Saturday, February 10, 2018

Counting Russians Among the Dead of America's Phantom Syria 'Counter-Offensive'

Russians reported killed in US strikes in Syria

by Bill Van Auken  - WSWS

10 February 2018

Multiple reports indicate that Russian military contractors were among the dead in air and artillery strikes launched Wednesday by the US military in the northeastern Syrian province of Deir Ezzor against forces loyal to the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

The Pentagon unleashed devastating firepower against the pro-government fighters on the pretext that they were mounting an attack against a headquarters of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the US proxy ground force that is dominated by the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia. US special forces troops directing the activities of the Kurdish proxies were stationed at the headquarters in the zone of influence carved out by the US intervention in Deir Ezzor, northeast of the Euphrates River.

Bombs and missiles were rained down upon the force, which reportedly included between 300 and 500 infantry, backed by tanks and artillery. US F15 fighter jets, Apache helicopters, AC-130 gunships and unmanned drones were all called in to attack the force, along with US artillery units.

According to Pentagon sources, 100 of the Syrian fighters were killed in the barrage. The Syrian government reported “dozens” killed in what it described as an unprovoked “massacre” and a “war crime.”

Iran’s Tasnim news agency quoted Syrian sources as reporting that several Russian military advisors were killed in the attack, which took place in the Khasham gas field in Eastern Deir Ezzor.

In the Washington Post, the newspaper’s columnist David Ignatius, who is well-connected to the US military and intelligence apparatus and is currently reporting from US-occupied areas in Syria, quoted a Kurdish militia commander working with the US special forces. The Kurdish commander, identified as General Hassan, told Ignatius that “the casualties included some Russians, apparently from the mercenaries fighting alongside pro-regime forces.”

CNN, meanwhile, quoted Pentagon officials as saying that they were investigating reports of Russian casualties in the US strikes.

Moscow has insisted that it had no uniformed military personnel in the area, but Russian private military contractors have provided significant forces in support of the Assad government.

The attack, comes barely half a week after last Saturday’s shootdown of a Russian Su-25 fighter jet over Idlib province. The plane was brought down by a shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missile, or MANPAD, most likely supplied by the CIA or Turkey to the so-called rebels dominated by Al Qaeda. A funeral for the pilot, Maj. Roman Filippov, who managed to eject but was killed on the ground fighting elements of the Al Nusra Front, was held in the southwestern Russian city of Voronezh Thursday, drawing some 30,000 people.

The two incidents have raised tensions in Syria between the two major nuclear powers to an unprecedented level.

The pretext for the illegal US military intervention in the country—the so-called war against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)—has evaporated, and its real motives emerged ever more openly. These include Syrian regime change, sought initially through the support of the CIA and the Pentagon for Al Qaeda-linked Islamist militias against the Assad government, and, more broadly combatting Iranian and Russian influence and continuing the bloody decades-old campaign for US hegemony over the oil rich Middle East.

The US defense secretary, recently retired Marine Gen. James Mattis, gave a press conference Thursday insisting that the US massacre of pro-government forces in Deir Ezzor was an act of “self-defense,” a claim belied by the fact that the US and its Kurdish proxies suffered not one fatality in the incident and reported a single YPG militia member wounded.

“Obviously, we are not getting engaged in the Syrian civil war,” Mattis said, describing Wednesday’s massacre as a “perplexing situation” and insisting he could not give “any explanation for why” the battle had erupted.

The immediate explanation, however, is made obvious by the location of the attack. The pro-government forces were moving into gas and oil fields that had previously been controlled by ISIS and fell under the sway of the American proxies of the Syrian Democratic Forces. As an SDF commander told the Wall Street Journal last September, after the fields were taken, “Our goal is to prevent the regime from taking the areas of oil which will enable it to regain control of the country like it was before.” In this case, the word “our” refers to both Washington and its proxies.

US officials, most prominently Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, have made it clear that the US military force, officially consisting of some 2,000 special forces troops, will remain in Syria after the defeat of ISIS with the aim of toppling Assad and imposing a US puppet regime. To that end, Washington is determined to continue its carve-up of Syrian territory and to deny Damascus strategically vital energy resources in Deir Ezzor that are needed to fuel the country’s reconstruction. This is why the attack was unleashed Wednesday.

The US announcement of an indefinite military occupation in Syria, along with its plans for deploying a 30,000-strong “border security force” consisting in large part of the Kurdish YPG militia, is the principal driving force of the renewed escalation of violence in the country.

The Turkish military has resumed its airstrikes against the northwestern Syrian enclave of Afrin following a four-day hiatus imposed by Russia after the shootdown of the Russian fighter jet. It seems likely that Moscow, which exercises effective control over airspace in the region, gave the go-ahead to Ankara as a means of ratcheting up tensions between the US and Turkey.

Mattis, Tillerson and national security advisor H.R. McMaster are now all scheduled to arrive in Turkey next week for urgent talks with the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Erdogan, who has denounced the US plans as tantamount to creating a de facto Kurdish state on Turkey’s border, has vowed to extend the Turkish offensive eastward into the town of Manbij, which is currently occupied by the YPG along with its US special forces handlers. This raises the prospect of an armed confrontation between the two ostensible NATO allies.

The British Independent’s veteran Middle East correspondent Patrick Cockburn, citing sources in the region, reported this week that militia forces that are fighting alongside the Turkish army in the offensive in Afrin have been drawn almost exclusively from former ISIS fighters, who have been rebranded as the “Free Syrian Army.”

Washington, undoubtedly aware of this fact, has made no move to interfere with the Turkish operation in Afrin, so long as it does not continue eastward into US-occupied territory. There is ample evidence that the Pentagon has made its own use of the former ISIS fighters, thousands of whom were evacuated—along with their arms and ammunition—from Raqqa and other cities besieged by the US and its proxies, in order to redeploy them against Syrian government forces.

Both Washington and the French government of President Emmanuel Macron have issued protests and threats over civilian casualties caused by Syrian government and Russian airstrikes against areas of Idlib province and Eastern Ghouta, outside of Damascus, that are controlled by Al Qaeda-linked militias. Dutifully echoed by the corporate media, these protests are utterly hypocritical, given the slaughter of tens of thousands carried out by the US itself in cites of Raqqa in Syria and Mosul in Iraq.

Unsubstantiated claims from Washington and Paris that the Syrian government, with Russian support, has carried out attacks using chlorine against the civilian population are being used to create conditions for a fresh military intervention against the Syrian government.

France’s Minister of the Armed Forces Florence Parly declared in an interview with the French broadcaster Inter on Friday that Paris had “potential evidence of the use of chlorine” by Damascus, but “no definite proof.”

This virtually echoes the statement made by US Defense Secretary Mattis, who threatened US military retaliation over unverified claims of chemical attacks, while acknowledging “we do not have evidence of it, but we are not refuting them.”

On Friday, the New York Times prominently carried an article by veteran propagandist Anne Barnard, depicting harrowing accounts of alleged atrocities by the Syrian and Russian militaries, beginning with the line, “Half a dozen newborns, blinking and arching their backs, were carried from a burning hospital hit by airstrikes”

Reflecting pressure within the US ruling establishment for a more aggressive US intervention against Syria—as well as Iran and Russia—the Wall Street Journal published an editorial Friday, criticizing the Trump administration for having “turned, almost Obama-like, to pleading with Russia to make Assad stop his latest assaults.” It insisted that it was impossible to negotiate with Moscow, which “wants to keep Assad in power, maintain bases in Syria from which to threaten NATO, and thwart US goals in the Middle East.”

Insisting that Damascus has violated Washington’s “red line,” it called upon the administration to “send another” message to Syria, like the firing of the 59 cruise missiles against the country last April.

Friday, February 09, 2018

Oh Athena! - Tsipras Tsupports Israel

Foreign Policy for Sale: Greece’s Dangerous Alliance with Israel

by Ramzy Baroud

February 7, 2018

For a brief historical moment, Alexis Tsipras and his political party, Syriza, ignited hope that Greece could resurrect a long-dormant Leftist tide in Europe.

