A Prisoner’s Story of Capture, Detention and Torture in a Secret UAE Prison in Yemen – By Ahmed Abdulkareem (MINT PRESS)

The entrance of Aden Central Prison, known as Mansoura, where one wing is run by Yemeni allies of the United Arab Emirates to detain al-Qaida suspects, is shown in this May 9, 2017 photo in Aden, Yemen. Hundreds detained in the hunt for militants have disappeared into a network of secret prisons run by the UAE and Yemeni militias it created across southern Yemen, where former detainees say torture is widespread. Some prisoners have been interrogated by Americans, witnesses say. (AP Photo/Maad El Zikry)
The Forgotten War

“They were hanging me for a long time and electrocuted me. I was screaming from beatings so intense that I could feel our cell shake then I went unconscious.”

SOUTHERN YEMEN — “They come to strip off our clothes not to liberate us. After taking your clothes off, they tie your hands to a steel pole from the right and the left so you are spread open in front of them. Then the sodomizing starts,” a released prisoner from a secret United Arab Emirates prison black-site, who only wanted to be identified as A.F.D. in fear of retaliation, told MintPress. “Please do not mention my name.”

He continued:

All I could think of was Abu Ghraib. But if you compare the [UAE-Saudi-led coalition] secret prisons to Guantanamo Bay detention camp, it’s no exaggeration, you could make the argument that these Saudi-UAE prisons are much worse.”

The 55-year-old civilian from Yemen`s southern province of Aden told MintPress he was abducted from his home and kept in a secret UAE prison for 18 months on charges of raising the flag of Yemen, signifying his support for a unified Yemen and opposition to the UAE’s military occupation of the southern district:

They blindfolded me and drove me to an unknown place, later I knew it was al Mushar military base run by Abu al Yamamah, then they took me to a jail.”

A.F.D. had been moved across the network of secret UAE prisons multiple times where he was interrogated dozens of times. During his interrogations, he was tortured with electricity, sexual violence, beatings, and attack dogs while blindfolded and chained down.

“They were hanging me for a long time and electrocuted me, I was screaming from beatings so intense that I could feel our cell shake, then I went unconscious,” A.F.D. told MintPress.The effects of the shocks are evident on his body. “In one of the torture sessions, four brothers  [Sa’id, Abdul, Hakim and Ahmed] from the Manser family in Aden, had been hanged in front of us.”

Hundreds of detainees from Aden, Hadramout provinces and Al Mukha city suffered similar abuses, including sexual violence, in the UAE-run secret prisons across southern Yemen:

Cells are overcrowded, guards are cruel, there is indiscriminate violence. I even saw a young boy being raped. For a long time, he refused to eat because of the appalling shock.”

A photo showing the body of Ahmed Dabeh, a young man from the city of Jaar in Yemen's Abyan province. Dabeh was killed as a result of the violent torture he endured in a secret UAE prison on September 29, 2017. Traces of torture are visible on his body. Photo | Courtesy Dabeh family

A.F.D. spoke to MintPress with a broken nose and suffering from severe pain running down his spine. He recalled a day when he and his prison mates were sexually abused:

They touched our genitals, probing our rectums. My prison mate shouted, ‘You are killing our dignity.’ An Emirati soldier shouted back, ‘This is our job!’”

A.F.D. stopped for a moment and said:

You know, there was an Emirati officer named Hitler. He would chant ‘Do you know who I am? I am Hitler…Hitler!’ when he would walk on our bare bodies after lining us up and forcing us to lie down.”

Red scars on A.F.D.’s hand could be seen at a glance, as he flailed his arms while recalling how he was tortured:

The prisoners screamed and wept. Those who were kidnapped were threatened by barking dogs and beaten until they bled. Hitler has a dog called Shakeira.”

A.F.D.’s story is just one of thousands of Yemeni civilians who had been held without trial and tortured at a UAE-run prison in Yemen’s southern districts.  

 

Investigations confirm a grizzly history of atrocities

An investigation by the Associated Press in 2017 revealed a network of 18 secret prisons set up and run by the United Arab Emirates across southern Yemen. The 2017 investigation found that nearly 2,000 Yemenis had been disappeared into prisons where extreme torture techniques were normally used, including a “grill” in which the victim “is tied to a spit like a roast and spun in a circle of fire.”

