Friday, August 18, 2017

Norway Seizes Arctic Sunset, Greenpeace Arctic Drilling Campaign Undeterred

The Arctic Sunrise has been seized

by Greenpeace US


18 August, 2017

The message is clear:  

"Norway, it’s time to choose people over oil."

35 activists from 25 countries are in the Barents Sea demanding an end to Arctic drilling.

Today, activists from the Arctic Sunrise in inflatable boats and kayaks entered the exclusion zone of Statoil’s Korpfjell well, Norway’s northernmost oil-drilling site, and attached a giant globe to the rig Songa Enabler.

The globe carried written statements from people from all over the world, with a message to the Norwegian government to stop the oil drilling.


The activists halted the operation of the rig, and after several hours of demanding an end to the drilling in the Arctic, the Norwegian Coast Guard interfered with the peaceful protest, arresting the Arctic Sunrise ship, the activists and crew members.


Just 10 days before ratifying the Paris Agreement, in June 2016, the “environmentally friendly” Norwegian government granted new oil licenses. Now, a year later, Statoil has just started to drill for oil in the northernmost area ever licensed by Norway.


But this won’t stop us. It’s time to get ready for our new battleground: the courtroom—where Greenpeace Nordic, together with Nature and Youth, will face Arctic Oil this November.

With your witness statements we will achieve it. Add your name to the more than 350.000 others and become part of the evidence that the people know a better world is possible.

Diego Gonzaga is a content editor for Greenpeace US.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

NDP Hopefuls on the Israel-Palestine Highwire

NDP Leadership Candidate Jagmeet Singh’s Trip to Israel

by Yves Engler - Dissident Voice


August 17th, 2017

Like bears attracted to spawning salmon, politicians seek out power. The former needs to build stores of fat to survive the winter, while the latter must attract the resources and support necessary for successful electoral campaigns. Given the survival imperative, neither bear nor politician should be criticized too harshly for what comes naturally.

But, the two best ways to judge politicians are by taking a look at whom they choose to gather resources from and what they are prepared to do to get them.

At worst politicians pander to society’s wealthiest and reactionary social forces, further solidifying their grip on the economic and political system. At best they seek out progressive grassroots and labour organizations, collecting the necessary resources from ordinary people while amplifying their influence.

It’s within this context that one should understand Ontario MPP Jagmeet Singh’s trip to Israel with the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs. At the start of the year the current NDP leadership candidate took an organized trip there and met to discuss it with Galit Baram, Israel’s consul general in Toronto.

The trip and meeting were most likely aimed at allaying particular concerns since in early December Singh was the only member of the Ontario legislature to speak out against a provincial vote to condemn the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. He criticized a CIJA-backed motion supporting the spurious “Ottawa Protocol on Combating Anti-Semitism” and rejecting “the differential treatment of Israel, including the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.”

When speaking to NDP members recently Singh has repeatedly highlighted that move rather than the CIJA trip or consular visit. Similarly, Singh published eleven tweets about Palestine on July 16. In the best of the lot he stated:

“3 yrs ago today the 2014 Gaza War made headlines when 4 Palestinian boys were killed by an Israeli military strike while playing on a beach” and
“I stand for Palestinians’ right to freely determine their political status & pursue their economic, social & cultural development.” 

In response to two questions Independent Jewish Voices and Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East submitted to NDP leadership candidates Singh said,

I would consider supporting the use of targeted sanctions against Israel” and
“I would support mandatory labeling of products originating from Israel’s colonies, and excluding these products from the benefits of CIFTA [Canada Israel Free Trade Agreement]. I am also open to considering a ban.”

(In assessing Singh’s responses to their Middle East policy questionnaire IJV gave him a B for third place while CJPME ranked him second with an –A. Niki Ashton received an A+ from both IJV and CJPME.)

Singh clearly wants average NDP members to think he’s opposed to Israeli violence and supportive of Palestinian solidarity activism. Simultaneously, however, he wants to signal to CIJA and Israeli officials that he’ll play ball.

The Palestinian question is particularly tricky for the Brampton-based politician. With some claiming that his open (Sikh) religiosity is a liability in Québec, Singh’s path to becoming leader is largely contingent on convincing members he’s best positioned to expand NDP support among the young and communities of colour. But, younger and darker NDP members/sympathizers largely oppose the current NDP leadership’s de facto support for Israeli expansionism/belligerence.

A February poll found that only 17 per cent of Canadian millennials had a positive opinion of the Israeli government versus 37 per cent of those 65 plus. I’m not aware of any Canadian polling by ethnicity on the subject, but US polling provides a window into attitudes there. According to a July Newsweek headline: “Young, Black and Latino Americans Don’t Like Israel” (after the invariable push back the headline was changed to “Why More Young, Black and Latino Americans Than Ever Before Don’t Like Israel”).

To the extent that Singh can rally younger and ethnically diverse folks to the party it would tend to push the NDP towards Palestinian solidarity. On the other hand, Singh is the preferred candidate of much of the party establishment and his candidacy is heavily media-driven. The dominant media and NDP hierarchy are generally hostile to discussing Canada’s complicity in Palestinian dispossession.

At the first six leadership debates there wasn’t a single question related to the NDP’s position on Palestine. While the party hierarchy refuses to debate it, the NDP actually devotes significant energy to the subject. During the 2015 federal election the NDP ousted as many as eight individuals from running or contesting nominations because they defended Palestinian rights on social media.

Last year NDP foreign critic Hélène Laverdière (right) spoke at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s (AIPAC) annual conference in Washington and traveled to Israel with Canada’s Governor General where she attended a ceremony put on by the explicitly racist Jewish National Fund (Laverdière is backing Singh for NDP leader).

Many party officials – 20 federal NDP MPs, according to a 2014 iPolitics calculation – have gone on all-expense paid trips to that country with an Israeli nationalist organization.

So, party representatives can travel halfway across the globe to investigate the conflict and individuals chosen by local riding associations can be removed for their opinions on the issue, but the subject doesn’t warrant debate.

If Singh wins the leadership will he expend the energy needed to shake up the established order on this issue?

Yves Engler is the author of A Propaganda System: How Canada’s Government, Corporations, Media and Academia Sell War and Canada in Africa: 300 years of aid and exploitation.
Read other articles by Yves.

Grumpy at 70, India Shows Its Intolerance

India at 70: bigotry rules

by N. Jayaram  - OpenDemocracy


15 August 2017

"Hyper-nationalism and the closing of the mind is also ‘a manifestation of insecurity about one’s place in the world.’”

As India marks 70 years of independence today (August 15), two events of the past week illustrate the predicament a country that often preens itself as the world’s largest democracy finds itself in.

One was a vitriolic and graceless speech by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at a farewell ceremony for Mohammad Hamid Ansari, (pictured) who was stepping down after two terms as Vice-President.

The other a prominent television anchor declaring that a panelist’s mention of the deaths of dozens of children in a hospital in Uttar Pradesh state was an attempt to divert attention from the real issue, which in her opinion was the rectitude of the state government’s order to Muslim schools to celebrate Independence Day with the recitation of a nationalist song entitled Vande Mataram (salute the motherland).

Modi said in his speech in Hindi (translation taken from thewire.in) addressing Ansari in the Rajya Sabha, the Indian parliament’s upper house which the Vice-President chairs:

“Your life was that of a career diplomat. I understood what being a career diplomat means only after becoming prime minister. Because the way they smile, the way they shake their hands has a meaning which a novice may not understand immediately. They are trained to do that. But that skill must have been useful for you in the last 10 years. Your skill must have benefitted the house in trying to manage contrarian voices within it.
“In your career as a diplomat, you spent most of your time in West Asia. You spent most of your life in that single circle, that environment, that way of thinking, among those people. Even after retirement, your work was similar, whether it be in the minorities commission or Aligarh Muslim University. More or less, your circle remained the same.
“But in the last 10 years, you had a different responsibility. Every minute, you had to work within the limitations of the constitution. And you worked to the best of your abilities. It is possible that you must have encountered restlessness in the process. But after today, you will not have to face even that dilemma. You will experience freedom and will be able to work, speak, and think according to what you really feel.”