A new Greece was being born out of the pangs of pain of economic austerity, imposed by the European Union and its overpowering economic institutions - a troika so ruthless, it cared little while the Greek economy collapsed and millions of people experienced the bitterness of poverty, unemployment and despair.

The Coalition of the Radical Left (Syriza) came to power in January 2015 as a direct outcome of popular discontent with the EU. It was a time where ordinary people took a stance to fend for whatever semblance of sovereignty that was not wrestled away from them by politicians, bankers and powerful bureaucratic institutions.

The result, however, was quite disappointing. Tsipras, now a Prime Minister, transformed his political discourse, and gradually adopted one that that is more consistent with the very neoliberal policies that pushed his country to its knees in the first place.

Syriza sold out, not only politically and ideologically, but in an actual physical sense as well.

In exchange for bailout loans that Greece received from European banks within the period 2010 to 2015 (estimated at $262 billion), the country is being dismembered. Greece’s regional airports are now operated by German companies and the country's main telecommunication firm has been privatized, with sizable shares of it owned by Deutsche Telekom.

"The only thing missing outside the office of Greece's privatization agency is a sign that reads: ‘A Nation for Sale’," wrote Greek political economist, C. J. Polychroniou.

Unsurprisingly, economic subservience is often a prelude to political bondage as well. Not only did Syriza betray the aspirations of the Greek people who voted against austerity and bailouts, it also betrayed the country’s long legacy of maintaining amicable relationships with its neighbors.

Since his arrival at the helm of Greek politics, Tsipras has moved his country further into the Israeli camp, forging unwise regional alliances aimed at exploiting new gas finds in the Mediterranean and participating in multiple Israeli-led military drills.

While Israel sees an opportunity to advance its political agenda in Greece's economic woes, the Greek government is playing along without fully assessing the possible repercussions of engaging with a country that is regionally viewed as a pariah, while internationally becoming condemned for its military occupation and terrible human rights record.

Israel moved to pull Athens into its own camp in 2010, shortly after the Turkish-Israeli spat over the ‘Mavi Marmara’ attack ensued. Israeli commandos attacked the Turkish Gaza-bound boat, killing nine Turkish nationals and injuring many more.

Although Turkey and Israel have, since then, reached a diplomatic understanding, Tel Aviv has moved forward to create alternative allies among Balkan countries, exploiting historical conflicts between some of these countries and Turkey.

Bilateral agreements were signed, high diplomatic visits exchanged and military exercises conducted in the name of deterring 'international Jihad' and fighting terrorism.

Greece and Cyprus received greater Israeli attention since they, on the one hand, were seen as political counterweight to Turkey and, on the other, because of the great economic potential that they offered.

Just one month after the ‘Mavi Marmara’ attack, the then Greek Prime Minister, George Papandrous, visited Israel, followed by an official visit by Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, to Greece - the first of its kind. That was the start of a love-affair that is growing deeper.

The main motivation behind the closeness in relations is the Leviathan and Tamar gas fields, located in the territorial waters of several countries, including Lebanon. If Israel continues with its plans to extract gas from an energy source located off the coast of Lebanon, it will increase the chances of yet another regional war.

When Tsipras came to power on the shoulders of a populous political movement, Palestinians too hoped that he would be different.

It was not exactly wishful thinking, either. Syriza was openly critical of Israel and had "vowed to cut military ties with Israel upon coming to office," wrote Patrick Strickland, reporting from Athens. Instead the "ties have, nonetheless, been deepened."

Indeed, soon after taking power, the 'radical left'-led Greek government signed a major military agreement with Israel, the 'status of forces' accord, followed by yet more military exercises.

All of this was reinforced by a propaganda campaign in Israel hailing the new alliance, coupled with a changing narrative in Greek media regarding Israel and Palestine.

One George N. Tzogopoulos has been particularity buoyant about the Israel-Greek friendship. Writing a series of articles in various media, including the rightwing Israeli newspaper, the Jerusalem Post, Tzogopoulos suggests that, unlike the older generation of Greeks who have sided with Palestinians in the past, the young generation is likely to be pro-Israel.

"This process (of converting Greeks to loving Israel) will take time, of course, because it is principally related to school education," he wrote in Algemeiner.
"But the change in coverage of Israel by Greek journalists is a good omen."

That 'change of coverage' was also notable in the recent official visit by Israeli President, Reuven Rivlin, and his meeting with Tsipras and other Greek officials.

In the meetings, Rivlin complained of Palestinian obstinacy and refusal to return to the 'peace process', thus causing a 'serious crisis.'

The 'radical left' leader said little to challenge Rivlin's falsehoods.

Greece was not always this way, of course. Who could forget Andreas Papandreou, the late Greek leader who gave the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) diplomatic status in 1981, and stood by Palestinians despite American and Israeli threats?

It is that generation that Tzogopoulos and his likes would like to be gone forever, and replaced by morally-flexible leaders like Tsipras.

However, signing off to join an Israel-led economic and military alliance in an area replete with conflict, is a terribly irresponsible move, even for politically inexperienced and opportunistic politicians.

For Greece to be the “strong arm of imperialism in the region” – as described by the leader of the Socialist Workers Revolutionary Party in Greece – is “completely stupid” as it will, in the long run, bring “catastrophic results for (the) Greek people."

But Tsipras seems incapable of looking that far ahead.

Ramzy Baroud is a journalist, author and editor of Palestine Chronicle. His forthcoming book is ‘The Last Earth: A Palestinian Story’ (Pluto Press, London). Baroud has a Ph.D. in Palestine Studies from the University of Exeter and is a Non-Resident Scholar at Orfalea Center for Global and International Studies, University of California Santa Barbara. His website is

The Other Cheek: How "Anti-SLAPP" Laws Slap the Wrong Faces

Ted Rall vs. LA Times: Here’s Rall’s Appellate Brief Challenging the Times’ Nasty, Abusive “anti-SLAPP” Motions 

by Ted Rall

February 8, 2018

Yesterday my attorneys filed, and California’s Court of Appeals accepted, our Appellate Brief in my defamation and wrongful termination lawsuit against the Los Angeles Times et al.

I sued in 2015. The Times filed three anti-SLAPP motions against me, halting the case because they’re scared of facing a jury and want to intimidate me. In 2017 a lower-court judge ruled for the Times, ordering me to pay them $350,000 in the Times’ attorneys fees. This document is our appeal of the 2017 decision.

If successful, the $350,000 judgement will be vacated and I can build my case to take to a jury.

If not, the $350,000 stands, plus more fees for the Times defense of this appeal. And my case dies. And Californians who work for media companies will have no recourse in the courts if their employer discriminates against them, even if they do so for racist or sexist or homophobic reasons.

Please read our brief here; it’s an interesting read. I look forward to hearing your thoughts and reactions. Thank you for your incredible support!

Navigating Britain's Kosher Press Minefield

Living in an Orwellian Tyranny

by  Gilad Atzmon

February 09, 2018

Yesterday Nick Timothy, Theresa May's former aide, was accused of using an antisemitic slur in his article on Brexit. He co-authored a Telegraph report titled, George Soros, the man who 'broke the Bank of England', backing secret plot to thwart Brexit.

Not only did Timothy not criticise Soros as a Jew, he didn’t even refer to him as a Jew. But it seems the fact that Soros is a Jew was enough to censure Timothy as an ‘antisemite.’ It took no more.

Stephen Bush wrote in The New Statesman ,

“The reason that many find the Telegraph's treatment so disturbing is that Soros, who is Jewish, has been at the centre of a series of anti-Semitic conspiracies by the increasingly authoritarian governments in Poland, Hungary and Turkey.” 

It is mildly amusing that the banal Stephen Bush can’t see that he himself employs an authoritarian manner of thought. Unless guilt by association has become Britain’s press’ MO, the fact that some regimes not approved of by Bush or The New Statesman decided to cleanse themselves of Soros’ infiltration has little relevance to Timothy or his argument.