Lawyers and families of many of the disappeared victims told MintPress that the number of those kidnapped is actually much higher, estimating that over 2,500 men disappeared inside these secret prisons. Each day that number increases placing an emotional strain on the victims’ families.

In response, local families have been actively organizing weekly vigils to demand information about their children, parents and brothers’ disappearances.

The daughter and brother of Nezal Ba Hwaireth, who was disappeared into a secret UAE prison, raise his photo at a rally demanding his release. Photo | Courtesy Ba Hwaireth family

“Our life in an endless nightmare where our loved ones have been forcibly disappeared. when we demand to know where our loved ones are held, or if they are even still alive, our requests are met with intimidation.” a 40-years-old brother of Ba Huirith who was forcibly hidden told MintPress.

Families working with local attorneys created a list with the missing names of those disappeared and launched an international legal campaign in hopes to draw attention from Western human rights groups in an attempt to secure their loved one’s release if they are still alive.

Despite the AP findings and campaigns launched by the victims’ families, the UAE denied and continues to deny that it runs any kind of prisons in Yemen.

However, an investigation in January conducted by a UN panel of experts affirmed the findings of the AP investigation that UAE forces were indeed responsible for acts of torture — including “beatings, electrocution, denial of medical treatment, and sexual violence” at secret prisons across southern Yemen. In May, the House of Representatives voted to force a public accounting of the U.S’ role in these torture prisons, allegations having emerged that U.S. officials were involved in the interrogation process at these sites.

According to anonymous defense officials who spoke with the AP:

American forces do participate in interrogations of detainees at locations in Yemen, provide questions for others to ask, and receive transcripts of interrogations from Emirati allies. They said U.S. senior military leaders were aware of allegations of torture at the prisons in Yemen, looked into them, but were satisfied that there had not been any abuse when U.S. forces were present.”

According to the AP, a former security chief who himself was involved in interrogating detainees to extract confessions from prisoners revealed that rape is used as a way to force detainees to cooperate with the Emiratis, saying “in some cases, they rape the detainee, film him while raping, use it as a way to force him to work for them” as spies against the Yemeni army, brotherhood group, resistance movement of the Houthis.

A 25-year-old former prisoner, who asked to be identified as S.R.A. to protect his identity, corroborated the AP’s account, telling MintPress that rape was regularly used and threatened against prisoners:

At first I refused to cooperate with them [interrogators], then they filmed me in immoral acts as they raped me. After that they threatened me if I continue to refuse to cooperate, they would publish it on social media.”

The UAE is a major player in the United States’ so-called “War On Terror,” which is widely believed to be the reason Washington has turned a blind eye to much of the UAE’s activity, expansion, and atrocities in southern Yemen.

While Abu Dhabi claims to be active in southern Yemen to assist in the Western fight against al-Qaeda, Yemenis accuse the UAE of acting as a colonizing force in the region seeking to dominate energy sources, commandeer key ports linking it to the international community, and exploit it as a training ground for its military where thousands of UAE troops currently reside.

In fact, in Yemen’s three-year war, UAE forces purportedly fighting on behalf of Yemen’s government have taken over wide swaths of territory, towns, and cities in the south.

On July 10, Ahmed al-Maysari, who served as Interior Minister in the ousted Hadi government, called on the UAE to hand the secret prisons over to Yemen’s government. It was the first time al-Maysari went gone public with the demand.

The fact that the demand was made by an official of the Hadi government — which invited the coalition’s military to intervene in Yemen and became an excuse for U.S. backed Saudi-led coalition’s aggression — shows who makes the decisions in the south of Yemen.

Hadi’s government has nothing left to do aside from overseeing these prisons.

Now, as the flags of the UAE and Saudi Arabia are raised over battlefields and public buildings across Yemen`s south and in Socotra (an island near Somalia’s northeastern coast) with the flags of separatists sometimes appearing beside them, the Hadi government calls the UAE’s action an act of hostility.

Moreover, this comes as the UAE backs southern separatists and calls the shots in large swaths of southern Yemen, including Socotra. In fact, it is not just southern Yemen under the yoke of  the U.S.-backed, Saudi-led coalition; indeed the coalition has been expanding its military influence across the Red Sea and the Horn of Africa.

 

Sites not mentioned by the media

While the AP previously confirmed 18 detention sites, including 13 prisons and many military camps, media reports have failed to mention other UAE prison sites located in the west-coast districts of Al Makkah, Khwakha and Bab Al Mandeb — which, according to local sources who spoke with MintPress, are also UAE-Saudi-led coalition run.