By West Asia, the area generally referred to in western media as ‘the Middle East’, Modi meant Muslim countries. He neglected noting that Ansari had also served in other places such as Australia and that he had been a very active Permanent Representative of India in the United Nations before retiring as a diplomat. Modi also failed to mention that Ansari has served as ceremonial president of the Indian Institute of Public Administration, the Indian Council of World Affairs and other such bodies.

Modi’s clear attempt to depict the much respected former diplomat and scholar as someone steeped in a Muslim “circle” was breath-taking in its venality rarely matched by heads of governments or states.

Then again, Modi was clearly waiting to tick Ansari off for thinly veiled criticism of his government. Asked in an interview whether he had shared concerns over growing intolerance in India, Ansari said he had and when pressed as to whether he was satisfied with the response, said obliquely

“Well, there is always an explanation and there is always a reason. Now it is a matter of judgment, whether you accept the explanation, you accept the reasoning and its rationale.”

A few days earlier, in a convocation speech at the National Law School of India University in Bangalore, Ansari said:

“For many decades after independence, a pluralist view of nationalism and Indianness reflective of the widest possible circle of inclusiveness and a ‘salad bowl’ approach, characterised our thinking. More recently an alternate viewpoint of ‘purifying exclusivism’ has tended to intrude into and take over the political and cultural landscape. One manifestation of it is ‘an increasingly fragile national ego’ that threatens to rule out any dissent however innocent. Hyper-nationalism and the closing of the mind is also ‘a manifestation of insecurity about one’s place in the world.’”

This was an unmistakable dig at the kind of polity ushered in by Modi since his Hindu chauvinist Bharatiya Janata Party came to head the central government in New Delhi in mid-2014. Of a piece with this style of governance, Modi chose as Chief Minister of the most populous state, a Hindu supremacist politician named Adityanath who has headed a militia named Hindu Yuva Vahini (youth brigade) that has been implicated in incidents of violence against Muslims.

It was Adityanath’s order for Muslim schools known as madrasas to celebrate Independence Day and provide proof thereof by video-recording the events that Times Now television channel anchor Navika Kumar was dealing with. She objected, during a panel discussion on prime time she was chairing, to the raising of the deaths of children in Adityanath’s own parliamentary constituency, Gorakhpur.

About 70 deaths from encephalitis have occurred in a hospital there. A reference to these deaths on the leading television channel – a hyper-nationalist and Hindu supremacist version of Fox News – was what its anchor was objecting to.

It encapsulated in a few moments, along with Modi’s venom-filled speech, all that has gone wrong with India over the past 70 years. Instead of emerging as a vibrant, modern democracy, it is being led down an antediluvian path towards medieval bigotry.

Solidarity But No Redress for Communities of the Mount Polley Disaster

No penalties for Mount Polley disaster

by Dan Lewis - Clayoquot Action


August 15, 2017

As we gathered under blue skies in Tofino on the third anniversary of the Mount Polley mining disaster, it was easy to feel connected with the T’exelc and Xaastull First Nations in whose territories Mount Polley lies.

The air was hazy with smoke from the wildfires which had forced both Nations to evacuate from their homes. The haze obscured the view of Catface Mountain, 10 kilometres north of Tofino in Ahousaht First Nations territories, where Imperial Metals is currently pursuing plans to remove the mountaintop to build an open-pit copper mine.

It’s been 3 years since the disaster at the Mount Polley Mine near Williams Lake changed everything for First Nations in the region. When the earthen dam of Imperial Metals’ tailings storage facility burst in the wee hours of August 4th, 25 million cubic metres of toxic sludge and slurry spilled out and ran down into Quesnel Lake, home to one quarter of the Fraser River’s sockeye population. Residents of nearby Likely woke to a sound like a roaring jet engine.

To this day people do not trust the water quality of the lake they used to drink from, and expensive water filters clog up within days. It’s stunning to think that three years later, those toxic tailings have not been cleaned up—there are still tonnes of solids lining Hazeltine Creek, and lying on the bottom of Quesnel Lake.

Largest mining disaster in Canadian history


No penalties have been laid for the largest mining disaster in Canadian history. There have been several investigations and review panels, but no-one has been held responsible—not the company, nor Bill Bennett, who was the Liberal government’s minister of mining. Private prosecution was brought forward by Mining Watch Canada, but quashed when the crown prosecutor argued for a stay of proceedings, and the judge refused to hear evidence that harm had been caused to fish habitat.

The independent review panel which examined the aftermath of Mount Polley declared the disaster meant “the end of business as usual”. Yet within months, Mount Polley was allowed to resume operations—before the tailings dam was even repaired.

The third anniversary marked the deadline for laying charges under provincial laws. The BC Conservation Office spent 3 years investigating Mount Polley, raiding Imperial Metals’ offices after the disaster. However, days before the deadline they announced the investigation had not been completed in time. The federal department of fisheries was part of that investigation, and they have another two years to lay charges under the Fisheries Act.

Meanwhile Bev Sellars filed 15 private charges against Imperial on the third anniversary, under both the provincial Environmental Act and the Mines Act, saying

“I could not bear to witness BC simply stepping aside and giving-up on its own responsibility to protect our shared environment and waters.” 

Her legal action is being by supported by MiningWatch Canada, West Coast Environmental Law, the Wilderness Committee and First Nations Women Advocating Responsible Mining. She was chief councillor of the Xaastull First Nation at the time of the disaster.

New BC government must take action


Many people are counting on the new government to take action to clean up BC’s mining industry. With Imperial Metals considering two mines in the Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Reserve despite opposition from Tla-o-qui-aht and Ahousaht First Nations, we’ll be watching closely.

It felt good to gather on the third anniversary, knowing that people across Canada were also acting in solidarity with First Nations Women Advocating Responsible Mining. During the water ceremony led by Tla-o-qui-aht First Nations elder Levi Martin in Tofino, we passed a bowl of water around the circle, and spoke about why we appreciate water. As Levi said

“We do not want Imperial Metals in Tla-o-qui-aht territory, because all the land the water and the resources belong to our children, and great-great-grandchildren. It is our responsibility to live with care, honour, respect and humility for the sake of our children and great-great-grandchildren.”

Dan Lewis is Executive Director of Clayoquot Action.
Check out Dan’s latest Mount Polley post on Huffington Post.

Douglas Magazine in Victoria just published a story about Imperial Metals’ plans for Clayoquot Sound. Begins on page 32.

Likely Ukraine Link to North Korea's "Accelerated" Rocket Program

A Ukraine Link to North Korea’s Missiles?

by Robert Parry - Consortium News


August 15, 2017  


U.S. intelligence analysts reportedly have traced North Korea’s leap forward in creating an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of striking U.S. territory to a decaying Ukrainian rocket-engine factory whose alleged role could lift the cover off other suppressed mysteries related to the U.S.-backed coup in Kiev.
North Korean missile launch on March 6, 2017

Because the 2014 coup – overthrowing elected President Viktor Yanukovych – was partly orchestrated by the U.S. government’s influential neoconservatives and warmly embraced by the West’s mainstream media, many of the ugly features of the Kiev regime have been downplayed or ignored, including the fact that corrupt oligarch Igor Kolomoisky was put in charge of the area where the implicated factory was located.

As the region’s governor, the thuggish Kolomoisky founded armed militias of Ukrainian extremists, including neo-Nazis, who spearheaded the violence against ethnic Russians in eastern provinces, which had voted heavily for Yanukovych and tried to resist his violent overthrow.

Kolomoisky, who has triple citizenship from Ukraine, Cyprus and Israel, was eventually ousted as governor of Dnipropetrovsk (now called Dnipro) on March 25, 2015, after a showdown with Ukraine’s current President Petro Poroshenko over control of the state-owned energy company, but by then Kolomoisky’s team had put its corrupt mark on the region.

At the time of the Kolomoisky-Poroshenko showdown, Valentyn Nalyvaychenko, chief of the State Security Service, accused Dnipropetrovsk officials of financing armed gangs and threatening investigators, Bloomberg News reported, while noting that Ukraine had sunk to 142nd place out of 175 countries in Transparency International’s Corruptions Perception Index, the worst in Europe.

Even earlier in Kolomoisky’s brutal reign, Dnipropetrovsk had become the center for the violent intrigue that has plagued Ukraine for the past several years, including the dispatch of neo-Nazi militias to kill ethnic Russians who then turned to Russia for support.