Bush adds that,

“Timothy was the author of that ‘citizens of nowhere’ speech only adds to feeling among many that the original speech was a coded way of talking about “rootless cosmopolitans”; aka the Jewish people.” 

This passage describes a kosherly coded minefield that we can not possibly navigate unless Bush and The New Statesman provide us with the complete newspeak lexicon.

Stephen Pollard, editor of the JC, a funny looking character who routinely squirts freedom of speech advocacy articles, explained in a tweet why Timothy is anti-Semitic.

“Telegraph story is disturbing because of the use of the idea it’s a ‘secret plot.’ Soros is incredibly open about what he does. Say it’s wrong; fine. But [the] idea it’s a secret plot is exactly the line being used in Hungary and elsewhere precisely because he is Jewish.”

I agree with Pollard that there are no Jewish conspiracies and secret plots. Jews organisations and individuals tend to do it all in the open. In the open AIPAC dominates American foreign policy. In the open the Conservative Friends of Israel do the same on this side of the pond. In the open Zionist organisations smear the British Labour Party and its leadership. In the open Daniel Janner QC, the son of alleged sex predator Lord Greville Janner, insists that he be allowed to question “fantasists” who accused his father of abuse.

Finally, in the open Stephen Pollard himself describes Timothy’s legitimate argument as ‘disturbing’ because the latter refers to Soros’ ‘secret plot.’ So I wonder, would Pollard be less disturbed if The Telegraph’s title read: “George Soros, The Man who 'broke the Bank of England' is now thwarting Brexit.”?

Their message for fellow journalists, commentators, academics and the rest of the Brits is clear: Jews are somehow beyond criticism. Any attempt to look into the actions of the Jewish lobby, finance, politics, Zionism and individuals will necessary lead to some severe consequences such as accusations of anti-Semitism, bigotry and racism.

But ask yourself, if Soros were gay, would Timothy’s criticism be castigated as homophobic? Were Soros a woman, would Timothy’s reference to a ‘secret plot’ make him a ‘male chauvinist pig' or an ordinary misogynist? And what if Soros were Black? Would an accusation that he was thwarting Brexit in a clandestine manner lead us to assume that Timothy is a ‘white supremacist’?

We know the answers to these questions. It seems it is the fact that Soros is Jewish that leads to the ludicrous accusation that Timothy is an ‘antisemite’ who is engaged in ‘racially charged’ rhetoric as decided by The New Statesman’s Stephen Bush.

Britain is now an Orwellian Tyranny and, as in 1984, we have our Emmanuel Goldsteins - controlled opposition apparatuses set to dominate the dissent. As we see freedom of speech evaporating, it is Stephen Pollard who takes care of the so-called ‘opposition’ that advocates freedom of speech.

Similarly, it is Jewish Voice for Labour , a racially oriented Jews only body, that is set to ‘break up’ any Zionist monopoly. We also have Free Speech on Israel, again a Jewish body, that was formed to dominate the boundaries of the discourse on anti Zionism. The mission is clear. 'In the open,' Jewish organisations and individuals are set to dominate both poles of any debate that is relevant to Jewish existence.

It is frightening to witness how quickly Britain surrendered its precious liberal values of openness and freedom. It is even more frightening to watch the vast approval granted the growing tyrannical conditions.

It is fascinating that Orwell predicted it all. As I argue in my recent book Being in Time, Orwell saw it coming. He located 1984 in Britain, he identified the Left as a potentially tyrannical realm. He illustrated the deceptive role played by Emmanuel Goldstein. The only question that remains open is whether Britain can save itself and reinstate its values or whether it is doomed.

Now He's Gone Too Far! Putin Rigging Oscar Voting

Guardian: Now Putin is hacking the Oscars!

by Jonathan Cook 

9 February 2018

This is truly disturbing. The Guardian has published a shocking report that not only has Russia’s Vladimir Putin been using social media to disrupt elections in the world’s finest democracy, the United States of America, but he has now found a way to worm his black propaganda into the minds of Hollywood’s unsuspecting glitterati.

If this is not stopped, the Guardian reports, there is a real danger that the Academy judges may fail to give the documentary Oscar to the Last Men in Aleppo, about the White Helmets, a US and UK-financed “rescue group” that works in al-Qaeda-held areas of Syria.

The director of the film, Feras Fayyad, warns:

“It is like Russia wants to hack the Oscars like they hacked the US election.”

The Guardian notes that there is every danger that the Oscar judges will be swayed by a spate of articles on what it terms “alternative news” websites. Under the pretence of free speech, they have portrayed the documentary as inaccurate and criticised Fayyad for taking a partisan position. A few people have even gone so far as to take to Facebook and Twitter and call Fayyad a “liar and terrorist sympathiser”, while others have suggested he may be working for the CIA.

This, as the Guardian’s reporter Olivia Solon notes, is straight out of “a playbook of Russia-backed disinformation and manipulation”. Solon adds that it can only be part of “an organized attempt to tarnish the film-maker’s reputation”.

Other documentary makers confirmed the dangerous nature of the “smear campaign”, warning that the Academy panel could be influenced by the public debate about the film.

Producer Amy Ziering said such “white noise disinformation campaigns” could “damage an Oscar campaign’s success, but even more importantly it can damage the ability for important and necessary truths to be told.”

Sadly, the Guardian only hints at the solution rather than spelling it out: we need much stronger curbs on irresponsible uses of free speech, especially so-called “alternative” political analyses and opinions, to ensure that only those using their speech responsibly are heard.

If we allow this cacophony of conflicting opinions to continue, there is a real danger that people will start to doubt the narratives that have been carefully crafted for them by their political and media elites. Who knows where this might lead?

If we do not crack down on this abuse of free speech – on fake news – immediately, it might even infect Hollywood opinion-formers.

Thursday, February 08, 2018

Bosh, Tosh, the BBC, and the State of News Propaganda

‘A Load Of Tosh’ – The BBC, ‘Showbiz News’ And State Propaganda

by Media Lens In Alerts 2018 

08 February 2018

On January 22, BBC News at Ten carried a piece by 'defence' correspondent Jonathan Beale reporting a speech by General Sir Nick Carter, the British Army's Chief of General Staff.

Carter gave his speech, pleading for more resources in the face of the Russian 'threat', at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), an establishment thinktank with close links to the military and corporate media.

Beale began his BBC News piece with a prologue of raw propaganda, delivered in an urgent and impassioned tone:

'Russia's building an increasingly modern and aggressive military. Already tested in battle in Syria, using weapons Britain would struggle to match – like long-range missiles. In Ukraine, they've been using unconventional warfare, electronic cyber and misinformation. And they're even on manoeuvres on Europe's doorstep, with large-scale exercises near Nato's borders. Enough to worry the head of the British army who tonight gave this rare public warning.'

The essence of Carter's 'rare public warning' was that:

'Russia was building an increasingly aggressive expeditionary force and the potential military threats to the UK "are now on Europe's doorstep"... the Kremlin already boasted an "eye-watering quantity of capability" - a level the UK would struggle to match... Britain "must take notice of what is going on around us" or... the ability by the UK to take action will be "massively constrained".'

Carter continued:

'Rather like a chronic contagious disease, it will creep up on us, and our ability to act will be markedly constrained - and we'll be the losers of this competition.'

The army chief's warning had been approved by the Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson.

On News at Ten, Beale's reporting of the speech amplified the army chief's message – in other words, the Defence Secretary's stance - by deploying such key phrases as:

'Increasingly aggressive', 'tested in battle', 'Britain would struggle to match', 'manoeuvres on Europe's doorstep', 'near Nato's borders'.