In Mokha alone, the UAE has established five secret prisons. One of them located directly in the Mokha port. Hundreds of Mokha residents and southern reluctants — who reject and resist the UAE presence in the south — have been arrested and incarcerated in these prisons. A local source told MintPress that hundreds of Mouza, Hamili, and Dwabab residents have been held in UAE secret prisons.

Abdul Jabbar Muhammad Ahmad al-Quba’i, a 37-year-old farmer from the village of al-Shaba’ located in the district of al-Mukha, was imprisoned on charges of opposing the UAE’s presence in al-Mukha and along Yemen’s western coast. According to sources close to his family, Al-Quba’i was subjected to torture, including being stripped naked and having burning plastic bags drip onto his skin, having cigarettes put out on his body and having his nails pulled off.  Photos of al-Quba’i, leaked from the prison and posted on social media, show signs of torture on appeared his face and abdomen. Speaking on condition of anonymity, a fellow prisoner told MintPress:

Detainees were blindfolded, handcuffed and led in groups or individually into a room where the Emiratis were present. I remember one day the UAE officers told us to undress and lie down spreading our legs open wide.”

This photo, taken inside of the Beir Ahmed prison, shows the body of a man identified only as Ghufran from Dar Sad. Ghufran died in the UAE-run secret prison as a result of his torture. Photo provided by A.F.D to MintPress

Of the five prisons where the AP found sexual torture, four are in Aden. One is at the Buriqa military base belonging to the UAE. A second torture site dedicated to sexual violence was located at the house of Shallal Shaye, the Aden security chief closely allied with the UAE; and a third is at a nightclub-turned-prison called Wadah; the fourth is at Beir Ahmed.

Another torture site run by the UAE was discovered at the Al-Rayan prison in Hadhramaut Airport, eastern Yemen. The airport was turned by the coalition forces into a military base and a jail where hundreds of Yemeni civilians are currently imprisoned.

A.F.D. told MintPress:

Our friend Ahmed Allahji died due to torture. … The prisoners screamed and wept. Those who were kidnapped were threatened by barking dogs and beaten until they bled. A.F.D recounted.  

Al-Saqqaf died of torture and was thrown out of the prison window of ‘Waddah Hall.’

Abu Ali Awad, an owner of a sponge factory, was killed due to torture. His father and brother are still being forcibly hidden. As a result of this cruel torture, many prisoners died”

During my period in a prison, 32 prison mates were killed due to torture. One day, I saw mercenary guards in Al Mansourah prison when they were putting a body in a plastic bag.”

Although in the last year the Associated Press and others have unmasked the UAE secret prisons in southern Yemen, for A.F.D., as for many released prisoners, exposing the prisons will only cause their return to the torture sites as a repercussion. According to families who spoke with MintPress, speaking with media about the UAE-prisons will land a victim with charges of giving statements to the media and could get them killed.  Two families told MintPress that they lost their sons after speaking with local and international media about their experiences at the black sites.

Top Photo | The entrance of Aden Central Prison, known as Mansoura, where one wing is run by Yemeni allies of the United Arab Emirates is shown in this May 9, 2017 photo in Aden, Yemen. Hundreds of Yemenis in the hunt for militant have disappeared into a network of secret prisons run by the UAE and Yemeni militias it created across southern Yemen, where former detainees say torture is widespread. Maad El Zikry | AP

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.

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

US special forces soldier

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

putin trump summit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Truth Perspective: Trump’s Zionist Ball and Chain: The Kushner-AIPAC-Port Authority Connection – By SOTT

Trump Kushner Netanyahu

© Hispan TV

Most Americans probably know Jared Kushner as Ivanka Trump’s husband, and President Trump’s right-hand man working on the Trump administration’s Israel-Palestine ‘deal of the century’. But how many remember his father, Charles? The elder Kushner is a real-estate developer, like Trump. But he’s also a convicted felon who has done jail time for his corrupt ‘business’ practices, various financial crimes and mafia-like antics. He’s also close friends with Benjamin Netanyahu, who once slept in Jared’s bed when Jared was a teenager (don’t worry, Jared slept in the basement).

