouta, which he called ‘a crime.’” [emphasis added]

Residents of the war-torn district of Zamalka in Eastern Ghouta. (Photo: © Bas Spliet)

 

The worst had yet to come: visit to al-Harjallah

However disturbing the revelations to that point, the worst had yet to come. After hearing these few testimonies, I decided to visit al-Harjallah shelter on Tuesday. Located south of Damascus, the center has temporarily accommodated around 150,000 internally displaced Syrians from all over the country since it started operations in 2016, according to Abdulrahman al-Khatib, the mayor of al-Harjallah town and main administrator of the shelter.

Over 21.000 civilians from Eastern Ghouta had arrived in the shelter over the last three weeks, and 53 babies had been born since. All food and medical aid and expenses are completely free of charge, being supplied for 80 percent by the Syrian government and 20 percent by international NGOs. The inhabitants of the center themselves volunteer in the preparation of the food as well as in the general organization of the camp, so they essentially help themselves in their own assistance. There are schools as well and, according to al-Khatib, a strategy is currently being discussed along with UNICEF to expand the educational part of the center’s operations. Last but not least, I personally witnessed a quite spontaneous form of entertainment for the children, as volunteers successfully encouraged them to sing along and dance to songs.

During my stay, I had the chance to talk to one of the doctors of the two medical centers in al-Harjallah. Dr. Jamilah al-Naemah related that the center she was working in alone provided medical assistance to 250 to 300 people every day. According to her experience, most of the Eastern Ghouta civilians were very weak and ill upon arrival, mainly owing to malnutrition, but generally got better soon after receiving help in al-Harjallah. I asked a family with a child who was sick with the flu, and could not have been older than the war, whether there was a contrast between the help and aid they received respectively in al-Harjallah and back home in Eastern Ghouta. The father replied, stating that they had received food aid only once – one time in seven years of occupation, that is. What did they collect precisely? Seven kilograms of rice.

Dr. Jamilah al-Naemah treats a child sick with the flu at a medical center in al-Harjallah, Eastern Ghouta. (Photo: © Bas Spliet)

At this moment, I realized that in order to get a real sense of what life must have been like in Eastern Ghouta over the last few years, I had to conduct an extensive interview with a family in al-Harjallah. It should be emphasized here that the following testimony is a random selection of just a few of the 150,000 civilians who have left Eastern Ghouta, where they had lived under the rule of these so-called rebels for seven years.

I was just walking down the street with my translator and an official from the center, and I asked the latter whether I could talk to a family, whereupon we entered the first house we passed by and asked whether I could pose some questions, to which the inhabitants responded affirmatively. The small bungalow housed a number of families, with ostensibly more children than adults, from the Hamouriyyah suburb.

A 30-year-old pregnant woman broke the silence, saying that the lack of food was so bad that children had died of starvation in her town. This was not a result the SAA’s siege, however. Confirming what I had been told before, she maintained that there was enough food aid coming in, but that it remained in the hands of the militants. This she knew, because she saw plenty of food stocks when she hid with her relatives in a rebel-operated basement during a chaotic moment of the fighting.

Other people in the room confirmed this policy of withholding food. Additional large stockpiles also existed in Douma, where civilians finally seized them the same day as I conducted the interview. Next, she talked about the rudimentary medical procedures during the occupation. Even when it was not necessary, the jihadi-affiliated doctors, many of whom were not properly trained, cut off body parts “like a butcher.” Finally, she proclaimed that, in a similar vein, some women had died after having given birth.

Because I did not know what to say for a moment, silence again fell across the room. Suddenly, a woman in her mid-twenties by the name of Maha cleared her throat and said that she wanted to tell some things she had been through, but without the men in the house. After all the males had left together with most of the children, she testified that the rebels had put her in an improvised jail for one year and a month after she refused to “give herself.”