There was, of course, no mention of US/Nato encroachment towards Russia since the fall of the Soviet Union (contravening assurances given to Gorbachev), or the US bases and military exercises close to Russia's borders as well as globally, or the long history of US threats and major crimes around the world. Nor was there any reference to Ukraine which has routinely been reported as an example of Russian 'aggression'. John Pilger observes that the BBC along with others, including CNN, the New York Times and the Guardian:

'played a critical role in conditioning their viewers to accept a new and dangerous cold war.

'All have misrepresented events in Ukraine as a malign act by Russia when, in fact, the coup in Ukraine in 2014 was the work of the United States, aided by Germany and Nato.'

Beale's credulous reporting of the army chief's speech was an exemplar of 'public broadcast' media whipping up fear to promote state interests.

Later, standing outside the Ministry of Defence, Beale said:

'This intervention by the head of the army is as much an appeal for more money for defence as it is a warning about the threat posed by Russia.'

And yet Beale had earlier dramatically highlighted the 'worrying' facts, asserting they were 'enough to worry the head of the British army' - in other words, that the army chief really was worried; not dissembling. Beale's subsequent comment was a token, blink-and-you'll-miss-it acknowledgement of the reality: that Carter's speech was aimed at propping up UK military power.

Note that Beale's 'neutral' reporting was not about an 'alleged threat posed by Russia'; simply the 'threat posed by Russia'. This subtly insidious use of language occurs daily on 'impartial' BBC News.

And, as ever, such a report would be incomplete without an establishment talking head from a 'defence and security' think tank. Professor Michael Clarke, a senior RUSI fellow, was on hand to perform the required role. This was BBC News in standard establishment/state/military/corporate mode.

Beale was duly confronted by several people on Twitter about his promotion of UK state and military propaganda on the Russian 'threat'. One Twitter user put to the BBC journalist:

'The only thing the MSM [mainstream media] is good for is fake news, falsification and manipulation of truth & propaganda. Ask yourself for whose benefit?'

This is a reasonable starting point for a debate about the major news media. Beale did not distinguish himself with the quality of his response:

'What a load of tosh.'

In contrast, Beale's 'opinion-free' response to the army chief's propaganda speech was:

'Coherent, detailed and impressive speech by @ArmyCGS @RUSI_org tonight making the case for investment in #defence. CDS [Chief of Defence Staff] in waiting?'

Imagine if the BBC man's observations had been reversed. It is, of course, completely unthinkable that a BBC reporter would respond to a major military or political speech with:

'What a load of tosh.'

It would be equally unthinkable for a BBC journalist to respond to a speech by, for example, Noam Chomsky with:

'Coherent, detailed and impressive speech tonight exposing Western war propaganda.'

And likewise, a dissident expert would never be invited to respond scornfully, or even sceptically, to a speech by the likes of Sir Nick Carter on the BBC's News At Ten.

Further examples are pumped out daily by this 'globally respected' broadcaster. On January 8, Fiona Bruce introduced an item about Syria on BBC News at Ten with the phrase: 'Syrian government forces, backed by Russia'. Why does BBC News not regularly use the phrase, 'Saudi government forces, backed by the United States and the UK' when reporting on bombs dropped on Yemen? The answer should be obvious.

On January 29, Huw Edwards announced on BBC News at Ten:

'We talk exclusively to the head of the CIA about the threat from Russia.'

Note the duplicitous wording once again. Not 'alleged' threat or 'claimed' threat, far less 'hyped-up' threat. BBC correspondent Gordon Corera's 'interview' of the CIA's Mike Pompero was a travesty of journalism, with no meaningful challenge or context. That the US is regularly regarded by global public opinion as a major threat around the world was totally off the agenda. You will wait in vain for an exclusive interview on BBC News at Ten with a senior figure about the 'threat from the United States'.

Ironically, just the previous day, Piers Morgan had conducted a sycophantic ITV 'interview' with Donald Trump. The object of the exercise was clearly to garner high viewer ratings, and thus boost advertising revenue; not to challenge the US president in any meaningful way.

Afterwards, the BBC's John Simpson, the epitome of 'serious' BBC News journalism, mocked Morgan:

'The art of the political interview, Piers, is to push your interviewee hard - not let them spout self-evident tosh. That's just showbiz.'

But when it comes to a showbiz-style BBC News interview with the head of the CIA? A convenient silence.

When one of our readers, Steve Ennever, uploaded the BBC's CIA interview to YouTube, complete with Huw Edwards' introduction, it was swiftly removed – within an hour or so - under pretence of a 'copyright claim'. What is the publicly-funded BBC so afraid of? The clip of the interview does appear on the BBC News YouTube channel. But why should they have a monopoly on it? Are they actually fearful of public-interest media activism that focuses on BBC News clips?

It is notable that all the brave BBC News voices go quiet at times like this. As far as we could tell, there was not a single dissenting voice about the BBC 'exclusive' interview plugging CIA propaganda. The conformity is remarkable and yet systemic.

The uncomfortable truth for the BBC is that the gap between showbiz and BBC 'news' is narrow. In fact, there is a significant overlap. Worse than that, BBC News is all too often a conduit for propaganda that promotes wars, corporate interests, 'patriotism', military pageantry, excessive consumerism and calamitous inaction on climate.

As we have previously noted, a persistent feature of BBC News reporting on Yemen, for instance, is that the UK's complicity in Saudi war crimes and Yemen's humanitarian disaster is buried. To take another example, this BBC News headline is permissible:

'Taliban threaten 70% of Afghanistan, BBC finds'

But these are not:

'US threatens 100% of Afghanistan, BBC finds'
'US threatens 100% of Iraq, BBC finds'
'Global opinion finds US a major world threat, BBC finds'

And when the BBC takes a rare look at propaganda, it only does so in order to examine the propaganda of Official Enemies. Thus, BBC News will robustly critique Russian propaganda in a way it never does with the West's.

In summary, it does not take extensive observation to discern the general pattern of BBC News 'journalism' on matters of great significance:

1. Western military or political leader says something.
2. BBC News provides headline coverage.
3. Policy 'expert' from a right-wing or 'centrist' think tank is quoted in support.
4. BBC correspondent provides supportive 'analysis'.
5. Token sceptical voice is briefly quoted.*
6. Extensive follow-up; talking points on BBC programmes such as Newsnight, Daily Politics, etc.

When Eleanor Bradford, a former BBC Scotland health correspondent, rightly drew attention to the corporation failing women over the issue of pay equality, British historian Mark Curtis added an important corollary:

'It's true. Why should women be paid less than men for conveying state propaganda under the guise of news? It's only fair they should receive same salaries as all male govt employees.'

Curtis has published several books revealing the UK's real role in world affairs, based on diligent research of previously secret government records. He is currently releasing declassified documents that reveal the reality of post-WW2 British policy towards numerous countries, as opposed to the propaganda version of events that has filled books, newspapers, magazines, television and radio programmes, and even infected academia.

Curtis explains the rationale for his project:

'The British public has little idea what has been done, and is being done, in their names.

'I want everyone to be able to see at least some of the documents that I have seen because they tell a much truer story of this country's real role in the world than they will hear on the BBC or read in The Telegraph.'

Curtis is addressing some of the most 'ignored episodes' in British foreign policy - such as the UK's support for the Idi Amin coup in Uganda in 1971, and for the welcoming of the Pinochet military takeover in Chile, the covert operation to overthrow Sukarno in Indonesia in the late 1950s, and the covert UK war in Yemen in the 1960s.

Curtis notes that now-released internal files reveal that:

'there is no interest in the human rights of the people that live in regions like the Middle East, Africa or Asia - British policy is all about geopolitics, promoting commercial interests and upholding Britain's power status.'

Moreover, the files show that:

'the British public is largely viewed as a threat and they therefore shouldn't be allowed to know what is being done in their names...The danger is that the public might deflect elites from their policy course - this is unacceptable to Whitehall.'

Curtis rightly points to the need to challenge traditional sources of 'news' which keep the public ignorant of crucial facts and context. Non-mainstream sources should be encouraged and supported:

'Social and alternative media is very encouraging - this is where people should be getting more and more of their information, bypassing mainstream sources.'