Scratch below the surface of Kushner’s past and you will uncover the corrupt world of New Jersey and New York politics, the Port Authority, organized crime, and a pay-to-play system that would make Hillary and Bill blush: bribery and blackmail, trysts and affairs, conspiracy and collusion, revolving-door nepotism, backstabbing and lobbying for the interests of a foreign state. As Ryan Dawson of Anti-Neocon Report puts it, “Crooks are using the state to enrich themselves and then using this wealth to further the interest of the Israeli regime and its grip over America money, media, and military power.”

Today on the Truth Perspective we discuss Dawson’s 2017 documentary God Is Not A Real Estate Agent: Trump’s Zionist Ball & Chain, which goes into all these topics in depth.

Running Time: 01:23:54

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Listen live, chat, and call in to future shows on the SOTT Radio Network!

Articles Cited

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

daraa map

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Proof read by: Maurice Brasher

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About Elijah J. Magnier

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related

 

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

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

 

Where He Stands

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

“Resistance” on Capitol Hill and In the Streets

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Who Is Isolating Whom? – By Martin SIEFF (Strategic Culture Foundation)

Who Is Isolating Whom?

For nearly 30 years since the disintegration of the Soviet Union, the United States and its main Western European allies the United Kingdom, France and Germany have comfortably assumed themselves to be the invincible and unstoppable spearhead and cutting edge of the human race. The assumption that democracy and free trade, Western style will conquer the world is axiomatically held and permeates the educational systems and intelligentsia of all these nations.

Yet this presumption of moral and superiority and ideological inevitability by the leaders of the United States, the European Union, NATO and the Group of Seven (G7) nations has not been confirmed by any verifiable hard evidence.

On the contrary, the US State Department’s own reports have remorselessly documented throughout the 21st century that every nation where the United States intervened either directly, applying kinetic military power, or indirectly destabilizing existing governments and urging other players to rise up to destabilize existing governments – misery, not happiness has inevitably resulted.

Whether one looks at Ukraine, Afghanistan, Kosovo, Iraq, Libya, Somalia or Syria, the pattern is always the same. Per capita rates of human trafficking, including, the enslavement of children for sexual exploitation, organized crime, drug trafficking, per capita hard drug addiction rate, and the likelihood of violent death has soared after every such US and/or allied military intervention. Life expectancy and standards of living as well as recorded GDP have plummeted catastrophically in every case.

Even the creation of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization on June 15, 2001 failed to dent Western paradigm blindness, arrogance and complacency about the true, future “Way of the World.” Now we see the same extraordinary complacency presented by the Western elites to the crucial accession of India and Pakistan to the SCO.

The geostrategic, world historical importance of this development cannot be overestimated. For 17 years since the founding of the SCO, the United States and its NATO and European Union allies have pressed ahead in one minor war of destabilization and aggression after another. Yet every one of those misadventures has been a strategic and even tactical failure. The United States and its NATO allies have proven all too adept at starting wars around the world. Through fear and the narrowest calculations of self-aggrandizement, tiny nations from Estonia to Georgia have flocked to their banner.

However now, at a single stroke, the two giant nuclear-armed nations of South Asia – India and Pakistan – have set aside their existential rivalries and suspicions and have both sought security and protection within the framework of the SCO. And more, these two nations are both English speaking democracies!

How can the United States and the United Kingdom in particular now claim to uphold the cause of democracy when the largest, most populous democracy on earth – a nation of almost 1.3 billion people, and another nation with an English-speaking democracy – Pakistan – with a population now in excess of 200 million have now joined the SCO?

How can the United States, NATO, the EU or the Group of Seven now claim to uphold democratic values around the globe when two democracies with a combined population of more almost 1.5 billion – double the population of all the 28 nations combined in the EU and almost five times the population of the United States – have now opted to join the SCO?

Why did Delhi and Islamabad both decide upon such a n epochal move? Clearly, they did so in large part because both nations fear the future potential coercive designs of the Western alliances against either of them.

Therefore despite US efforts at engineering Regime Change from Ukraine to Brazil, the accession of India and Pakistan to the SCO confirms the isolation of NATO in the wider world, shrinking the alliance’s expansion into Eastern Europe to just the western end of Eurasia and the periphery of East Asia.

This therefore is the self-inflicted strategic catastrophe that the fantasy vision of global strategic engineering and a worldwide “crusade for democracy” has inflicted upon its perpetrators. Rather than isolating Russia, or China or both of them – an absurd goal if ever there was one – the half-baked failed neo-conservative and neo-liberal Hegelians of the Sub-Age of Francis Fukuyama have isolated themselves instead.