Many other women were imprisoned for the same reason; yet they were still regularly raped, not necessarily by the militants but, according to Maha, by the doctors themselves. In the makeshift prison, she also saw plenty of food, all the while children were dying of starvation outside. Finally, the extremists even killed children and women inside this prison. Not only did the perpetrators escape justice, though; these thieves, rapists and murderers remained untouched because they were “VIP” and “higher in the hierarchy.”

Bearing all of this in mind makes it easier to understand why many Syrians cringe at hearing the words “moderate” and “rebel” in the same sentence. Most Syrians, as opposed to news consumers in the West, have had to live (and die) through this hell the jihadis have imposed on them. That’s why, when you go to Syria, people consistently talk about “terrorists” rather than militants, for they rarely differentiate between the Free Syrian Army (FSA), al-Qaeda and ISIS. On the other hand, these two ladies, like so many of their fellow citizens, praise President Bashar al-Assad and the SAA for their successful fight against terrorism.

 

An unmistakable pattern

One needs only to do a summary search on the internet to find these terrifying stories confirmed in other accounts. A reporter for the Irish Times, for instance, visited al-Harjallah shelter some two weeks before me. Interestingly, the witnesses he interviewed talked specifically about fighters from Faylaq al-Rahman, which the media has painted as the most moderate among the rebels in Eastern Ghouta over the last few weeks:

[The shelter’s main administrator Abdulrahman al-Khatib] introduced us to two women who have horrifying stories of life under Faylaq al-Rahman, the Legion of the Beneficent. A handsome woman, with a sorrowful expression to match her grey dress, Marak More’e (20) has been married three times and divorced twice. When her husband wanted to share her favours with comrades and she refused, he sent her to the women’s prison for 120 days. There women were regularly raped. She and her two sons are shunned by her father, who is in Harjallah, and other relatives. ‘We are alone,’ she says.

The indomitable Maida Droubi, a widow with five children from Kafr Batna, introduces us to her six-year-old son, Maher, who was lured by a neighbour into his house and raped until his screams alerted passersby. ‘He was Faylaq al-Rahman,’ she says. ‘Nothing could be done.’ Maher is eager to become a first-grader when the family reaches the Jaramana suburb of Damascus to stay with family once registration is completed in Harjallah.”

This is far from the first time that the myth of an armed opposition being anywhere close to “moderate” has been demolished. In Aleppo, just to take one example, I extensively documented myself that the exact same script as in Eastern Ghouta played itself out a year and a half ago.

First, insurgents invaded Eastern Aleppo from the north when Aleppans refused to take up arms against the government in 2012. Second, the media painted the jihadi occupiers as heroes throughout the occupation, even though there was plenty of evidence to the contrary. Third, they completely ignored the over 10,000 civilians killed by indiscriminate rebel shelling of the western part of the city. Fourth, the propaganda machine went into full gear when the SAA started to liberate the area — as Western media was flooded by largely false stories originating exclusively from al-Qaeda-embedded “activists,” “journalists,” and “doctors.” Finally, when civilians fled from Eastern Aleppo, ready to testify, the same media outlets, which had been crying crocodile tears as they issued pleas to “save” the people trapped in Aleppo from the SAA’s advances, went completely dark.

Similar to my visit to al-Harjallah, a British Anglican priest named Andrew Ashdown visited the Jibreen center of internally displaced Syrians amidst the massive exodus of Syrians coming out of east Aleppo in December 2016. My experience feels like a reprise of the picture he painted back then:

The sense of relief amongst the thousands of refugees is palpable. All were keen to talk [and] all said the same thing. They said that they had been living in fear. They reported that the fighters have been telling everyone that the Syrian Army would kill anyone who fled to the West, but had killed many themselves who tried to leave – men, women and children.

One woman broke down in tears as she told how one of her sons was killed by the rebels a few days ago, and another kidnapped. They also killed anyone who showed signs of supporting the Government. The refugees said that the ‘rebels’ told them that only those who support them are ‘true Muslims’, and that everyone else are ‘infidels’ and deserve to die. They told us that they had been given very little food: that any aid that reached the area was mostly refused to them or sold at exorbitant prices. Likewise, most had been given no medical treatment. […]

Most refugees said they had had members of their families killed by the rebels and consistently spoke of widespread murder, torture, rape and kidnap by the rebels. […] They all said they were glad to be out and to be free. All the refugees … were visibly, without exception, clearly profoundly relieved and happy to be free.”