Ironically, it was a 'renegade producer' from the BBC who encouraged newspaper journalist John Pilger to start making documentaries. Charles Denton taught Pilger that:

'facts and evidence told straight to the camera and to the audience could indeed be subversive.'

Pilger encourages young journalists today to 'make a difference' by breaking the silence surrounding the reality of Western foreign policies. He adds a warning:

'The moment they [young journalists] accept, say, the BBC view of the world, that there are only two sides to an argument, and both those sides are on what we call the establishment side, then it's over.'


Fakes, Fakers, and Fake News Fakery

“Fake news” is fake news

by William Blum – The Anti-Empire Report #155 

February 8th, 2018

The people who created Facebook and Google must be smart. They’re billionaires, their companies are worth multi-multi billions, their programs are used by billions around the world.

But all these smart people, because of Congressional pressure, have swallowed the stories about “fake news”.

Facebook hired a very large staff of people to read everything posted by users to weed out the fake stuff.

That didn’t last too long at all before the company announced that it wasn’t “comfortable” deciding which news sources are the most trustworthy in a “world with so much division”. We all could have told them that, couldn’t we?

Facebook’s previous efforts to ask its users to determine the accuracy of news did not turn out any better. Last year, the company launched a feature that allowed users to flag news stories they felt were inaccurate. The experiment was shuttered after nine months.

“Fake news”, however, is not the problem. News found in the mainstream media is rarely fake; i.e., actual lies made from whole cloth, totally manufactured. This was, however, a common practice of the CIA during the first Cold War.

The Agency wrote editorials and phony news stories to be knowingly published by Latin American media with no indication of CIA authorship or CIA payment to the particular media. The propaganda value of such a “news” item might be multiplied by being picked up by other CIA stations in Latin America who would disseminate it through a CIA-owned news agency or a CIA-owned radio station. Some of these stories made their way back to the United States to be read or heard by unknowing North Americans.

Iraq’s “weapons of mass destruction” in 2003 is another valid example of “fake news”, but like the CIA material this was more a government invention than a media creation.

The main problem with the media today, as earlier, is what is left out of articles dealing with controversial issues. For example, the very common practice during the first Cold War of condemning the Soviet Union for taking over much of Eastern Europe after the Second World War. This takeover is certainly based on fact. But the condemnation is very much misapplied if no mention is made of the fact that Eastern Europe became communist because Hitler, with the approval of the West, used it as a highway to reach the Soviet Union to wipe out Bolshevism once and for all; the Russians in World Wars I and II lost about 40 million people because the West had twice used this highway to invade Russia. It should not be surprising that after World War II the Soviets were determined to close down the highway. It was not simply “communist expansion”.

Or the case of Moammar Gaddafi. In the Western media he is invariably referred to as “the Libyan dictator”. Period. And he certainly was a dictator. But he also did many marvelous things for the people of Libya (like the highest standard of living in Africa) and for the continent of Africa (like creating the African Union).

Or the case of Vladimir Putin. The Western media never tires of reminding its audience that Putin was once a KGB lieutenant colonel – wink, wink, we all know what that means, chuckle, chuckle. But do they ever remind us with a wink or chuckle that US President George H.W. Bush was once – not merely a CIA officer, but the fucking Director of the CIA!

Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg now says:

“We decided that having the community determine which sources are broadly trusted would be most objective”; “broadly trusted” sources being those that are “affirmed by a significant cross-section of users”.

Right, a significant cross-section of users – Will that include me? Highly unlikely. Broadly trusted sources – Will that include media like my Anti-Empire Report? Just as unlikely. Anything close? Maybe a single token leftist website amongst a large list, I’d guess. And a single token rightist website. Zuckerberg and his ilk probably think that the likes of NBC, NPR and CNN are very objective and are to be trusted when it comes to US foreign-policy issues or capitalism-vs-socialism issues.

On January 19 Google announced that it would cancel a two-month old experiment, called Knowledge Panel, that informed its users that a news article had been disputed by “independent fact-checking organizations”. Conservatives had complained that the feature unfairly targeted a right-leaning outlet.

Imagine that. It’s almost like people have political biases. Both Facebook and Google are still experimenting, trying to find a solution that I do not think exists. My solution is to leave it as it is. There’s no automated way to remove bias or slant or judgment from writing or from those persons assigned to evaluate such.

Fake news by omission – the Haiti example

“I’m happy to have a president that will bluntly speak the truth in negotiations,” Eric Prince commented on Breitbart News. “If the president says some places are shitholes, he’s accurate.” Thus did Mr. Eric Prince pay homage to Mr. Donald Trump. Prince of course being the renowned founder of Blackwater, the private army which in September 2007 opened fire in a crowded square in Baghdad, killing 17 Iraqi civilians and seriously wounding 20 more.

Speaking of Haiti and other “shitholes”, Prince declared:

“It’s a sad characterization of many of these places. It’s not based on race. It has nothing to do with race. It has to do with corrupt incompetent governments that abuse their citizens, and that results in completely absent infrastructure to include open sewers, and unclean water, and crime. It’s everything we don’t want in America.”

Like the US media, Prince failed to point out that on two occasions in the recent past when Haiti had a decent government, led by Jean-Bertrand Aristide, which was motivated to improve conditions, the United States was instrumental in nullifying its effect. This was in addition to fully supporting the Duvalier dictatorship for nearly 30 years prior to Aristide.

Aristide, a reformist priest, was elected to the presidency in 1991 but was ousted eight months later in a military coup. The 1993 Clinton White House thus found itself in the awkward position of having to pretend – because of all their rhetoric about “democracy” – that they supported the democratically-elected Aristide’s return to power from his exile in he US. After delaying his return for more than two years, Washington finally had its military restore Aristide to office, but only after obliging the priest to guarantee that he would not help the poor at the expense of the rich – literally! – and that he would stick closely to free-market economics. This meant that Haiti would continue to be the assembly plant of the Western Hemisphere, with its workers receiving starvation wages, literally! If Aristide had thoughts about breaking the agreement forced upon him, he had only to look out his window – US troops were stationed in Haiti for the remainder of his term.

In 2004, with Aristide once again the elected president, the United States staged one of its most blatant coups ever. On February 28, 2004, American military and diplomatic personnel arrived at Aristide’s home to inform him that his private American security agents must either leave immediately to return to the US or fight and die; that the remaining 25 of the American security agents hired by the Haitian government, who were to arrive the next day, had been blocked by the United States from coming; that foreign and Haitian rebels were nearby, heavily armed, determined and ready to kill thousands of people in a bloodbath. Aristide was pressured to sign a “letter of resignation” before he was flown into exile by the United States.

And then US Secretary of State Colin Powell, in the sincerest voice he could muster, told the world that Aristide “was not kidnaped. We did not force him onto the airplane. He went onto the airplane willingly. And that’s the truth.” Powell sounded as sincere as he had sounded a year earlier when he gave the UN a detailed (albeit imaginary) inventory of the chemical, biological and nuclear weapons in Iraq, shortly before the US invasion.

Jean-Bertrand Aristide was on record, by word and deed, as not being a great lover of globalization or capitalism. This was not the kind of man the imperial mafia wanted in charge of the Western Hemisphere’s assembly plant. It was only a matter of time before they took action.

It should be noted that the United States also kept progressives out of power in El Salvador, another of Trump’s “shithole” countries.

Liberals today

On January 24 I went to the Washington, DC bookstore Politics & Prose to hear David Cay Johnston, author of “It’s Even Worse Than You Think: What the Trump Administration Is Doing to America”. To my surprise he repeatedly said negative things about Russia, and in the Q&A session I politely asked him about this. He did not take kindly to that and after a very brief exchange cut me off by asking for the next person in line to ask a question.

That was the end of our exchange. No one in the large audience came to my defense or followed up with a question in the same vein; i.e., the author as cold warrior. The only person who spoke to me afterwards had only this to say as he passed me by: “Putin kills people”. Putin had not been mentioned. I should have asked him: “Which government never kills anyone?”