Just as the capitalist United States, the communist Soviet Union and the paleo-colonialist British Empire all eventually joined forces to crush the mutual threat of Nazism, the neocon and neo-lib fanatics of Permanent Global Revolution (PGR) – democratic – style – have expended trillions of dollars and set off wars costing millions of lives – only to succeed in isolating themselves.

The solution to this global catastrophe for the forces of the West w is actually very simple and practical. It is to end the policy of endless military interventions, to immediately end the remorseless expansion of NATO and indeed to permit any nation within the alliance to quietly and efficiently decide to leave it whenever it so chooses.

All NATO nations, led by the United States must also solemnly undertake to respect the primacy of international law and to implement and respect all decisions taken by the United Nations Security Council where the permanent veto power still welded by the United States and its allies the UK and France provide ample diplomatic and legal protection against their own coercive and expansionist tactics being turned against them.

This is what the leaders of the West should do. But of course they will not. For when did Fools ever willingly embrace Wisdom?

Organization of America – By Tamara Nassar and Ali Abunimah The Electronic Intifada (Electronic Intifada)

The emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani hired a Washington firm to cultivate support from the Israel lobby. Those efforts included large donations to the Zionist Organization of America.

Emmanuele Contini SIPA USA

Qatar donated $250,000 to some of the most extreme pro-Israel organizations in the United States, including one that funds senior Israeli military officers to go on propaganda tours.

Joseph Allaham, a lobbyist working for the Qatari government, transferred the money through his firm Lexington Strategies in late 2017 and early 2018.

The sums included $100,000 to the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), $100,000 to Our Soldiers Speak and $50,000 for Blue Diamond Horizons, Inc.

Our Soldiers Speak describes itself as the “vehicle through which the IDF [Israeli army] and the Israeli National Police dispatch senior officers to select campuses overseas” and to give “briefings” to members of the US Congress.

Blue Diamond Horizons is a company controlled by Mike Huckabee, the Christian Zionist former governor of Arkansas.

Huckabee, who happens to be the father of Donald Trump’s White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders, opposes any Israeli withdrawal from Jerusalem and has suggested Israel should annex the West Bank.

In US government disclosure documents, Lexington Strategies describes the payment to Huckabee’s company as an “honorarium for visit,” while the donations to the ZOA and Our Soldiers Speak are labeled as contributions for “charitable goodwill.”

In January this year, Huckabee traveled to Doha, as one of a parade of far-right and pro-Israel figures invited to Qatar as part of the Gulf emirate’s intensive outreach to Israel and its lobby.

Working for Emir

The disclosure, filed by Lexington Strategies on 15 June under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), reveals that the money given to the Zionist organizations came out of $1.45 million provided by the State of Qatar for lobbying on its behalf.

The document explicitly names Qatar’s ruler, Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, as the client of Allaham’s lobbying efforts.

One of the stated purposes of the money paid by Qatar to the lobbying group is to encourage “dialogue with [the] Jewish community abroad and in the United States.”

In reality, Qatar has been reaching out to some of the most extreme supporters of Israel as part of its effort to curry favor with the United States.

For more than a year, Qatar has faced isolation and blockade by regional rivals Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The Trump administration initially expressed strong support for that blockade, labeling Qatar a sponsor of “terrorism.”

Doha fears that under the influence of the Saudi-led bloc, the US could withdraw its massive Al Udeid air base from Qatar, making the tiny state vulnerable to invasion from bigger neighbors.

In order to fight back, Qatar is competing with its Gulf rivals for US affections, and like those rivals it views the support of Israel and its lobby as the fastest route to Washington’s heart.

As part of this effort, Qatar hired lobbyist Nick Muzin and his firm Stonington Strategies and was in 2017 paying him a monthly retainer of $50,000. This was later increased to $300,000 a month, according to FARA filings.

With Allaham’s disclosure it now emerges that Qatar has hired more than one Washington firm to win the favors of the Israel lobby.

Shielding the lobby

One of the key concessions Qatar has made is to suppress an explosive Al Jazeera documentary revealing the inner workings of the US Israel lobby.

As The Electronic Intifada exclusively revealed in March, the film identifies a number of lobby groups as working directly with Israel to spy on American citizens using sophisticated data gathering techniques.

The documentary is also said to cast light on covert efforts to smear and intimidate Americans seen as too critical of Israel.