 

Syrians aren’t waiting for Trump to save them

How many times must the long-abused Syrian people go through this? An undercover documentary shot by a TV channel from the United Arab Emirates, which would otherwise never deviate from the government line, has already shown horrible scenes from al-Qaeda-controlled Idlib, the largest area that is still in control of the armed opposition. With dangerous rhetoric and military moves omnipresent the last few days, are Western leaders willing to risk a global war that will only benefit extremist Islamists? Without exception, no Syrians I have met during my journey through Syria are waiting for President Trump to come and save them. Perhaps it is time to finally leave them alone?

Top Photo | Civilians from Eastern Ghouta wait in line to receive free food from the al-Harjallah centre. (Photo: © Bas Spliet)

Bas Spliet is a Belgian journalist covering Syria from the ground in Damascus. He has written extensively on Syria, formerly for NewsBud and on his personal blog, Scrutinised Minds.

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

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© 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

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

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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 – https://southfront.org/salisbury-nerve-agent-attack-reveals-70-million-pentagon-program-porton/ .

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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.

Russian ambassador to US: Skripal case was only trigger to enact ‘premeditated’ expulsion of Russian diplomats – By RT (SOTT)

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© Lindsey Wasson / Reuters

The smoothly coordinated and broad effort that led to the biggest collective expulsion of Russian diplomats in history was likely premeditated, the Russian ambassador to the US has said. The Salisbury incident was just a trigger.

Russia’s ambassador to the US, Anatoly Antonov, has his doubts about Washington’s justification behind the expulsion of dozens of the Russian diplomatic staff.

The US alone accounted for over half of all the diplomats that have been forced to leave for Russia. In addition, Washington closed the Russian Consulate in Seattle, citing its proximity to a US naval base and Boeing facilities.

Pointing out that such an explanation leaves no room for the Skripals, Antonov argued that the decision was waiting for a convenient pretext to materialize.

“The scale of inflicted damage and the preceding information campaign speak of the fact that it had been planned beforehand – simply postponed for the right moment,” Antonov told media on Tuesday.

The expulsions coincided with the mall fire tragedy in Russia’s Kemerovo, which claimed the lives of at least 64 people, many of them children. Antonov says Washington showed “emotional deafness, indifference and callousness” in adding insult to injury by coming out with reprisals on that day, the diplomat said.

“Well, gloat all you want. Especially when ordinary Americans share our grief and send their condolences. Thank you, friends,” Antonov said. While the timing of Washington’s decision was at the very least off-beat, the ambassador said Russia will not let itself be carried away by emotion when preparing a response.

“Truth will always prevail. We shall not be provoked into an emotional outburst. But there will be a response,” he vowed.

While Washington claims the expelled diplomats were all covert intelligence operatives posing a danger to US national security, according to Antonov, they were actually in charge of the fields in which the US and Russia still occasionally find common ground.

“The people who are being expelled were in charge for those few areas, which barely keep our mutually beneficial cooperation afloat: space, science, trade, culture and archival searches for POW and MIA. Restoration of relations and search for points of contact have been set back,” Antonov lamented.

Speaking of the inherent causes of the UK’s and the US’s growing alienation from Moscow, Antonov suggested that the “Russian threat” is needed to distract people from pressing issues at home.

“Our opponents hate to see a strong and powerful Russia, which has recently demonstrated its capabilities,” he stressed, adding that the internal problems of countries will not slip away with more Russia-bashing.

Early hopes that the Trump administration might opt out of the hostile policy conducted by the Obama administration have been quashed, as Trump’s White House has failed to deliver on his own call for cooperation.