Politics & Prose is a very liberal bookstore. (Amongst many authors of the left, I’ve spoken there twice.) Its patrons are largely liberal. But liberals these days are largely cold warriors it appears. Even though the great majority of them can’t stand Trump they have swallowed the anti-Russia line of his administration and the media, perhaps because of the belief that “Russian meddling” in the election led to dear Hillary’s defeat, the proof of which sees more non-existent with each passing day.

Sam Smith (who puts out the Progressive Review in Maine) has written about Hillary’s husband:

“A major decline of progressive America occurred during the Clinton years as many liberals and their organizations accepted the presence of a Democratic president as an adequate substitute for the things liberals once believed in. Liberalism and a social democratic spirit painfully grown over the previous 60 years withered during the Clinton administration.”

And shortly afterward came Barack Obama, not only a Democrat but an African-American, the perfect setup for a lot more withering, health care being a good example. The single-payer movement was regularly gaining momentum when Obama took office; it seemed like America was finally going to join the modern advanced world. But Mr. O put a definitive end to that. Profit – even of the type Mr. Trump idealizes – would still determine who is to live and who is to die, just like Jews intone during Rosh Hashanah.

Poor America. It can travel to other planets, create a military force powerful enough to conquer the world ten times over, invent the Internet and a thousand other things … but it can’t provide medical care for all its people.

Now, three of the richest men in the world, the heads of Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway, and JP Morgan Chase, which collectively employ more than a million people, have announced they are partnering to create an independent company aimed at reining in ever-increasing health-care costs for companies and employees alike. The three men will pursue this objective through a company whose initial focus will be on technology solutions that will provide US employees and their families with simplified, high-quality and transparent healthcare at a reasonable cost. Almost no details were made available on how they plan to do this, but I predict that whatever they do will fail. They have lots of models to emulate – in Canada, Europe, Cuba and elsewhere – but to an American nostril these examples all suffer from the same unpleasant odor, the smell of socialism.

I say this even though their announcement states that the new company will be “free from profit-making incentives and constraints”. And Warren Buffet, head of Berkshire Hathaway, is cited on CNN as follows:

“Warren Buffett says America is ready for single-payer health care. The billionaire investor tells PBS NewsHour that government-run health insurance ‘probably is the best system’ because it would control escalating costs. ‘We are such a rich country. In a sense, we can afford to do it.’”

Of course the US could have afforded to do it 50 years ago. I really hope that my cynicism is misplaced.

The Trump Bubble. (Written before the market crashed)

Repeatedly, President Trump and his supporters have bragged about the “booming” stock market, attributing it to the administration’s marvelous economic policies and the great public confidence in those policies. Like much of what comes out of the Donald’s mouth … this is simply nonsense.

The stock market is, and always has been, just a gambling casino, a glorified Las Vegas. Every day a bunch of people, (gamblers) buy and/or sell one stock or another; sometimes they sell the same stock they bought the day before; or the hour before; or the minute before; the next day they may well do the exact reverse. All depending on the latest news headline, or what a corporation has done to elicit attention, or what a friend just told them, or a fortune teller, or that day’s horoscope, or just a good ol’ hunch. Or they make up a reason; anything to avoid thinking that they’re just pulling the lever of a slot machine.

And many people buy certain stocks because other people are buying it. This is what stock market analysts call a speculative bubble. Prick the confidence and the bubble bursts. “The stock market,” Naomi Klein has observed, “has the temperament of an overindulged 2-year-old, who can throw one of its world-shaking tantrums.”

Walter Winchell, the 1960-70s powerful and widely-syndicated gossip columnist of the New York Daily News, famously wrote that he lost his faith in the stock market when he saw that a stock could jump sharply in price simply because he happened to mention something related to the company in his column.

And all this occurs even when the stock market is operating in the supposedly honest way it was designed to operate. What are we to make of it when sophisticated investors devise a computer scam for instantaneous buying and selling, as has happened several times in recent years?

Yet President Trump and his fans would have us believe that the big jump in stock prices of the past year is testimony to his sterling leadership and oh-so-wise policies. What will they say when the market crashes? As Trump himself will crash.

Driverless police cars

Yes, that’s what they’re thinking of next. Among other things these cars will be able to catch speeders and issue tickets. But here’s the real test of the system’s Artificial Intelligence – Can the police car be taught how to recognize a young black man, drive to within a few feet of him, and fire a gun at his head?

Philip Agee, Inside the Company: CIA Diary, published in 1974
Washington Post, January 19, 20, 23, 25, 2018
Breitbart News radio program, January 12, 2018
Wikipedia entry for Eric Prince
William Blum, Killing Hope, chapters 22 and 55; Rogue State, pp. 202-3, 219-20
Killing Hope, chapter 54
Business Wire, January 30, 2018
CNNMoney, June 28, 2017

Any part of this report may be disseminated without permission, provided attribution to William Blum as author and a link to is provided.

Kurds Look to Assad for Salvation

Kurds, Out of Options, Look to Syria’s Assad for Help

by Jim Carey  - MintPress News

Feb. 6, 2018

The Kurds are feeling the squeeze from Turkey’s operation to route them from northern Syria, and with their benefactors in Washington unwilling to garner support, they are looking to former enemies to save them.

DAMASCUS, SYRIA (Analysis) — The war in Syria has been relatively absent from media coverage in recent weeks following the declared victory of Syrian, Russian and Iranian militaries in their battle against the U.S.- backed rebels and terror groups, including ISIS and al-Qaeda.

Now Washington is changing its strategy to draw Syria further into chaos and is poised to do just that with the help of Kurdish allies in the north of the country. Allies who have already been twice rebranded by Washington in an attempt to avoid drawing the ire of fellow NATO member Turkey.

But could this plan have already backfired? 

When the Kurds recently began losing ground to Turkey in Syria, the U.S. didn’t heed their calls for help. So they turned to the Syrian government seeking help to “protect Syria’s borders.” While this is the correct course under international law, it is sure to stir up mixed feelings in light of the recent history of Kurdish separatism in Syria.

In order to better understand that history, the complex series of alliances and rivalries that impact northern Syria must be understood — beginning with who and where these Kurds are, and the way in which that impacts their relations with Washington, Ankara, and Damascus.

It is as important to understand why Ankara launched the incursion it is calling “Operation Olive Branch,” as it is to understand why one U.S. ally (the People’s Protection Units, or YPG) has called on a U.S. adversary to expel another NATO member.

This fight against a fellow U.S. ally was spurred by Turkish anger over the elements that compose Kurdish forces in northern Syria, owing to the YPG’s connections to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), a group deemed a terrorist organization by all of NATO. This designation derives from PKK attacks which regularly target NATO member Turkey, despite this, the YPG has been receiving weapons and air support from the U.S. since 2015.

As the fight between the Turks and Kurds intensified on January 25, Kurdish authorities inside the region surrounding Afrin issued a call to the Syrian Arab Army (SAA), rather than to their Western benefactors, to “defend Syria’s borders.” To the casual observer, it may seem odd that Washington’s closest ally in Syria was calling on the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad to rescue it from the incoming Turkish advance. But due to the fact that Afrin, like several other areas in northern Syria, was not historically under YPG control, and has only been occupied by the YPG since a 2012 standoff with Damascus, the Syrian government is the only legitimate authority in the region, leaving the Kurds little choice.

Most major media, whose coverage of the Kurds is typified by the likes of The Washington Post and The New York Times, fail to address this factor. Instead, their coverage is typically sympathetic, as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) is the United States’ most effective proxy on the ground in Syria, and it is typically implied that the Kurds have a de facto right to their own territory in the country. These stories leave out key pieces of history which have unfolded in the past six years, and fail to explain is the background of the SDF, or how long they’ve actually occupied Syrian territory.

The Syrian War creates opportunity for YPG

Initially founded in 2004 as the armed wing of the Democratic Unionist Party (PYD), the YPG didn’t truly gain notoriety until 2011-12, during the initial stages of the Syrian War.