Tolerating Nazis


Yet, protected by the waves of anti-Russian propaganda sweeping across the West, Kolomoisky’s crowd saw few reasons for restraint. So, among the Kolomoisky-backed militias was the Azov battalion whose members marched with Swastikas and other Nazi insignias.


Nazi symbols on helmets worn by members of Ukraine’s 
Azov battalion. (As filmed by a Norwegian film crew and shown on German TV)

Ironically, the same Western media which heartily has condemned neo-Nazi and white-nationalist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, adopted a much more tolerant attitude toward Ukraine’s neo-Nazism even as those militants murdered scores of ethnic Russians in Odessa in May 2014 and attacked ethnic Russian communities in the east where thousands more died.

When it came to Ukraine, The New York Times and other mainstream outlets were so dedicated to their anti-Russian propaganda that they veered between minimizing the significance of the neo-Nazi militias and treating them as bulwarks of Western civilization.

For instance, on Feb. 11, 2015, the Times published a long article by Rick Lyman that presented the situation in the port city of Mariupol as if the advance by ethnic Russian rebels amounted to the arrival of barbarians at the gate while the inhabitants were being bravely defended by the forces of civilization. But then the article cited the key role in that defense played by the Azov battalion.

Though the article provided much color and detail and quoted an Azov leader prominently, it left out the fact that the Azov battalion was composed of neo-Nazis.

This inconvenient truth that neo-Nazis were central to Ukraine’s “self-defense forces” would have disrupted the desired propaganda message about “Russian aggression.” After all, wouldn’t many Americans and Europeans understand why Russia, which suffered some 27 million dead in World War II, might be sensitive to neo-Nazis killing ethnic Russians on Russia’s border?

So, in Lyman’s article, the Times ignored Azov’s well-known neo-Nazism and referred to it simply as a “volunteer unit.”

In other cases, the Times casually brushed past the key role of fascist militants. In July 2015, the Times published a curiously upbeat story about the good news that Islamic militants had joined with far-right and neo-Nazi battalions to kill ethnic Russian rebels.

The article by Andrew E. Kramer reported that there were three Islamic battalions “deployed to the hottest zones,” such as around Mariupol. One of the battalions was headed by a former Chechen warlord who went by the name “Muslim,” Kramer wrote, adding:


“The Chechen commands the Sheikh Mansur group, named for an 18th-century Chechen resistance figure. It is subordinate to the nationalist Right Sector, a Ukrainian militia. Right Sector formed during last year’s street protests in Kiev from a half-dozen fringe Ukrainian nationalist groups like White Hammer and the Trident of Stepan Bandera.

“Another, the Azov group, is openly neo-Nazi, using the ‘Wolf’s Hook’ symbol associated with the [Nazi] SS. Without addressing the issue of the Nazi symbol, the Chechen said he got along well with the nationalists because, like him, they loved their homeland and hated the Russians.”

Rockets for North Korea


The Times encountered another discomforting reality on Monday when correspondents William J. Broad and David E. Sanger described U.S. intelligence assessments pointing to North Korea’s likely source of its new and more powerful rocket engines as a Ukrainian factory in Dnipro.


North Korean leader Kim Jong Un

Of course, the Times bent over backward to suggest that the blame might still fall on Russia even though Dnipro is a stronghold of some of Ukraine’s most militantly anti-Russian politicians and although U.S. intelligence analysts have centered their suspicions on a Ukrainian-government-owned factory there, known as Yuzhmash.

So, it would seem clear that corrupt Ukrainian officials, possibly in cahoots with financially pressed executives or employees of Yuzhmash, are the likeliest suspects in the smuggling of these rocket engines to North Korea.

Even the Times couldn’t dodge that reality, saying: “Government investigators and experts have focused their inquiries on a missile factory in Dnipro, Ukraine.” But the Times added that Dnipro is “on the edge of the territory where Russia is fighting a low-level war to break off part of Ukraine” – to suggest that the Russians somehow might have snuck into the factory, stolen the engines and smuggled them to North Korea.

But the Times also cited the view of missile expert Michael Elleman, who addressed North Korea’s sudden access to more powerful engines in a study issued this week by the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

“It’s likely that these engines came from Ukraine — probably illicitly,” Elleman said in an interview with the Times.
“The big question is how many they have and whether the Ukrainians are helping them now. I’m very worried.”

Yet, always looking for a chance to shift the blame to Russia, the Times quickly inserted that “Mr. Elleman was unable to rule out the possibility that a large Russian missile enterprise, Energomash, which has strong ties to the Ukrainian complex, had a role in the transfer of the RD-250 engine technology to North Korea.”

Of course by that standard – “unable to rule out the possibility” – almost anyone could be put under suspicion. One source familiar with the U.S. intelligence assessments said there is even suspicion that some operatives in Israel played a role in transferring the rocket engines to North Korea. The source cited Israel’s historic arms-trade with North Korea dating back to Israel’s covert arms pipeline to Iran during the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s.

Israel, a rogue nuclear-weapons state itself, also has a history of collaborating with other “pariah” states on nuclear proliferation, including apartheid South Africa which joined Israel in nuclear tests before the democratic election of Nelson Mandela.

Kolomoisky cultivated close ties between Israel and Dnipro by helping to construct one of the largest Jewish centers in the world in the Ukrainian city, which has fallen on hard times since the 2014 coup shattered economic ties with Russia and left the Yuzhmash factory with little work.


Ukrainian oligarch Igor Kolomoisky confronting journalists 
after he led an armed team in raid at the government-owned 
energy company March 19, 2015. (Screen shot from YouTube)

Yet, while the Ukraine crisis may have reduced living standards for average Ukrainians, it was an important catalyst in the creation of the New Cold War between Washington and Moscow, which offers lucrative opportunities for U.S. military contractors and their many think-tank apologists despite increasing the risk of nuclear war for the rest of us.

In particular, U.S. neoconservatives have viewed heightened tensions between the West and Russia as valuable both in driving up military spending and laying the groundwork for a possible “regime change” in Moscow. The neocons have wanted to retaliate against Russian President Vladimir Putin’s role in frustrating neocon (and Israeli-Saudi) desires to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and to bomb Iran, which Israel and Saudi Arabia now view as their principal regional adversary.

The neocon/Israeli-Saudi interests have produced many strange bedfellows with weapons flowing to Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, and – because of Putin’s assistance to Syria and Iran – the tolerance of neo-Nazis and Islamic militants in Ukraine.

The MH-17 Case


Kolomoisky’s operation in Dnipro also has come under suspicion for a possible role in the shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 on July 17, 2014. According to a source briefed by U.S. intelligence analysts, Dnipro was the center of a plot to use a powerful anti-aircraft missile to shoot down Putin’s official plane on a return flight from South America, but instead – after Putin’s plane took a more northerly route – the missile brought down MH-17, killing all 298 people aboard.


Quinn Schansman, dual U.S.-Dutch citizen killed aboard 
Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 July 17, 2014. (Photo from Facebook)

For reasons that have still not been explained, the Obama administration suppressed U.S. intelligence reports on the MH-17 tragedy and instead joined in pinning the shoot-down on ethnic Russian rebels and, by implication, Putin and his government.

In the West, the MH-17 shoot-down became a cause celebre, generating a powerful propaganda campaign to demonize Putin and Russia – and push Europe into joining sanctions against Moscow. Few people dared question Russia alleged guilt even though the Russia-did-it arguments were full of holes. [See here and here.]

Now this North Korean case forces the issue of Ukraine’s reckless behavior to the fore again: Did an inept or corrupt Ukrainian bureaucracy participate in or tolerate a scheme to sell powerful rocket engines to North Korea and enable a nuclear threat to U.S. territory?

In response to the reports of possible Ukrainian collusion in North Korea’s missile program, Oleksandr Turchynov, secretary of the Ukrainian national security and defense council, issued a bizarre denial suggesting that The New York Times and U.S. intelligence agencies were pawns of Russia.


“This information [about North Korea possibly obtaining rocket engines from Ukraine] is not based on any grounds, provocative by its content, and most likely provoked by Russian secret services to cover their own crimes,” Turchynov said.