“Words of readiness to cooperate have gone completely separate ways with actual actions. Despite the promises, the current Administration takes the course of its predecessor,” the diplomat said.

Comment: Retired UK diplomat Peter Ford sees the expulsion of Russians as a sign that the Western elites feel a need to tighten its grip on power that it is losing faster every day. He goes on to say:

“The scale of it is surprising indeed, but it is just proof that hysteria is contagious. What we’ve witnessed in Britain in the last two weeks has been a classic case of hysteria whipped up by the government and fanned by the, mostly right wing, press”

According to Ford, the events of the unfolding crisis are actually “the reaction of elites to the loss of power”:

“The elites have lost in recent years in several contests, Brexit referendum, notably, and the elites seat very much on the defensive against the forces of so-called populism, which is democratic movements that the elites don’t like”

Former US diplomat Jim Jatras call the coordinated expulsion of Russian diplomats ‘political warfare’:

“It’s global in scale, and it really has nothing to do with Salisbury, that’s a pretext. And, to tell the truth, what Mr. Trump wants or doesn’t want is not really relevant as far as this aspect of US policy in global policy goes, he might as well not be the president at all.”

“This is a political pretext, like the kind of accusations we have seen against Syria and chemical weapons, [it’s designed] to ratchet up the pressure on Moscow to discredit the recent Russian election, and also I think it’s aimed at the World Cup this summer.”

Why the West tries to gang up on Russia – By James Petras – The James Petras Website (SOTT)

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© shutterstock

Introduction: For the greater part of a decade the US, the UK and the EU have been carrying out a campaign to undermine and overthrow the Russia government and in particular to oust President Putin. Fundamental issues are at stake including the real possibility of a nuclear war.

The most recent western propaganda campaign and one of the most virulent is the charge launched by the UK regime of Prime Minister Theresa May. The Brits have claimed that Russian secret agents conspired to poison a former Russian double-agent and his daughter in England, threatening the sovereignty and safety of the British people. No evidence has ever been presented. Instead the UK expelled Russian diplomats and demands harsher sanctions, to increase tensions. The UK and its US and EU patrons are moving toward a break in relations and a military build-up.

A number of fundamental questions arise regarding the origins and growing intensity of this anti-Russian animus.

Why do the Western regimes now feel Russia is a greater threat than in the past? Do they believe Russia is more vulnerable to Western threats or attacks? Why do the Western military leaders seek to undermine Russia’s defenses? Do the US economic elites believe it is possible to provoke an economic crisis and the demise of President Putin’s government? What is the strategic goal of Western policymakers? Why has the UK regime taken the lead in the anti-Russian crusade via the fake toxin accusations at this time?

This paper is directed at providing key elements to address these questions.

The Historical Context for Western Aggression

Several fundamental historical factors dating back to the 1990’s account for the current surge in Western hostility to Russia.

First and foremost, during the 1990’s the US degraded Russia, reducing it to a vassal state, and imposing itself as a unipolar state.

Secondly, Western elites pillaged the Russian economy, seizing and laundering hundreds of billions of dollars. Wall Street and City of London banks and overseas tax havens were the main beneficiaries

Thirdly, the US seized and took control of the Russian electoral process, and secured the fraudulent “election” of Yeltsin.

Fourthly, the West degraded Russia’s military and scientific institutions and advanced their armed forces to Russia’s borders.

Fifthly, the West insured that Russia was unable to support its allies and independent governments throughout Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America. Russia was unable to aid its allies in the Ukraine, Cuba, North Korea, Libya etc.

With the collapse of the Yeltsin regime and the election of President Putin, Russia regained its sovereignty, its economy recovered, its armed forces and scientific institutes were rebuilt and strengthened. Poverty was sharply reduced and Western backed gangster capitalists were constrained, jailed or fled mostly to the UK and the US.

Russia’s historic recovery under President Putin and its gradual international influence shattered US pretense to rule over unipolar world. Russia’s recovery and control of its economic resources lessened US dominance, especially of its oil and gas fields.