As Kurdish forces seized Afrin in the north, Damascus was on the verge of being overrun by terrorists and Aleppo had been surrounded and was soon to be seized by groups such as the al Qaeda affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra in an occupation that would last for four years. It was these circumstances that led Assad — not yet backed by Russian air support — to make the crucial decision to allow the Kurds temporary autonomy in cities like Afrin, Amuda, and Kobani.

Damascus had dealt civilly with Kurdish elements in the past, and Assad claimed early in the war that his government would be open to granting greater autonomy in Kurdish regions. Assad likely felt he would be able to negotiate with the Kurds when the situation calmed since at that moment the rest of Syria had become a breeding ground for more dangerous Salafi groups.

However, the Kurds wasted no time in striking at elements of the Syrian Army (SAA). As far back as 2012, during the early days of the siege of Aleppo, YPG elements were carrying out attacks on the SAA – who were focused on routing groups like Jabhat al Nusra and the Free Syrian Army from the city.

These attacks continued for some time until the primary focus of the Kurds changed when they found the same terror groups fighting the SAA on their own doorsteps. At this point, the Kurds were devoting themselves primarily to keeping groups like al Nusra, IS, and the FSA from gaining ground in Kurdish cities.

The success of the YPG in fending off other rebel factions in Syria, as well as the lack of interference by Damascus, soon saw the Kurds become the dominant political faction in northern Syria. As the YPG continued to keep jihadists out of northern Syria, they began to consolidate power, much to the chagrin of non-Kurdish civilians (the majority in many ‘Kurdish’ cities) as well as rival Kurdish factions. Militias belonging to these marginalized groups were allowed to continue operations alongside the Kurds, but the YPG would be the unchallenged leader of these coalitions.

The situation was exacerbated in 2015 when the U.S. began backing the YPG with air support and encouraged the group to go on the offensive against the Islamic State (ISIS). The new U.S.-backed YPG expansion began in June 2015 with the attack on Tal Abyad, where the YPG worked to retake the city from ISIS, bringing them just 50 miles north of ISIS’ self-declared capital of Raqqa, and further into non-Kurdish areas.

It wasn’t long until the YPG’s new expansion came to be an issue for both the Syrian government and U.S.-allied Turkey. While Damascus took issue with the U.S. openly backing an insurgency, Turkey’s objections ran deeper, despite Washington’s best efforts to force some sort of dialogue between Ankara and Rojava (the Kurdish “capital” in Syria).

Turkey’s conflict with the YPG predates the Syrian war, extending back to the group’s founding, and deriving from the fact that much of the YPG leadership is comprised of members of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). The PKK is considered a terrorist group, not only by Turkey but also by all of Ankara’s western allies, including the United States.

Turkey’s disdain for the PKK, as well their sordid history, isn’t a factor unknown to Washington and has been openly admitted by top Pentagon officials. Barack Obama’s Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter revealed YPG and PKK ties during congressional testimony responding to questions by Republican Senator Lindsey Graham. Graham, himself a notorious neoconservative hawk, is by no means a friend to the Syrian government; yet even he conceded that he agreed with Ankara, saying:

“They think [U.S. collaboration with PKK elements] is the dumbest idea in the world and I agree with them.”

While Turkey was a member of the U.S. coalition to defeat ISIS, there were concerns echoed by many in the media and defense circles that Ankara was primarily targeting Kurdish forces. Turkey’s relationship within the coalition is incredibly complex (even more so when evidence of Turkish support for ISIS is factored in) — but the Turks main concern remained to deny the PKK (operating as the YPG) from establishing a base of operations on their southern border.

It is important to remember that the U.S. designates the PKK a terrorist organization, despite this – in late 2015 the YPG and subservient local militias came under the umbrella of the newly created, and U.S. backed, Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). U.S. generals, such as the head of Special Operations Command, Army General Raymond Thomas, recounted a conversation to reporters in which the U.S. told the YPG, “You have got to change your brand. What do you want to call yourselves besides the YPG?” Thomas went on to laud the fact that the YPG made the changes so quickly, saying:

“With about a day’s notice, they [the YPG] declared that they are the Syrian Democratic Forces.”

Soon the new offensive policy of the SDF was unleashed on several areas in Syria, namely Manbij and al-Bab. Yet one operation stood above the rest when it came to showing the true nature of the SDF and its Western allies: the battle of Raqqa.

The Occupation of Raqqa and Hypocrisy of Afrin

The offensive on Raqqa revealed to the world precisely what Western ambitions in Syria were.

Raqqa had been under ISIS occupation from January of 2014 until the beginning of the Battle of Raqqa in late 2016. Both of these events triggered the massive outflow of both internally displaced refugees in Raqqa and of the local majority non-Kurdish population.

It was during this period that Donald Trump, now president, would propose a U.S.-led initiative for safe zones in Syria (a Clinton proposal during her presidential campaign) administered by Western observers and allies on the ground. The move was seen by Syria and Russia as a blatant attempt by Washington to inject its influence where it didn’t belong. Rather than implementing the U.S. plan, Russia, Iran, and Turkey began leading their own deconfliction and peace initiatives.

U.S. ‘stealth-partition’ initiatives soon failed, yet this didn’t stop the SDF from moving on Raqqa from the north while the Syrian Army fought in the south around Deir Ezzor. During this period the Kurdish-led SDF tore through northern Syria and, according to the BBC, coordinated with the U.S. to arrange safe passage for ISIS fighters out of Raqqa — providing them a pathway into other countries, including Turkey (now a target for ISIS). The SDF also used U.S. muscle to block the Syrian government from reclaiming its own territory in the region, effectively assuring Raqqa would be liberated by Kurdish forces only. Raqqa was soon declared liberated, but Damascus didn’t share this view. The Syrian Foreign and Expatriates Ministry told Syrian state media that, under the control of the SDF and U.S., Raqqa was still an occupied city.

The Syrian minister also pointed to the fact that the U.S. coalition was requesting aid to “rebuild Raqqa,” likely ensuring a lengthy U.S. presence in the city, despite the fact that most of the damage done to the city (now 90 percent leveled) was done by coalition itself. The Minister went on to question the integrity of the SDF, claiming the group had seized “humanitarian aid meant to save the lives of Raqqa locals,” and “that these Forces also confiscate locals’ IDs and documents and subject them to brutal torture and detainment.”

Raqqa may be a good distance from Afrin, but the circumstances surrounding both are similar. During the Turkish bombing of Afrin, Turkey allegedly struck Menagh Air Base, the main facility used to funnel U.S. weapons to the SDF, indicating that Western support for the Kurds stretches across the full expanse of northern Syria.
James Carey is journalist and editor at Geopolitics Alert. He specializes in Middle East and Asian affairs.

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

US Forces Attack Syrian Army, Claim "Self-Defense"

US-led coalition conducts ‘defensive’ airstrikes against Syrian forces

by RT

Feb. 7, 2018

The US-led coalition has carried out several “defensive” airstrikes on Syrian forces in retaliation for what they called an “unprovoked” attack on the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and foreign military “advisers.”

The attack was carried out after Syrian “pro-regime forces initiated an unprovoked attack against well-established Syrian Democratic Forces headquarters,” the coalition claimed.

“In defense of Coalition and partner forces, the Coalition conducted strikes against attacking forces to repel the act of aggression against partners engaged in the Global Coalition’s defeat-Daesh (Islamic State, IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) mission,” the Central Command said in a press release.

The US-led coalition has also firmly stressed its “non-negotiable right to act in self-defense,” since its service members are embedded with the “partners” on ground in Syria.

The confrontation reportedly took place some eight kilometers east of the Euphrates River “deconfliction line.” There were no immediate reports of casualties on either side.

Wednesday’s incident is the latest of its kind involving the US-supported rebels and Syrian government forces. Washington remains under the impression that the coalition air force and its “partners” on the ground are allowed to operate east of the Euphrates, while the Syrian forces should remain west of the imaginary demarcation line.