Press reports about Turchynov’s statement left out two salient facts: that as the interim President following the February 2014 coup, Turchynov ordered Right Sektor militants to begin the bloody siege of rebel-held Sloviansk, a key escalation in the conflict, and that Turchynov was the one who appointed Kolomoisky to be the ruler of Dnipropetrovsk.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

History Busters: America's Misguided War on Statuary

Smashing Statues, Seeding Strife 

by Moon of Alabama


August 16, 2017

In the aftermath of competing protests in Charlottesville a wave of dismantling of Confederate statues is on the rise. Overnight Baltimore took down four Confederate statues. One of these honored Confederate soldiers and sailors, another one Confederate women. Elsewhere statues were toppled or defiled.

The Charlottesville conflict itself was about the intent to dismantle a statue of General Robert E. Lee, a commander of the Confederate forces during the American Civil War.

The activist part of the political right protested against the take down, the activist part of the political left protested against those protests. According to a number of witnesses quoted in the LA Times sub-groups on both sides came prepared for and readily engaged in violence.

In 2003 a U.S. military tank pulled down the statue of Saddam Hussein on Firdos Square in Baghdad. Narrowly shot TV picture made it look as if a group of Iraqis were doing this. But they were mere actors within a U.S. propaganda show. Pulling down the statue demonstrated a lack of respect towards those who had fought under, worked for or somewhat supported Saddam Hussein. It helped to incite the resistance against the U.S. occupation.

The right-wing nutters who, under U.S. direction, forcefully toppled the legitimate government of Ukraine pulled down hundreds of the remaining Lenin statues in the country. Veterans who fought under the Soviets in the second world war took this as a sign of disrespect. Others saw this as an attack on their fond memories of better times and protected them. The forceful erasement of history further split the country:

“It’s not like if you go east they want Lenin but if you go west they want to destroy him,” Mr. Gobert said. “These differences don’t only go through geography, they go through generations, through social criteria and economic criteria, through the urban and the rural.”

Statues standing in cities and places are much more than veneration of one person or group. They are symbols, landmarks and fragments of personal memories:

“One guy said he didn’t really care about Lenin, but the statue was at the center of the village and it was the place he kissed his wife for the first time,” Mr. Gobert said. “When the statue went down it was part of his personal history that went away.”

Robert Lee was a brutal man who fought for racism and slavery. But there are few historic figures without fail. Did not George Washington "own" slaves? Did not Lyndon B. Johnson lie about the Gulf of Tonkin incident and launched an unjust huge war against non-white people under false pretense? At least some people will think of that when they see their statues. Should those also be taken down?

(People had better sex under socialism. Does not Lenin deserves statues if only for helping that along?)

As time passes the meaning of a monument changes. While it may have been erected with a certain ideology or concept in mind, the view on it will change over time:

[The Charlottesville statue] was unveiled by Lee’s great-granddaughter at a ceremony in May 1924. As was the custom on these occasions it was accompanied by a parade and speeches. In the dedication address, Lee was celebrated as a hero, who embodied “the moral greatness of the Old South”, and as a proponent of reconciliation between the two sections. The war itself was remembered as a conflict between “interpretations of our Constitution” and between “ideals of democracy.”

The white racists who came to "protect" the statue in Charlottesville will hardly have done so in the name of reconciliation. Nor will those who had come to violently oppose them. Lee was a racist. Those who came to "defend" the statue were mostly "white supremacy" racists. I am all for protesting against them.

But the issue here is bigger. We must not forget that statues have multiple meanings and messages. Lee was also the man who wrote:

What a cruel thing is war: to separate and destroy families and friends, and mar the purest joys and happiness God has granted us in this world; to fill our hearts with hatred instead of love for our neighbors, and to devastate the fair face of this beautiful world.

That Lee was a racist does not mean that his statue should be taken down. The park in Charlottesville, in which the statue stands, was recently renamed from Lee Park into Emancipation Park. It makes sense to keep the statue there to reflect on the contrast between it and the new park name.

Old monuments and statues must not (only) be seen as glorifications within their time. They are reminders of history. With a bit of education they can become valuable occasions of reflection.

George Orwell wrote in his book 1984: “The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.” People do not want to be destroyed. They will fight against attempts to do so. Taking down monuments or statues without a very wide consent will split a society. A large part of the U.S. people voted for Trump. One gets the impression that the current wave of statue take downs is seen as well deserved "punishment" for those who voted wrongly - i.e. not for Hillary Clinton. While many Trump voters will dislike statues of Robert Lee, they will understand that dislike the campaign to take them down even more.

That may be the intend of some people behind the current quarrel. The radicalization on opposing sides may have a purpose. The Trump camp can use it to cover up its plans to further disenfranchise they people. The fake Clintonian "resistance" needs these cultural disputes to cover for its lack of political resistance to Trump's plans.

Anyone who wants to stoke the fires with this issue should be careful what they wish for.

Rubio "Plot" Spices Up the Military Option for Venezuela

Ginning Up A “Military Option” For Venezuela Puts Sen. Rubio In Imaginary Crosshairs

by Whitney Webb - MintPress News


August 16th, 2017

Venezuela, unlike North Korea, has never threatened the U.S. But President Trump last week suddenly added Venezuela to the list of nations the U.S. is threatening. According to Trump, “We have troops all over the world in places that are very, very far away. Venezuela is not very far away.”

MIAMI Last week, when all eyes were riveted on the escalating threats between President Donald Trump and North Korean leadership, Trump raised more than a few eyebrows and caused deep concern when he told reporters on Friday that the U.S. would not rule out a “military option” in response to the increasingly critical situation in Venezuela.

“We have many options for Venezuela, including a possible military option if necessary,” Trump stated during a press conference at his New Jersey golf club.

“We are all over the world and we have troops all over the world in places that are very, very far away,” he added.  
“Venezuela is not very far away and people are suffering and dying.”

With the media and political establishment working overtime to convince the public that North Korea was an imminent threat to U.S. national security, many were taken aback at the sudden suggestion of the use of military force targeted at the Venezuelan government. Indeed, Venezuela has never threatened the U.S., having asked only that the U.S. keep out of Venezuelan domestic affairs.

“A threat, a palpable threat” 


Over the weekend, those in Washington desperate to see a regime change in Venezuela may have gotten just the justification needed for a “military option,” in the form of a claim made by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), one based entirely on unverified information.

According to the Miami Herald, the “sensitive” but unclassified DHS memo revealed that a well-known Venezuelan political figure, Diosdado Cabello, had issued an “order to have Senator [Marco] Rubio assassinated.”

Yet, the memo, which was sent to several law enforcement agencies last month, went on to state that.

“[N]o specific information regarding an assassination plot against Senator Rubio has been garnered thus far” and that no-one in the U.S. government had been able to verify the threat.

Given that the alleged assassination plot was based entirely on hearsay from an anonymous source, it is not surprising that DHS spokesman David Lapan stated that,

“[I]t would be inappropriate for DHS to comment on the seriousness of the threat.” 

To all appearances, the very existence of the threat was never even confirmed.

Despite the dubious nature of the supposed assassination plot, the Herald sought to correlate an apparent increase in Marco Rubio’s security detail with the “threat,” creating the implication that it was real enough – despite being entirely uncorroborated – to be taken seriously by federal authorities. This is especially perplexing, given that Cabello currently holds no position in President Nicolás Maduro’s government and was only recently elected to the National Constituent Assembly in late July.

In other words, Cabello is arguably influential but holds no official position that would enable him to carry out such a feat. However, the Herald has claimed that, despite the lack of an official position in the current government beyond his role in the recently-elected assembly, Cabello “controls all of Venezuela’s security forces.”

If anything, the friction between Cabello and Rubio appears to be more a matter of personal animus than of matters of state. Prior to the Herald’s article on the “threat” to Rubio’s life, Rubio and Cabello had publicly feuded on social media, with each accusing the other of involvement in illicit drug trafficking.


Diosdado Cabello R @dcabellor
El primer personaje que sale a defender el ataque terrorista es @marcorubio, ya sabemos de dónde viene todo, serás derrotado una y mil veces

Translation: The U.S. — might be behind the “terrorist attack,” given that Rubio was the first foreign official to comment on the short-lived insurrection.