As Russia consolidated its sovereignty and advanced economically, socially, politically and militarily, the West increased its hostility in an effort to roll-back Russia to the Dark Ages of the 1990’s.

The US launched numerous coups and military intervention and fraudulent elections to surround and isolate Russia . The Ukraine, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen and Russian allies in Central Asia were targeted. NATO military bases proliferated.

Russia’s economy was targeted: sanctions were directed at its imports and exports. President Putin was subject to a virulent Western media propaganda campaign. US NGO’s funded opposition parties and politicians.

The US-EU rollback campaign failed.

The encirclement campaign failed.

The Ukraine fragmented – Russia allies took control of the East; Crimea voted for unification with Russia. Syria joined with Russia to defeat armed US vassals. Russia turned to China’s multi-lateral trade, transport and financial networks.

As the entire US unipolar fantasy dissolved it provoked deep resentment, animosity and a systematic counter-attack. The US’s costly and failed war on terror became a dress rehearsal for the economic and ideological war against the Kremlin. Russia’s historical recovery and defeat of Western rollback intensified the ideological and economic war.

The UK poison plot was concocted to heighten economic tensions and prepare the western public for heightened military confrontations.

Russia is not a threat to the West: it is recovering its sovereignty in order to further a multi-polar world. President Putin is not an “aggressor” but he refuses to allow Russia to return to vassalage.

President Putin is immensely popular in Russia and is hated by the US precisely because he is the opposite of Yeltsin – he has created a flourishing economy; he resists sanctions and defends Russia’s borders and allies.

Conclusion

In a summary response to the opening questions.

1) The Western regimes recognize that Russia is a threat to their global dominance; they know that Russia is no threat to invade the EU, North America or their vassals.

2) Western regimes believe they can topple Russia via economic warfare including sanctions. In fact Russia has become more self-reliant and has diversified its trading partners, especially China, and even including Saudi Arabia and other Western allies.

The Western propaganda campaign has failed to turn Russian voters against Putin. In the March 19, 2018 Presidential election voter participation increased to 67%. Vladimir Putin secured a record 77% majority. President Putin is politically stronger than ever.

Russia’s display of advanced nuclear and other advanced weaponry has had a major deterrent effect especially among US military leaders, making it clear that Russia is not vulnerable to attack.

The UK has attempted to unify and gain importance with the EU and the US via the launch of its anti-Russia toxic conspiracy. Prime Minister May has failed. Brexit will force the UK to break with the EU.

President Trump will not replace the EU as a substitute trading partner. While the EU and Washington may back the UK crusade against Russia they will pursue their own trade agenda; which do not include the UK.

In a word, the UK, the EU and the US are ganging-up on Russia, for diverse historic and contemporary reasons. The UK exploitation of the anti-Russian conspiracy is a temporary ploy to join the gang but will not change its inevitable global decline and the break-up of the UK.

Russia will remain a global power. It will continue under the leadership of President Putin.The Western powers will divide and bugger their neighbors – and decide it is their better judgment to accept and work within a multi-polar world.

Comment: The blind and rapid tumble of so many countries into this abyss is boggling. It suggests there are deeper connections at work rising to the surface.

 
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Expelling Russian diplomats: tokenism in Europe; petulance in Washington – By Alexander Mercouris (THEDURAN)

US expulsion looks like a delayed reaction to Russia’s huge expulsion of US diplomats last July

Before discussing the decision of the Western powers to expel Russian diplomats, it is necessary re-emphasise the total lack of logic behind the decision.

Though the decision is being presented in the media as an expulsion of “Russian spies”, it is also being linked to the Skripal case.

The Skripal case however is still ongoing.  The British police investigation is still underway.  No suspect has been named and all the indications are that the British police still do not know how Sergey and Yulia Skripal were poisoned or who poisoned them.

The OPCW has only recently become involved in the case, and only because the Russians insisted on it.

The OPCW has not yet identified the chemical which was used to poison Sergey and Yulia Skripal.  Supposedly identification by the OPCW of the chemical is weeks away.

