Posted by rogerhollander in Foreign Policy, Russia, Ukraine.
Tags: russia, john kerry, putin, ukraine, ukraine coup, ukraine separatists, craig roberts, ukrine crisis, buk, mh-17, ukrainian separatists, russian military, malaysian airliner, natasha culzac, us satellite, finian cunningham.roger hollander
ROGER’S NOTE: MORE ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE STORY.
Cross-posted from Paul Craig Roberts
As U.S. officials blame pro-Russian separatists and their sponsors in Moscow, Russia is deflecting responsibility for the deadly MH 17 shoot down.
(image by YouTube)
Why hasn’t Washington joined Russian President Putin in calling for an objective, non-politicized international investigation by experts of the case of the Malaysian jetliner?
The Russian government continues to release facts, including satellite photos showing the presence of Ukrainian Buk anti-aircraft missiles in locations from which the airliner could have been brought down by the missile system and documentation that a Ukrainian SU-25 fighter jet rapidly approached the Malaysian airliner prior to its downing. The head of the Operations Directorate of Russian military headquarters said at a Moscow press conference today (July 21) that the presence of the Ukrainian military jet is confirmed by the Rostov monitoring center.
The Russian Defense Ministry pointed out that at the moment of destruction of MH-17 an American satellite was flying over the area. The Russian government urges Washington to make available the photos and data captured by the satellite.
President Putin has repeatedly stressed that the investigation of MH-17 requires “a fully representative group of experts to be working at the site under the guidance of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).” Putin’s call for an independent expert examination by ICAO does not sound like a person with anything to hide.
Turning to Washington Putin stated: “In the meantime, no one [not even the “exceptional nation”] has the right to use this tragedy to achieve their narrowly selfish political goals.”
Putin reminded Washington: “We repeatedly called upon all conflicting sides to stop the bloodshed immediately and to sit down at the negotiating table. I can say with confidence that if military operations were not resumed [by Kiev] on June 28 in eastern Ukraine, this tragedy wouldn’t have happened.”
What is the American response?
Lies and insinuations.
Yesterday (July 20) the US Secretary of State, John Kerry confirmed that pro-Russian separatists were involved in the downing of the Malaysian airliner and said that it was “pretty clear” that Russia was involved. Here are Kerry’s words:
“It’s pretty clear that this is a system that was transferred from Russia into the hands of separatists. We know with confidence, with confidence, that the Ukrainians did not have such a system anywhere near the vicinity at that point and time, so it obviously points a very clear finger at the separatists.”
Kerry’s statement is just another of the endless lies told by US secretaries of state in the 21st century. Who can forget Colin Powell’s package of lies delivered to the UN about Saddam Hussein’s “weapons of mass destruction” or Kerry’s lie repeated endlessly that Assad “used chemical weapons against his own people” or the endless lies about “Iranian nukes”?
Remember that Kerry on a number of occasions stated that the US had proof that Assad crossed the “red line” by using chemical weapons. However, Kerry was never able to back up his statements with evidence. The US had no evidence to give the British prime minister whose effort to have Parliament approve Britain’s participation with Washington in a military attack on Syria was voted down. Parliament told the prime minister, “no evidence, no war.”
Again here is Kerry declaring “confidence” in statements that are directly contradicted by the Russian satellite photos and endless eye witnesses on the ground.
Why doesn’t Washington release its photos from its satellite?
The answer is for the same reason that Washington will not release all the videos it confiscated and that it claims prove that a hijacked 9/11 airliner hit the Pentagon. The videos do not support Washington’s claim, and the US satellite photos do not support Kerry’s claim.
The UN weapons inspectors on the ground in Iraq reported that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction. However, the fact did not support Washington’s propaganda and was ignored. Washington started a highly destructive war based on nothing but Washington’s intentional lie.
The International Atomic Energy Commission’s inspectors on the ground in Iran and all 16 US intelligence agencies reported that Iran had no nuclear weapons program. However, the fact was inconsistent with Washington’s agenda and was ignored by both the US government and the presstitute media.
We are witnessing the same thing right now with the assertions in the absence of evidence that Russia is responsible for the downing of the Malaysian airliner.
Not every member of the US government is as reckless as Kerry and John McCain. In place of direct lies, many US officials use insinuations.
US Senator Diane Feinstein is the perfect example. Interviewed on the presstitute TV station CNN, Feinstein said: “The issue is where is Putin? I would say, ‘Putin, you have to man up. You should talk to the world. You should say, if this is a mistake, which I hope it was, say it.'”
Putin has been talking to the world nonstop calling for an expert non-politicized investigation, and Feinstein is asking Putin why he is hiding behind silence. We know you did it, Feinstein insinuates, so just tell us whether you meant to or whether it was an accident.
The way the entire Western news cycle was orchestrated with blame instantly being placed on Russia long in advance of real information suggests that the downing of the airliner was a Washington operation. It is, of course, possible that the well-trained presstitute media needed no orchestration from Washington in order to lay the blame on Russia. On the other hand, some of the news performances seem too scripted not to have been prepared in advance.
We also have the advanced preparation of the youtube video that purports to show a Russian general and Ukrainian separatists discussing having mistakenly downed a civilian airliner. As I pointed out earlier, this video is twice damned. It was ready in advance and by implicating the Russian military, it overlooked that the Russian military can tell the difference between a civilian airliner and a military airplane. The existence of the video itself implies that there was a plot to down the airliner and blame Russia.