Damascus has repeatedly stated that the US coalition presence on its soil is an act of aggression and a violation of the country’s sovereignty. The Russian and Syrian air forces are the only ones officially allowed to operate in Syria.

In fact, the government of Syria has repeatedly asked the United Nations to urge the US to leave, particularly following the virtual defeat of Islamic State terrorist group. However, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has instead promised that US troops will remain in Syria indefinitely to counter Syrian President Bashar Assad and Iran’s influence in the region.

The US-led coalition also mulled creating a 30,000-strong border force to secure control of the territory held by their partners in Syria. Since the force would include the Kurdish-dominated SDF alliance, the idea triggered a strong backlash from Turkey, forcing Ankara to initiate ‘Operation Olive Branch’ to secure a buffer “safe zone” in Syria.

Washington seems to have departed from its publicly stated goal of fighting Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) and is ready to partition Syria, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov warned earlier on Wednesday.

“It’s very likely that the Americans have taken a course of dividing the country. They just gave up their assurances, given to us, that the only goal of their presence in Syria – without an invitation of the legitimate government – was to defeat Islamic State and the terrorists,” Lavrov said.

“Now they are saying that they will keep their presence till they make sure a steady process of a political settlement in Syria starts, which will result in regime change,” the minister said during a conference in Sochi.

Trump Nukes Policy: Making America Groan Again

What Next? US Bans All Russian Nukes?

by Finian Cunningham  - Sputnik

Feb. 7, 2018

Provocatively and recklessly, the American Pentagon has recently accused Russia of threatening European allies with nuclear weapons. On the basis of this deplorable accusation, the US is embarking on a $1 trillion upgrade of its nuclear arsenal.

The American nuclear revamp not only puts it in potential violation of disarmament agreements; the move is also destabilizing nuclear forces and increases the risk of catastrophic global war.

If ever Washington’s reckless power politics were in doubt, this is surely the touchstone issue. As with so many other allegations leveled by Washington against Russia – from election hacking to Olympic sports doping – the claim that Moscow is engaging in nuclear threats is far from evidenced.

Indeed, one could say, it’s in the realm of fantasy.

But the insane claim is then used to justify Washington’s own reprehensible behavior. In the Pentagon’s Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) published last week, US Defense Secretary James Mattis states in the document’s preface that "Russia’s seizure of Crimea and nuclear threats against our allies, mark Moscow’s decided return to Great Power competition."

Mattis goes on to make other claims against Russia, including that it is in breach of arms controls treaties to reduce nuclear stockpiles. He also alleges that Moscow is using "non-strategic nuclear systems to provide a coercive advantage in crises and at lower levels of conflict," and that Moscow is "lowering the threshold for first-use of nuclear weapons."

At the same time, it was reported this week, even by US media, that Russia has fully complied with meeting its reduction targets for nuclear weapons prescribed by the 2010 New START accord.

In any case, the Pentagon’s anti-Russia accusations continue unabated. In particular, Washington claims that Russia has violated the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty by developing short-range land-launched cruise missiles. Moscow has denied any violation. Again, Washington does not present evidence to verify its claims. Presumably, what Washington is referring to is the installation by Russia of Iskander ballistic missiles in its exclave territory of Kaliningrad adjacent to the Baltic states and Poland. This is also what the Pentagon appears to be referring to when it accuses Russia of “threatening our allies”.

Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite – a notorious Russophobe and ardent NATO cheerleader – recently said that the Russian Iskanders in Kaliningrad (range 500km) were threatening “half of Europe”.

But hold on a moment. Kaliningrad is Russian soil. As Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov pointed out, it is Russia’s sovereign right to position any of its forces anywhere on its own territory.

NATO’s warped logic has also been applied in the case of Russian military holding exercises on its Western flank. Last year, when Russia held its Zapad defense drills there were hysterical claims from NATO and the Western media that Moscow was about to invade the Baltic region.

Meanwhile, it goes without a hint of irony, that NATO has increasingly built up its forces and military maneuvers along Russia’s Western borders over the past decade and more. Yet, Washington and its allies get away – thanks to Western media servility – with the double-think that such force build-up on Russia’s borders is “defensive”; while any counter-move by Russia from within its territory is distorted as “outrageous” and “offensive”.

Getting back to the issue of nuclear weapons and allegations of Russia’s threat, the stark conclusion from Washington’s warped logic is that Moscow is not allowed to have any nuclear weapons. Evidently, the US-led NATO military alliance is permitted to station warplanes, warships, troops and tanks on Russia’s borders, including anti-missile systems – all in violation of past agreements. But if Russia positions defensive systems on its own territory then it is behaving provocatively, illicitly, and threateningly. Which then on the basis of this absurd claim allows Washington to expand its nuclear forces against Russia – as the Pentagon is proposing to do in its latest Nuclear Posture Review.

Specifically, Washington is committing to a “more flexible use” of nuclear weapons, and the development of new submarine-launched cruise missiles, as well as so-called “low-yield” ballistic warheads.

Such a move will potentially bring the US into severe breach of non-proliferation and arms control treaties. That is, the very malign behavior that Washington is provocatively accusing Moscow of.

Truly, Washington’s logic is an amalgam of Orwellian and Dr Strangelove.

Furthermore, an extremely sinister change in the American nuclear doctrine is its call for explicitly using “nuclear deterrence” in a scenario of conventional military conflict or, what it dubiously deems to be “new forms of aggression” by adversaries. This is a highly dangerous move by the Pentagon to lower the trigger for deploying nuclear weapons – and on the basis of its faulty, politicized perception about what constitutes "aggression."

For example, the US has repeatedly accused Russia of “hybrid warfare” with regard to the conflict in Ukraine. Russia is accused of instigating that conflict, when in reality, it was Washington and Europe’s meddling in the internal affairs of that country, resulting in a neo-Nazi coup in Kiev in February 2014.

The United States has continually accused Russia of engaging in “asymmetric warfare” from “cyberattacks” and “election interference”. Such claims have never been substantiated, let alone verified – yet they have been raised to the alarmist level of allegedly constituting a “national security threat”.

The anti-Russia political climate being whipped up by Washington – from “Russiagate” to cyberattacks, from sports doping to nuclear aggression – has reached the level of hysterical insanity where Russia by merely having a military defense system is now being traduced as somehow behaving criminally and offensively.

However, parlaying this perverse logic, the US is moving to increase its nuclear threats against Russia – in contravention of international agreements and any objective reasoning. Even US media outlets like the Washington Post and US-based scientists warned this week that the new nuclear posture was a disturbing drift towards catastrophic war.

American history professor Colin Cavell, commenting for this column, said that the hegemonic mentality of the US ruling class is such that no other powers are tolerated to have weapons, even if for self-defense purposes.

Said Cavell:

"The US is a capitalist society. It is the preeminent imperialist power in the world today. As such, those who rule the US perceive that maintaining a class-divided society to be of paramount concern. Internationally, this translates into maintaining at least a two-tiered international system where the US is master and the rest of the world are its servants. This will not change until capitalism is overthrown or destroys itself."

This attitude of US rulers is ultimately tyrannical in their relations to the rest of the world. Ironically, American vice president Mike Pence this week accused North Korea of being "the most tyrannical and oppressive regime on the planet."

With regard to Russia, the logic of the US is this: You are not allowed to have nuclear weapons, nor even a viable conventional defense system. We, on the other hand, are allowed to threaten you with increasing menace of nuclear annihilation until you do as we demand.

In short, supreme arrogance. But an arrogance that will bring its own downfall.

Finian Cunningham has written extensively on international affairs, with articles published in several languages. He is a Master’s graduate in Agricultural Chemistry and worked as a scientific editor for the Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, England, before pursuing a career in newspaper journalism. He is also a musician and songwriter. For nearly 20 years, he worked as an editor and writer in major news media organisations, including The Mirror, Irish Times and Independent.