Meanwhile people like Craig Murray and John Helmer have pointed out that evidence submitted by the British authorities to the High Court suggests that the identification by Porton Down scientists of the chemical used to poison Sergey and Yulia Skripal as a Novichok may not be as conclusive as the British authorities have been leading everybody to believe.

That is hardly surprising since it is difficult to see how the Porton Down scientists would only need days to identify a chemical agent as a Novichok when that will take the OPCW’s experts several weeks.

For the record, I personally think the chemical used in the attack on Sergey and Yulia Skripal probably was a Novichok.

However I cannot personally see how that is conclusive of anything given that there is now abundant evidence that Novichok agents have been produced in at least test quantities in any number of countries, including the US and Britain, and not just in Russia.

As many have pointed out, saying that because Sergey and Yulia Skripal were poisoned with a Novichok means that Russia must have been involved in the attack on them is rather like saying that because Kim Jong-un’s brother Kim Jong-am was poisoned with VX – a chemical agent developed by Britain – that means that Britain must have been involved in the attack on him.

As for Russia’s motive in seeking to murder Sergey Skripal, no-one has come up with any motive that looks to me in the least convincing.  Some of the motives suggested – eg. that Russia wanted to send a signal to Britain by poisoning Skripal with a deadly chemical or that Skripal was poisoned in order to deter other defectors – look to me frankly speculative and rather like conspiracy theories.

Nothing perhaps illustrates the chaos and muddle of this affair then a story which was given widespread coverage in the British media over the weekend.

This claimed that Sergey Skripal had supposedly written a letter to President Putin asking for a pardon and permission to return to Russia.

The story disintegrated after the Kremlin denied ever receiving such a letter.

In reality the story was obvious nonsense.  Skripal had already been pardoned by President Medvedev before he came to Britain and since he was still a Russian citizen he was free to return to Russia whenever he wanted.

Not only is the Skripal case still ongoing, and the case against Russia far from made, but Britain, the EU and Western government even admit as much.

Though in her statement to the House of Commons of 14th March 2018 British Prime Minister Theresa May said that the British government deemed the Russian state ‘culpable’ for the attack on Sergey and Yulia Skripal, that claim since then has been retracted.

Western governments, including the US, the EU and the British government, now say no more than that Russia is “highly likely” to have carried out the attack on Sergey and Yulia Skripal.

As I have previously pointed out, that comes nowhere close to meeting the standard of proof used in Britain in criminal cases, which is “beyond reasonable doubt”.

Yet notwithstanding all this, and notwithstanding that the investigation into the case is still going on, that the case against Russia is far from made out, and that the US, the EU and the British government admit as much, the US and a score of other Western countries have now joined Britain in expelling Russian diplomats.

The logic of this escapes me, unless it is intended – as I have said previously – to be a message to the British investigators and to the OPCW that any finding other than one which can be spun into saying that Russia is responsible for the attack on Sergey and Yulia Skripal will not be tolerated.

What then of the expulsions themselves?

The expulsions of Russian diplomats which have take place in Europe and in a number of other non-European and non-EU Western countries like Australia, Canada and Norway, have about them a token quality.

None of the countries has expelled more than four diplomats, a level of expulsions which is not going to effect the operation of any Russian embassy in any serious way.

Not only were the expulsions in Europe of a token character, but it seems that no European country is capping the number of diplomats the Russians can post to their embassies.

That means that after a decent interval the Russians will be able to replace all the diplomats who have been expelled.  The small number of diplomats who have been expelled means that the Russians will have no difficulty doing this.

Even this level of token expulsions was too much for some countries.  Austria, Belgium, Greece, Bulgaria, Portugal, Slovakia and Cyprus failed to announce expulsions, as have all the former Yugoslav republics apart from Croatia.

Some countries, notably Austria and Bulgaria, have made known their disagreement with the expulsions.

Turkey – still despite everything a member of the NATO alliance – has made its disagreement clear also.