Rising tensions between Rubio and Cabello came to light after the U.S. issued new sanctions against several Venezuelan officials — including President Maduro and Hugo Chávez’s brother, Adán Chávez, a career physicist — Cabello himself has yet to be included in U.S. sanctions. This would seem to indicate his lack of importance, from Washington’s perspective, as a Venezuelan policy-maker or representative of the Maduro government.

Unlike Cabello, Rubio has been a high-profile figure in the heightening tensions between the U.S. and Venezuela, making him made-to-order as the supposed target of a Venezuelan plot. He has been central in directing aggressive U.S. foreign policy decisions when it comes to Venezuela, particularly regime change. He has also pushed for harsher sanctions against Venezuela, including against its oil sector, and has authored legislation that, if passed, would give up to $20 million to the Venezuelan opposition, including its more extremist and violent elements.

Rubio has also publicly supported Leopoldo López, an imprisoned opposition figure, and CIA asset, even accompanying López’s wife to Washington D.C. for a “surprise” visit with Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.

Rubio has echoed pro-opposition media outlets like the Herald, which has called López “one of Venezuela’s best-known and popular political leaders” (this despite the fact that U.S. diplomatic cables have stated:
 
“For the opposition parties, Lopez draws ire second only to Chavez. The only difference between the two is that López is a lot better looking.).”

Aggression justification: the pretext for pre-planned action 

 

A screenshot of a CNN May 6, 2017 report covering opposition protests in Venezuela.

The timing of the report from the Herald — given that it came just days after Trump’s mention of the U.S.’ “military option” for carrying out regime change in Venezuela — is by no means random. Indeed, it is hardly the only report suggesting that Venezuela may pose a “threat” to the U.S.

CNN recently ran a story headlined “Maduro’s Son Threatens To Seize White House With Rifles.” The article omitted mention that Maduro’s 26-year-old son, who is currently coordinator of Venezuela’s National Film School, qualified this “threat” as one that would materialize only if Trump sent the U.S. military to Venezuela to depose its democratically-elected leadership.

It is ironic, to say the least, that the U.S. media would restrict its threat assessment focus to “incoming” threats, however implausible, while all but ignoring the U.S.’ repeated attempts to oust or even kill Venezuelan leadership ever since the election of Hugo Chávez, as well as U.S. assassination plots targeting numerous other Latin American leaders. Clearly, though the reality is precisely the opposite, a narrative is being created to suggest that Venezuela is a threat to U.S. national security.

The narrative is not being created just by the media. CIA Director Mike Pompeo, in a recent interview, stated that,

“Venezuela could very much become a risk for the United States of America. The Cubans are there; the Russians are there, the Iranians, Hezbollah are there. This is something that has a risk of getting to a very very bad place, so America needs to take this very seriously.” 

Pompeo, of course, provided no evidence for these claims — including his bizarre mention of Hezbollah, a Lebanese political party, being somehow involved in Venezuela.

On Tuesday, Vice President Mike Pence put his weight behind the narrative that Venezuela is a threat to U.S. national security. Speaking to reporters while visiting Colombia, Pence warned that the U.S. “will not stand by while Venezuela collapses into dictatorship,” and that the country risked becoming a “failed state” which would threaten “the security and prosperity of an entire hemisphere and the people of the United States of America.”

This flurry of narrative creation is apparently needed in light of the frosty initial reception Trump’s announcement of a potential “military option” received both domestically and abroad. In keeping with time-honored approaches to aggression justification, claims of influential Venezuelan figures linked to the Maduro government secretly plotting to kill a well-known U.S. Senator could easily become the pretext needed to justify such an intervention, even if no concrete evidence exists to support those claims. This flimsiness will, however, likely be of little concern to U.S. politicians, who have rarely been ones to require actual, verifiable evidence before launching an invasion.

"This Is a Lie" Presenting First Nations in Foreign Lands

Real Media: 'This is all a lie' - William Hawk Birdshead at the British Museum

by TRNN


August 16, 2017

This film records the reactions of William Hawk Birdshead, a DAPL water protector from the Oglala Nakota tribe, as he visits the JP Morgan Chase-sponsored North American gallery at the British Museum.



"This is all a lie...It's like a zoo. You go to a zoo and you see these things, and it's like, 
"Oh wow."" 


My name is William Hawk Birdsaid. I am from the Standing Rock and Oglala Lakota tribes in North Dakota, South Dakota, and I'm also enrolled of the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes of Oklahoma and Montana. I come from a long history of indigenous revolutionaries. 

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Canada's False Opposition: NDP In-Step with Trudeau and US Imperialism

Canada’s NDP backs American Empire

by Yves Engler - Dissident Voice


August 10th, 2017

Does the NDP consistently support a foreign policy that benefits ordinary people around the world? Or does the social democratic party often simply fall in line with whatever the American Empire demands?

Hélène Laverdière certainly seems to support the US-led geopolitical order.

While the NDP foreign critic has called for stronger arms control measures and regulations on Canada’s international mining industry, she’s aligned with the Empire on issues ranging from Venezuela to Palestine, Ukraine to Syria.

Echoing Washington and Ottawa, Laverdière recently attacked the Venezuelan government.

On the heels of Sunday’s illegitimate constituent assembly vote, it’s more important than ever for Canada to work with our allies and through multilateral groups like the OAS to secure a lasting resolution to the crisis,” she told the CBC.

But, the constituent assembly vote wasn’t “illegitimate”. Venezuela’s current constitution empowers the president to call a constituent assembly to draft a new one. If the population endorses the revised constitution in a referendum, the president – and all other governmental bodies – are legally required to follow the new constitutional framework.

Additionally, calling on Ottawa to “work with our allies” through the OAS may sound reasonable, but in practice it means backing Trudeau’s efforts to weaken Venezuela through that body.

Previously, Laverdière promoted that Washington-led policy. In a June 2016 press release bemoaning “the erosion of democracy” and the need for Ottawa to “defend democracy in Venezuela”, Laverdière said “the OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro has invoked the Inter-American Democratic Charter regarding Venezuela, and Canada, as a member of the OAS, should support his efforts.” But, the former Uruguayan Foreign Minister’s actions as head of the OAS have been highly controversial. They even prompted Almagro’s past boss, former Uruguayan president José Mujica, to condemn his bias against the Venezuelan government.

Laverdière has also cozied up to pro-Israel groups. Last year she spoke to the notorious anti-Palestinian lobby organization American Israel Public Affairs Committee. Months after AIPAC paid for her to speak at their conference in Washington, Laverdière visited Israel with Canada’s governor general, even participating in a ceremony put on by the explicitly racist Jewish National Fund.

The only Quebec MP to endorse Jagmeet Singh as next party leader, Laverdière has attended other events put on by groups aligned with Washington. She publicized and spoke to the weirdly themed “Demonstration for human and democratic rights in Venezuela, in solidarity with Ukraine and Syria.”

Laverdière supports deploying troops to the Russian border and repeatedly called for more sanctions on that country. She said the plan to send military trainers to the Ukraine “sounds good in principle” and only called for a debate in Parliament about sending 450 Canadians to head up a 1,000-strong NATO force in Latvia.

Since 2014 Laverdière has repeatedly called for stronger sanctions on Russia. In 2014 Laverdière told the Ottawa Citizen that “for sanctions to work, it’s not about the number of people but it’s about actually sanctioning the right people. They have to be comprehensive. And they have to target mainly the people who are very close to Putin. Our sanctions, the Canadian sanctions, still fail to do that.”

In May Laverdière applauded a bill modeled after the US Magnitsky Act that will further strain relations between Ottawa and Moscow by sanctioning Russian officials. “Several countries have adopted similar legislation and we are encouraged that the Liberals are finally taking this important step to support the Global Magnitsky movement,” she said.

In another region where the US and Russia were in conflict Laverdière aligned with the Washington-Riyadh position. In the midst of growing calls for the US to impose a “no-fly zone” on Syria last year, the NDP’s foreign critic recommended Canada nominate the White Helmets for the Nobel Peace Prize. A letter Laverdière co-wrote to foreign minister Stéphane Dion noted:

Canada has a proud and long-standing commitment to human rights, humanitarianism and international peacekeeping. It is surely our place to recognize the selflessness, bravery, and fundamental commitment to human dignity of these brave women and men.”