The Zionist Organization of America, one of the recipients of the Qatari emir’s largesse and hospitality, took public credit for getting the film censored.

But amid criticism within pro-Israel circles, ZOA president Morton Klein claimed to be “shocked” when he learned that the money had originated from Qatar, and told The Jewish Week he would return the donations.

Our Soldiers Speak, the group that promotes the Israeli military, affirmed to the publication that it is “very pleased to take every penny.”

The Jewish Week also reported that one of the guests Allaham invited to the ZOA’s gala dinner last year was Ahmed al-Rumaihi, who had been a Qatari diplomat and the former head of Qatar Investments, a $100-billion sovereign wealth fund whose holdings include Qatar Airways.

While there, al-Rumaihi reportedly asked to be introduced to Steve Bannon, the former senior Trump adviser who gave a speech at the ZOA gala.

In an article published days before Allaham filed his FARA disclosure, Mother Jones magazine reported that Klein was questioned about al-Rumaihi’s presence at the dinner. The ZOA president responded, “What’s the problem? Joey [Allaham] paid me $100,000 for that table!”

Occupation advice

While courting those who facilitate and justify Israel’s crimes against Palestinians in Washington, Qatar presents itself as one of the key supporters of Palestinians in Gaza.

Qatar funds projects and provides aid in the territory that has faced massive Israeli military assaults and a devastating siege over more than a decade.

Israel also regularly sprays Palestinian farmland in Gaza with herbicides, destroying crops.

But recent comments by Qatari diplomat Mohammed al-Emadi suggest that Qatar’s agenda is effectively to help Israel pacify Gaza and manage its occupation better.

Al-Emadi is in charge of Qatar’s activities in Gaza. He suggested in an interview with Israel’s public broadcaster Kan on Sunday that the Great March of Return protests on the Gaza-Israel boundary fence would quiet down if Israel were to allow Palestinians in Gaza to work in Israel.

“It could start for example with 5,000 people in Gaza who would work in Israel. That is good. That would stop the protests, the fires, the kites and the balloons,” al-Emadi said.

Since the end of March, Israel has killed more than 140 Palestinians and injured more than 4,000 others with live fire during protests aimed at ending the siege and calling for the right for refugees to return to their original lands from which Israel excludes them because they are not Jews.

But while Israel is undoubtedly happy to see Qatar pay to keep Palestinians in Gaza at the edge of survival, there is no sign it is interested in taking Qatari advice.

On Monday, Israel announced it was closing the only goods crossing to Gaza in retaliation for incendiary kites launched from Gaza that have caused damage to crops on the Israeli side of the boundary.

The Israeli human rights group Gisha said that “collectively punishing nearly two million people in Gaza by closing its only official crossing for the movement of goods is both illegal and morally depraved.”

Tamara Nassar is associate editor and Ali Abunimah is director of The Electronic Intifada.

 

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

Chinese and Russian flag

© Vitaly Ankov / Sputnik

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

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

Russia & China: Strength through friendship

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 
 
See Also:

Assad vows to free all of Syria, no matter who controls its territories – By Sputnik

Bashar al-Assad

© SANA / Reuters
Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad greets his supporters during Eid al-Adha prayers on September 1, 2017, Syria.

The Syrian president held a meeting at the Foreign Affairs Ministry on Monday discussing the internal, regional and international political situation and Syria’s foreign and domestic policy objectives.

Damascus will “liberate the territories of all Syrian provinces, no matter whose control they are under,” Assad said, as cited by the Syrian Arab News Agency.

“The process of Syria’s post-war reconstruction is our biggest priority, and we will engage in the restoration of the national economy alongside the ongoing anti-terrorist operations,” Assad added.

“The President #الأسد conducts an open dialogue with diplomats at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and expatriates on internal, regional and international political situations, diplomatic work and the political and social future #سورية. “

Assad pointed to the return of refugees who left the country during the war as another urgent problem.

The president emphasized the need for “dialogue between Syrians at all levels,” which he emphasized should lead to a “pact of national accord.” Assad accused the Western powers and the US specifically of “obstructing the activation of the political process” in the war-torn country.

The seven year war in Syria has had a severe impact on the country’s economy. In May, Assad estimated that the country may need up to $400 billion and over a decade to rebuild. In an interview with Russian media last month, Assad emphasized that notwithstanding Syria’s difficulties, Damascus ‘does not need the West’ to rebuild if the latter is unwilling, because they are prone to acting in a predatory manner.

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