Even within some of the countries which have expelled Russian diplomats, the decision to do so has been controversial.

In Italy Matteo Salvini – the man most likely to become Italy’s next Prime Minister following the recent election – has made clear his strong disagreement with the expulsions.  According to Reuters Salvini has tweeted the following

Boycotting Russia, renewing sanctions and expelling diplomats does not resolve problems, it aggravates them

The expulsions of Russian diplomats in Europe have not just been token affairs.

They have also highlighted the growing division within the EU about policy towards Russia.  In Italy as Salvini’s comments show they may have even hardened feeling against the EU’s anti-Russian sanctions policy.

It is doubtless alarm about this growing division within the EU over policy towards Russia which explains the recent call from Germany for the abolition of national vetoes in EU Council decisions on foreign policy.

Why then if the expulsions were of a token character did they happen at all?

For an answer to that one must look to the completely different reaction in the US.

Here the expulsions of Russian diplomats is far from token.  Not only have 60 diplomats been expelled – as many as all the other expulsions (including the British expulsion) put together – but in what may be an illegal move 12 Russian diplomats are being expelled from Russia’s UN mission even though these diplomats are accredited to the United Nations and not to the US.

Why this disproportionately large number of expulsions in the US, which is so much greater than that any of the expulsions carried out by the US’s allies?

There are various theories about this, including one which I consider farfetched, which is that the expulsions were supposedly forced on President Trump by his advisers as some sort of ‘punishment’ for his decision to ignore General McMaster’s advice not to telephone President Putin to congratulate him on his election victory.

In my opinion there is a far more likely explanation, which is that the expulsion is belated US reaction to Russia’s gigantic purge of US diplomats and staff from the US embassy and consulates in Russia last summer.

This purge attracted extraordinarily little attention, even though it was by far the biggest single expulsion of diplomats and embassy and consular staff to have happened in modern history.  Here is what I wrote about it at the time

The Russians order to the US to reduce the staff at their embassy and consulates in Russia by 755 persons is in fact unprecedented.  As the BBC rightly says, though a large part of the reduction will no doubt be accounted for by non-diplomatic staff, the Russian announcement still constitutes what is by far the single biggest expulsion of diplomats in modern history

The decision to expel staff was made on Friday, but Mr Putin has now confirmed the number who must go by 1 September.

It brings staff levels to 455, the same as Russia’s complement in Washington.

This is thought to be the largest expulsion of diplomats from any country in modern history, says the BBC’s Laura Bicker in Washington.

The number includes Russian employees of the US diplomatic missions across Russia, the BBC’s Sarah Rainsford in Moscow adds.

Staff in the embassy in Moscow as well as the consulates in Ekaterinburg, Vladivostok and St Petersburg are affected, she says.

Moreover the Russian decision now establishes the principle that the number of personnel at US embassies and consulates in Russia will in future be held to the same level – currently 455 – as the number of personnel at Russian embassies and consulates in the US.

That means that any future expulsions of Russian diplomats in the US – or any US refusal of visas to Russian diplomats to fill vacant posts at the Russian embassies and consulates in the US, as has apparently been happening – will be matched exactly equal expulsions of US diplomats from Russia, and refusals of visas to US diplomats seeking to fill vacant posts in US embassies and consulates in Russia.

That this is a heavy blow to the US is highlighted by one interesting fact.  It turns out that the number of personnel working at US embassies and consulates in Russia was almost three times greater than the number of personnel working at Russian embassies and consulates in the US.

That begs the question of what all these extra US personnel were doing there?   Perhaps US embassies and consulates are less efficient than Russian ones.  However I suspect that the Russians believe that many if not most of these extra people were actually engaged in intelligence gathering and “democracy promotion” activities.

Many people have commented on the quiet atmosphere in which the recent Russian Presidential election was conducted.  Compared to the last Presidential election in 2012 there were no significant anti-Putin protests, no violent or embarrassing incidents, and Navalny’s call for a boycott was ignored.