Also known as the Syrian Civil Defence, the White Helmets were credited with rescuing many people from bombed out buildings. But, they also fostered opposition to the Bashar al-Assad regime. The White Helmets operated almost entirely in areas of Syria occupied by the Saudi Arabia–Washington backed Al Nusra/Al Qaeda rebels. They criticized the Syrian government and disseminated images of its violence, but largely ignored those people targeted by the opposition and reportedly enabled some of their executions.

The White Helmets are closely associated with the Syria Campaign, which was set up by Ayman Asfari, a British billionaire of Syrian descent actively opposed to Assad. The White Helmets also received at least $23 million from USAID and Global Affairs Canada sponsored a five-city White Helmets tour of Canada in late 2016.

Early in the Syrian conflict Laverdière condemned the Harper government for failing to take stronger action against Assad. She urged Harper to raise the Syrian conflict with China, recall Canada’s ambassador to Syria and complained that energy giant Suncor was exempted from sanctions, calling on Canada to “put our money where our mouth is.”

Prior to running in the 2011 federal election Laverdière worked for Foreign Affairs. She held a number of Foreign Affairs positions over a decade, even winning the Foreign Minister’s Award for her contribution to Canadian foreign policy.

Laverdière was chummy with Harper’s foreign minister. John Baird said, “I’m getting to know Hélène Laverdière and I’m off to a good start with her” and when Baird retired CBC reported that she was “among the first to line up in the House on Tuesday to hug the departing minister.”

On a number of issues the former Canadian diplomat has aligned with the US Empire. Whoever takes charge of the NDP in October should think about whether Laverdière is the right person to keep Canadian foreign policy decision makers accountable.

Yves Engler is the author of A Propaganda System: How Canada’s Government, Corporations, Media and Academia Sell War and Canada in Africa: 300 years of aid and exploitation.
Read other articles by Yves.

Bluefin Down: Tuna Faces Imminent Extinction

Bluefin Tuna at the Brink 

by Robert Hunziker - CounterPunch


August 14, 2017

Bluefin tuna at 3%, that’s it!

Pacific bluefin tuna has unique worldwide status as one of the most awe- inspiring remarkable creatures on the planet. They grow to 12 feet and 1,500 pounds and live up to 35 years whilst swimming super-fast, crossing the entire ocean in 21 days.

They are the essence of nature’s wonderful creativity and beauty.
Photo by oliver.dodd | CC BY 2.0 

Unequivocally, the bluefin’s days are numbered, almost guaranteed to go extinct, prompting the question: Is bluefin tuna a metaphor for global warming’s impact on civilization? And if so, how so?

It’s a fair question as the impact of the Great Acceleration (BGNG 1940s) increasingly interjects humans into the finer workings of the ecosystem, which is rapidly morphing into “Humanature,” an embryonic field of scientific study that is not yet acknowledged.

Overfishing, greedy uncivilized thoughtless arrogance, bluster and audacity (sounds like the ‘neoliberal’ brand of capitalism) have chopped up physically destroyed the stock of bluefin tuna.

“The stock is down over 97 percent from pre-fishing levels, so there is no doubt the species needs to have some protection put in place,” according to Duke University research scientist Andre Boustany. (Source: Alastair Bland, Should Pacific Bluefin Tuna Be Listed As An Endangered Species? National Public Radio, June 29, 2016).

Bluefins caught today are mostly juveniles, up to 98% of total catch. They have not reproduced and never will because they’ll never have the opportunity. Pacific bluefin tuna reach reproductive maturity at five years and 125 pounds weight. Their predators are Japan (50%) and Mexico (30%) as the major perpetrators while the U.S. (2%) is a minor player.

Because bluefins travel the entire ocean, passing through complicated jurisdictional authorities, the probability of enforcing limits on fishing or conservation measures are not going to happen, especially with voluntary limits. Besides, they are doomed in large measure because bluefin is priced in the marketplace like a piece of artwork. The price of Bluefin at the market does not inhibit demand because the greed factor collapses capitalism’s laws of supply/demand. Inelastic demand is at work.

The impending extinction factor of bluefin tuna, in certain respects, resembles the issue of global warming. Similar to mindlessly butchering fishing stock down to 3%, nobody seems to care enough to seriously tackle global warming’s impending threat of human extinction. The world wears blinders, thereby ignoring reality.

After all, the best shot at tackling global warming is the Paris 2015 Agreement, which calls for 100% voluntary action to defeat the global warming leviathan. Voluntary… really? Whereas if they were actually, truly serious, there would be heavy, very heavy repercussions for failure to meet stringent guidelines, even though the U.S. demanded the Paris accord 2015 be voluntary to avoid a clash with the U. S. Senate, which must ratify treaties.

Voluntarism will not save any species. The economic model of the world, neoliberal capitalism, is too focused on profits, the invisible hand of free markets, deregulation of governments, and significantly, converting public assets to private ownership, to adhere to undependable anemic voluntarism.

Similar to humanity’s utter disregard for proper conservation measures to save the bluefin tuna, humanity fails at the threat of global warming, falling on its own sword, regrettably a powerful reflection of neoliberalism’s loathing of governmental regulations. Let the markets decide.

James Hansen, the father of climate change awareness, says of the Paris Agreement 2015: “It’s a fraud really, a fake.” (James Hansen, Father of Climate Change Awareness, Calls Paris Talks ‘A Fraud,’ The Guardian, Dec. 12, 2015)

Still in all, if the world community really truly cared, similarly for bluefin tuna, they’d establish brutal repercussions for failure to comply with stiff, very stiff restrictions. But similar to the bluefin tuna story, nobody’s serious enough. International agreements to curb catches of Pacific bluefin tuna are voluntary and wildly violated. It’s fluff, blah, blah, blah. Meanwhile, the bluefin’s remaining shot at existence is down to 3%. Afterwards, sayonara.

What then of global warming? According to NASA, over the past 800,000 years based upon ice-core data, CO2 has fluctuated between 170 ppm and 290 ppm. The safe level to prevent global warming from running out of control is below 350 ppm.

Today, it is over 400 and not safe, shockingly increasing like gangbusters, actually accelerating its rate of growth year over year, which is roughly equivalent to the 3% level for bluefin tuna’s future outlook of survival of the species.

In turn, CO2 blankets the earth’s atmosphere thus trapping heat in similar fashion to its sister planet Venus where average temps are 864 F. That’s real hot! The reason Venus has so much heat-trapping CO2 (96.5% of its atmosphere) is because that’s where all of its carbon is located. On Earth most of the carbon is still underground or trapped under ice, for now.

Meanwhile, as for the various species of the world, according to Dr. Stuart Pimm, conservation ecologist at Duke University: “In the next few decades we’ll be driving species to extinction a thousand times faster than we should be.” (Source: Racing Extinction, directed by Louie Psihoyos, Discovery Channel, 2015)

Begging the question, when will the last bluefin tuna swim across the Pacific?


Postscript: "If governments fail to take immediate action, a population collapse isn’t just possible—it’s inevitable." - The Pew Charitable Trust, July 19, 2017. pewtrusts.org/SavePacificBluefin

"By the end of the 20th century, up to 90 percent of the sharks, tuna, swordfish, marlins, groupers, turtles, whales, and many other large creatures that prospered in the Gulf for millions of years had been depleted by overfishing." - Legendary Oceanographer Sylvia Earle – American marine biologist and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence
 
Robert Hunziker lives in Los Angeles and can be reached at roberthunziker@icloud.com
More articles by:Robert Hunziker

Transnationals, Oligarchs, and Neo-Cons, Oh My! Behind the Push to Partition Middle East

ExxonMobil, Kochs, Israel Pushing Washington To Partition Iraq and Syria

by Whitney Webb - MintPress News


August 14, 2017

The currently stateless Kurds sit astride the Iraq-Syria border on land blessed/cursed with oil, other resources, and geopolitical significance. Is it any wonder that mega-corporations and their client states are looking to use the Kurds, stoke conflict, and exploit the situation?

WASHINGTON, D.C.Years before the U.S. illegally invaded and then occupied Iraq, plans were circulating within the Pentagon to partition the country along “sectarian” lines, with the express purpose of allowing the U.S. and its regional allies to better control oil resource production and movement within the Middle East.