No one so far as I know has made the connection between the quiet atmosphere of the election and the gigantic purge of US embassy and consular staff which took place in the summer of 2017.

Nor has anyone connected the quiet atmosphere of the election to the effect of Russia’s 2012 Foreign Agent law, which requires Russian NGOs which receive foreign funding and which engage in political activities to register as foreign agents.

Perhaps there is no connection between the quiet atmosphere of the election and those two things.

However if such a connection does exist – and I suspect it does – then it is not difficult to see why Washington’s powerful ‘democracy promotion’ lobby might have found President Putin’s triumphant re-election even more infuriating than it might otherwise have been.

If so then that might explain why the US appears to have seized on the Skripal affair to carry out such a disproportionately large number of expulsions.

In that case it is at least possible that the wave of expulsions in Europe and elsewhere were coordinated by the US in order to give cover to its expulsions.

What consequences will these expulsions have?

Firstly, it is a given that the Russians will retaliate with their own expulsions.  The days when the USSR failed to respond symmetrically to mass expulsions of Soviet diplomats from the West are long gone.

Other than that I doubt that there will be any significant consequences at all.

It is likely that some of the Russian diplomats who are being expelled have been engaging in intelligence work.  However I suspect that the days when Soviet intelligence operations were tied to Soviet embassies ended with the Cold War.

Some Russian embassies probably still have an SVR Resident, and some Russian military attachés probably still are GRU agents.

However today it is much easier for Russians to travel and communicate across borders than it was during the Cold War, and if only for that reason I doubt that most Russian agents are based at or communicate through Russian embassies, where they can be easily monitored by the West’s counter-intelligence agencies.

If so then the recent wave of expulsions of Russian diplomats is not going to disrupt the Russian intelligence effort significantly or even at all.

By contrast Western intelligence operations in Russia do seem still to be heavily linked to Western embassies and consulates, a fact which doubtless reflects the absence of Western visitors to Russia.

If so then reciprocal expulsions of diplomats will hurt the Western intelligence effort in Russia more than it will hurt the Russian intelligence effort in the West.

If the quiet atmosphere in which the Russian Presidential election took place is indeed, even if only in part, a product of the massive purge of US embassy and consular personnel which took place last summer, then this provides further confirmation of this.

Beyond this it is difficult to see what actually has changed.

Top level dialogue between Russia and the West continues.  Save possibly in Washington, Russian diplomats will be replaced.  US and Russian military officers continue to meet and talk to each other in Syria.  The German government apparently remains determined to press ahead with Nord Stream 2 (Theresa May admitted to the House of Commons that Nord Stream 2 was not even discussed at the EU Council meeting last week).  The only important Western government which refuses to communicate with Moscow at a top level is the British.

With so many EU countries unwilling even to expel Russian diplomats significant further EU sanctions against Russia look extremely unlikely, whilst the US has ruled out further significant sanctions of its own.

Possibly there will be more sanctions of individual Russian businessmen, companies and officials.  However an EU diplomat has apparently admitted that the EU has practically exhausted the list of such individuals to sanction.  Besides it’s difficult to see what those sanctions have achieved anyway.

Even in Britain – the supposed centre of this particular storm – the Conservative government remains unwilling to impose sanctions on individual Russian businessmen and companies, possibly because many of them give money to the Conservative Party.

As for talk of the world sliding into war I find that unwarranted and overdone.

The practice of treating diplomats as disposable pawns in a West versus Russia chess game began in the Cold War.  For any Russian diplomat posted to the West, and for any Western diplomat posted to Russia, being expelled is an occupational hazard.

The Russians scarcely ever initiate these expulsions, but for Western leaders expelling Russian diplomats is an easy way to play tough with Moscow and to strike a Churchillian pose without taking any real risks.

That the West is choosing to respond to the Skripal case by expelling Russian diplomats is not a reason to be alarmed or to worry about war.  On the contrary it is more reason not to take this ‘crisis’ entirely seriously.

The Duran

 

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