In Syria, the same narrative of partition has more recently been circulated as the “only” solution to the nation’s sectarian divisions, divisions which did not emerge until they were artificially created in 2011 when the current conflict began and later fomented by hostile foreign actors.

While the Bush and Obama administrations pushed for the partition of Iraq on several occasions, it was largely corporate actors during that time that took the most active steps towards creating an independent state within the Iraqi region controlled by the U.S.-allied Kurds, an area with sizeable energy reserves and other strategic resources.

The area of Syria controlled by the U.S.-backed Kurds conveniently connects directly with the Kurdish “statelet” in Iraq, making the possibility of a larger independent Kurdistan more feasible. This area also boasts the largest concentration of many of Syria’s most critical resources.

While past administrations avoided openly recognizing the partition of Iraq, the administration of President Donald Trump is striking a different tone, largely due to the influence within the administration of some of the biggest players who actively sidestepped Iraq’s government in favor of the Kurds years ago.

Chief among such players was ExxonMobil — whose CEO at the time, Rex Tillerson, is now Trump’s Secretary of State — along with other corporations whose financial and political support for the Trump administration is well-documented.


The geopolitical and economic motives for a partitioned Iraq 

 


In this April 1, 2003 file photo, a U.S. soldier stands guard on top of 
a humvee as oil workers work on oil well fires at Rumaila oil field, southern Iraq.

The corporatist, neoconservative dream of partitioning Iraq has been around for well over a decade, first materializing a year before the U.S.’ ill-fated 2003 invasion of that nation. The plan, drafted by former Vice President Dick Cheney and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, contemplated the division of Iraq into three autonomous, sectarian “statelets” for Iraqi Muslim Sunnis, Muslim Shi’as, and ethnic Kurds, who are also predominantly Muslim. This partition, it was believed, would allow the U.S. and its regional allies to more easily dominate Iraq and its important fossil fuel resources, along with conferring other “strategic advantages.”

As U.S.-based private intelligence firm Stratfor noted in 2002, the invasion and destruction of Iraq would pave the way for partition and thus greater U.S. control over Iraq and the entire Middle East:

“After eliminating Iraq as a sovereign state, there would be no fear that one day an anti-American government would come to power in Baghdad, as the capital would be in Amman [Jordan]. Current and potential U.S. geopolitical foes Iran […] and Syria would be isolated from each other, with big chunks of land between them under control of the pro-U.S. forces.

Equally important, Washington would be able to justify its long-term and heavy military presence in the region as necessary for the defense of a young new state asking for U.S. protection – and to secure the stability of oil markets and supplies. That, in turn, would help the United States gain direct control of Iraqi oil and replace Saudi oil in case of conflict with Riyadh.”


Creating the divisions needed to justify partition 

 


U.S. Army Lt. Douglas Wolfe, leads a pre-mission brief before the 
first patrol for new military unit comprised mainly of Kurdish security forces, 
on the outskirts of Kirkuk, north of Baghdad, Iraq, Feb. 17, 2010. 
Known as the Golden Lions, the security force is deployed along the ethnic 
fault line between Kurds and Arabs in northern Iraq. (AP/Maya Alleruzzo)

The big problem for the partition plan, however, was the simple fact that these diverse groups had coexisted with minimal sectarian violence in Iraq for centuries. This meant, of course, that the sectarianism that was needed to justify partition had to be engineered. The U.S., in its invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq, happily obliged, sponsoring sectarian violence through the military training – including torture techniques – it gave to Iraqi militias, police and military forces that divided along particular ethnoreligious lines.

Many of these organizations have been found to be repeat human rights offenders and have targeted particular ethnoreligious groups within Iraq. Despite their egregious track record, the U.S. continues to financially support these armed groups.

The U.S. has also worked to create and strengthen ethnoreligious divisions within the country by promoting Iraqi organizations founded on religion or ethnicity rather than along political lines.

Though some analysts believe that the biggest winners in the U.S.-created environment of Iraqi sectarianism were the Iraqi majority population of the Shi’a – which, after all, was given control of the post-invasion government – it was really the Kurds who gained the most as a result of the U.S.’ machinations to divide and conquer Iraq.

The Kurds are the largest group of nomadic people in the world and have long existed without their own state. As journalist Sarah Abed has noted, “This fact has allowed Western powers to use the ‘stateless’ plight of the Kurdish people as a tool to divide, destabilize and conquer Iraq and Syria, where colonial oil and gas interests run deep.” Although the most powerful Kurdish political parties in these countries do not see themselves as pawns, history shows that Western colonial powers have used them that way in the past and continue to do so, often with their willing cooperation.

In recent decades the U.S. government and military have openly supported Kurdish separatist elements, though they have stopped short of recognizing “Kurdistan” as a state completely independent of the Baghdad-based government. This role fell instead to U.S. corporations, such as ExxonMobil, a major force in the fossil fuel industry. In 2011, ExxonMobil unilaterally brokered an oil deal with the Kurdistan region, bypassing Iraq’s central government in the process.

According to ExxonMobil, the move was partly motivated by problems it was having contracting with Iraq’s central government regarding oilfields in southern Iraq. However, the promise of oil reserves in Kurdistan said to be “one of the world’s most promising regions for the future [of] hydrocarbon discovery,” was also a clear motivator. As a result, ExxonMobil sided with the Kurdish separatists over the central government, giving clout to Kurdish goals of greater regional autonomy – and thus furthering their shared goal of a divided Iraq.

Other oil corporations – including Chevron and Gazprom, among others – followed Exxon’s lead.

By 2014, more than 80 foreign energy corporations had struck deals with Kurdistan. Oilman Ray Hunt, whose Hunt Oil Co. signed its own unilateral agreement with Kurdistan in 2007, has consistently heaped praises upon Kurdistan and has also made clear his vision for the future of Iraq: “In the end, you’ll end up with a soft partition of Iraq.”

Corporate connection to Trump’s change of heart on Iraq partition 

 


A photograph released by Russian intelligence depicting thousands 
of trucks laden with oil crossing from Syria into Turkey. December, 2015.

Over the years since these deals were struck, the Kurdish separatist parties in Iraq have benefited immensely, though more recently they have been hit hard by the global drop in oil prices. In 2014, they were exporting 280,000 barrels of oil every day. And, despite troubles with foreign companies brought on by falling oil prices and the rise of Daesh (ISIS), the Kurds – as of the end of 2016 – were exporting nearly 600,000 barrels a day.

Though Daesh was painted by the media as a scourge to the Kurds, they have in fact benefited from Daesh’s invasion of large swaths of Iraq. Indeed, the Kurds – trained, armed and provided with airstrike support by the U.S. and Israel – have taken control of many former Daesh territories and have thereby expanded the size of their own territory.

The U.S. and its regional allies have said that the Kurds’ ability to confront Daesh essentially entitles them to “have their way.” As Sadad Ibrahim al-Husseini, former head of exploration and development for the Saudi state oil company Aramco told The New York Times in 2014: “At the end of the day, the Kurds will have their way, because they are the only credible Sunni group that can confront ISIS.”

Not surprisingly, the Kurd’s oil riches have brought them into direct conflict with Iraq’s central government, which has since cut off national funding for the Kurdish region and threatened any country or company buying Kurdish oil with legal action for violating the nation’s constitution by not sharing its oil sale revenue equally among all Iraqis.

However, countries like Turkey and Israel continue to buy significant amounts of oil, as well as natural gas, from the Kurds. Turkey’s case is particularly interesting given Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s well-known hatred of the Kurds and opposition to Kurdish independence in Syria. However, when it comes to Iraqi Kurdistan at least, economic factors have won out, with Turkey’s ruling party having stated that Kurds in Iraq have the right to self-determination.

Kurdish control of Iraq’s oil-rich north is key to the partitioning plan. As Michael Makovsky, a former Pentagon official, told The New York Times: “I think Iraqi Kurdish independence is inevitable, at least eventually. They have natural allies in the United States because of the oil companies involved in drilling there. And the Turks and Europeans need their gas.”

Though candidate Trump had not voiced support for a partition of Iraq, spurred by his administration’s strong ties to the oil industry, Washington has become even more friendly to the Kurds – and to the idea of Kurdish secession – since Trump took office.

However, when the State Department was asked by journalist Nafeez Ahmed whether it still stood by the traditional position of supporting a unified Iraq, a department spokesperson answered: “With respect to the unity of Iraq, you’re right; that is something we make a point of saying. But ultimately, these are all internal political discussions that Iraq needs to have with all ethnic groups resident in the country.” As Ahmed notes, this is the first time that the State Department has officially announced the U.S.’ willingness to consider the partition of Iraq.


Why the sudden change of heart? 

 


Ali Khedery, far left, watches as U.S. President George W. Bush, 
signs agreement with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. 
(Photo: Public Domain)

ExxonMobil once again emerges as a key player — not surprisingly, given that current Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was Exxon’s CEO when the unilateral contract with the Kurds was forged. Tillerson, however, is not the only former ExxonMobil employee with ties to the Trump administration. Ali Khedery — a former Pentagon official who served in the U.S. coalition authority in Iraq, and a former ExxonMobil executive — has repeatedly promoted the division of Iraq.

Khedery is also the founder of Dragoman Ventures, a firm connected to the Committee to Destroy ISIS, which has been instrumental in bringing about the Trump administration’s change of opinion regarding Iraq’s partition. The Committee’s executive director, Sam Patten, also shares deep connections to members of Trump’s campaign and transition teams, as well as to certain Iraqi oligarchs suspected of having ties to U.S. intelligence and insurgent elements in Iraq.

Nor is oil the only resource that has swayed the Trump administration and its corporate allies to view partition favorably. Iraq’s Anbar province was recently found to contain nearly a tenth of the world’s total deposits of phosphates, a key ingredient in the production of nitrogen fertilizer. Now — with control of more than 70 percent of the world’s phosphate supply, and with markets reaching a point where demand is beginning to outstrip supply — the world’s largest producer of nitrogen fertilizer is eager for access to Anbar province.

That company, Koch Fertilizer Inc., is owned by the infamous Koch Brothers. Fully one-third of Trump’s entire transition team had ties to Koch Industries.

The role of Israeli ties in pushing the partition plan 

 


Ethnic Kurdish Israelis protest outside the Turkish embassy in 
Tel Aviv, Israel, July 8, 2010.

The Trump administration’s close ties to Israel may also be a factor in Trump’s willingness to consider Iraq’s partition. Though the U.S. is clearly driving partition in both Iraq and Syria, it is not alone. Israel stands to gain greatly from a partition of Iraq and has worked, like the U.S., to engineer sectarianism there and strengthen the Kurds. The Kurds have received weapons, training, and more from Israel — well before the rise of Daesh, with ties dating back to the 1960s.

Israel has also directly supported the Kurds’ economy. In 2015, despite warnings from Baghdad, Israel was importing as much as 77 percent of its oil supply from Iraqi Kurdistan, funneling much-needed money to the cash-stripped Kurdish regional government.

Israel has long recognized the potential role of the Kurds in dividing countries it and its allies seek to weaken. It is hardly a coincidence that Israel’s Greater Israel project aligns almost perfectly with “Kurdistan.” In the Oded Yinon plan, or the plan for a “Greater Israel,” the use of the Kurds is considered imperative as a means for dividing neighboring countries in order to aid in Israeli plans for greater domination and territorial expansion.

In addition, Israel considers the Kurds an important part of its long-standing goal to destabilize Iran. For instance, WikiLeaks revealed in 2010 that Israel’s intelligence agency Mossad had expressed interest in using the Kurds and other ethnic minorities to topple the Iranian government by manufacturing the country’s division. Given that the partition of Iraq would isolate Iran from Syria, Israel – like the U.S. – views partition as serving multiple goals, ultimately enabling Israel to dominate the entire Middle East.

Syria partition plan follows the Iraqi partition playbook 

 


Kurdish fighters from the People’s Protection Units, (Y.P.G), stand guard 
next to American armored vehicles at the Syria-Turkey border, April, 2017. 
(Youssef Rabie Youssef/EPA)

Iraq is by no means the only Middle Eastern country that Western powers are seeking to partition. The partition of Syria has been repeatedly sold to the public as the “only” solution to Syria’s ongoing “sectarian” conflict, now well into its seventh year. However, this sectarianism was engineered and stoked by foreign powers to bring about the current conflict in Syria. WikiLeaks revealed that the CIA was involved in instigating anti-Assad and “sectarian” demonstrations as early as March 2011. Declassified CIA documents show the plan to engineer sectarianism in order to weaken the Syrian state dates back to at least the 1980s.

The partition idea was also repeatedly touted by the Obama administration, which stated that it “may be too late” to keep Syria whole.

In 2011, when the conflict was in its infancy, the U.S. and its allies – namely Israel, Qatar, Turkey, France, the U.K. and Saudi Arabia – began supplying tons upon tons of weapons to insurgent and sectarian elements within Syria, heavily arming the so-called “moderate” Wahhabi opposition like the Free Syrian Army and the Kurds. As the conflict raged on – and the “moderate” opposition was exposed time and again as sharing close ties with internationally recognized terror organizations like al-Qaeda – Washington’s support began to shift increasingly towards the Kurds.

As in Iraq, the spread of Daesh in the area became a pretext for the U.S. not only to arm the Kurds but also to allow them to take control of areas, such as Raqqa, once held by Daesh. Media and government sources repeatedly told the public that the Kurds must be armed, as they were the only group that had proven “effective” in countering Daesh. This past March, the Kurds declared the formation of a Kurdish federation under democratic self-rule. This declared federation has yet to obtain international recognition, but – given what has transpired in Iraq and in U.S.-Syrian relations – such an achievement doesn’t seem far off.

The Kurds and their U.S. allies currently have gained effective control of Syria’s north, which comprises about a quarter of the entire country but boasts over 90 percent of Syrian oil and gas potential. According to Yeni Şafak, the U.S. along with the Saudis, Egypt, and Kurdish officials have held meetings where decisions were made to extract, process and market the oil, with the Kurds being given a handsome share of the profits. As of 2015, they were said to be earning in excess of $10 million every month.

Syria’s Kurdistan exports its oil to Iraq’s Kurdistan, with which it conveniently shares a border. It is then refined and sold to Turkey. Though no corporations are explicitly involved, the deal between Syrian and Iraqi Kurds was brokered by unnamed “oil experts” and “oil investors.” The Kurds in Syria and Iraq did not even sign the agreement in person. They were subsequently “informed” and instructed to supervise the operation.

A source in Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) told NOW News that “with regard to southern Kurdistan, it was a company and not the KRG that signed the deal, and it is [the company] that directly hands over the sums in cash every month.” Given that over 80 foreign companies are involved in the KRG’s oil trade, most of them based in the U.S., we can safely assume that many of the same players have also been involved in developing the oil trade of Syria’s Kurdistan.

Non-oil assets of Syrian Kurdistan also tempt corporations and governments 

 

Kurdish Fighters take positions at the top of Mount Annan overlooking
the Tishrin dam, after they captured it from ISIS militants, south of Kobani, 
Syria December 27, 2015. (Photo: Rodi Said)



In addition to oil, the “Kurdistan” of Syria also includes much of Syria’s freshwater, including its three largest reservoirs, as well as much of its electricity (hydropower via Tabqa) and its agricultural resources. The growth of Syria’s Kurdistan also has major implications for one of Syria’s other key assets: its location. In 2013, The New York Times noted that “Syria’s prime location and muscle make it the strategic center of the Middle East.”

Syria’s strategic location makes it crucial to the regional flow of hydrocarbons. Having the northern section of Syria — and potentially the eastern as well, if the U.S. gets its way — under the control of a U.S. ally could have a profound effect on future and existing pipelines. Notably, it would complicate the land route between Syria and Iran, Syria’s staunchest regional ally and long-time foe of the U.S. and Israel — a scenario highlighted by U.S.-based intelligence firm Stratfor back in 2002.

The words of late journalist and historian Patrick Seale – “Whoever would lead the Middle East must control Syria” – ring true for the U.S. government now more than ever. With internal reports warning of the U.S.’ waning position as the “world’s only superpower,” the division of Iraq and Syria is essential to Washington’s designs to maintain its influence, as well as the influence of the corporate powers it protects.