I have seen reports that the Russian anti-aircraft missile system, as a safety device, is capable of contacting aircraft transponders in order to verify the type of aircraft. If the reports are correct and if the transponders from MH-17 are found, they might record the contact.
I have seen reports that Ukrainian air control changed the route of MH-17 and directed it to fly over the conflict area. The transponders should also indicate whether this is correct. If so, there clearly is at least circumstantial evidence that this was an intentional act on the part of Kiev, an act which would have required Washington’s blessing.
There are other reports that there is a divergence between the Ukrainian military and the unofficial militias formed by the right-wing Ukrainian extremists who apparently were the first to attack the separatists. It is possible that Washington used the extremists to plot the airliner’s destruction in order to blame Russia and use the accusations to pressure the EU to go along with Washington’s unilateral sanctions against Russia. We do know that Washington is desperate to break up the growing economic and political ties between Russia and Europe.
If it was a plot to down an airliner, any safety device on the missile system could have been turned off so as to give no warning or leave any telltale sign. That could be the reason a Ukrainian fighter was sent to inspect the airliner. Possibly the real target was Putin’s airliner and incompetence in implementing the plot resulted in the destruction of a civilian airliner.
As there are a number of possible explanations, let’s keep open minds and resist Washington’s propaganda until facts and evidence are in. In the very least Washington is guilty of using the incident to blame Russia in advance of the evidence. All Washington has shown us so far is accusations and insinuations. If that is all Washington continues to show us, we will know where the blame resides.
In the meantime, remember the story of the boy who cried “wolf!” He lied so many times that when the wolf did come, no one believed him. Will this be Washington’s ultimate fate?
Instead of declaring war on Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Somalia, and Syria, why did Washington hide behind lies? If Washington wants war with Iran, Russia, and China, why not simply declare war? The reason that the US Constitution requires war to begin with a declaration of war by Congress is to prevent the executive branch from orchestrating wars in order to further hidden agendas. By abdicating its constitutional responsibility, the US Congress is complicit in the executive branch’s war crimes. By approving Israel’s premeditated murder of Palestinians, the US government is complicit in Israel’s war crimes.
Ask yourself this question: Would the world be a safer place with less death, destruction and displaced peoples and more truth and justice if the United States and Israel did not exist?
Downed Airliner: Fake Audio Tape Shows US-Backed Hit to Frame Russia
|Finian CUNNINGHAM | 21.07.2014 | 10:30
In a devastating twist to emerge over the weekend it now seems that the Malaysian civilian airliner downed over Ukraine was most probably brought down as a result of sabotage by the US-backed Kiev regime.
The purpose of this audacious act of mass murder – in which 298 lives were lost – was carried out with the intention of framing the Russian government. Washington, the chief sponsor of the Kiev regime, must have known about the plot, if not being fully complicit in it.
The key to this dramatic twist is the identification of incriminating audio tapes over the weekend as fake – tapes that were created initially to implicate Moscow, as part of a massive black operation involving the destruction of the civilian airliner and all those onboard.
Within hours of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 crashing into a wheat field in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine last Thursday, Western governments and media have gradually stoked a frenzy of accusations that Moscow had a hand in the disaster.
Nationals from more than 12 countries were onboard the doomed Boeing 777, most of them Dutch, Malaysian, Australian, as well as American, Canadian, British and several other European states.
Western fingers of blame began pointing at Russia the day following the crash when US President Barack Obama announced that unnamed American intelligence sources said that the suspected surface-to-air missile believed to have taken the jet down was fired from territory held by anti-Kiev self-defence militias. Or as Obama put it: «Russian-backed separatists».
The American president did not accuse Moscow outright then but he implied Russian involvement in the incident with the reasoning that Russia (allegedly) provided «technical assistance» in the firing of the sophisticated missile system, known as a Buk SA-11.
The missile system can fire warheads up to an altitude of 70,000 feet – well within range of civilian long-haul jumbo jets – with the armed projectile soaring at three times the speed of sound. The system is Soviet-era make, and is also used by the Ukrainian state forces.
Over the weekend the accusations against Russia from Western governments and media have steadily grown to a crescendo. In his usual round of Sunday television programmes, US Secretary of State John Kerry went as far as claiming that American intelligence was now certain that Russia had supplied the missile system to the militia in eastern Ukraine…
Kerry told CNN: «It’s pretty clear that this is a system that was transferred from Russia in the hands of separatists».
Kerry added: «We know with confidence that the Ukrainians [that is, the Western-backed Kiev regime forces] did not have such a system anywhere near the vicinity at that point in time. So it obviously points a very clear finger at the separatists.» Kerry’s claim is contradicted by Russian intelligence, as we shall see.
The American press were also chiming in with the same story. The Wall Street Journal reported: «US officials believe the anti-aircraft systems were moved back across the border into Russia…»
The Sunday edition of the Washington Post headlined: «Russia supplied missile launchers to separatists, US official says».
So what began as a circumspect implication on Friday from President Obama soon snowballed into a full-blown grave accusation against Russia within 48 hours.
Meanwhile, Washington’s closest European ally, Britain, was also turning up the pressure on Russia over the downed airliner.
In an unusual Sunday Times article, British Prime Minister David Cameron laid the blame on Moscow for unleashing instability in Ukraine and called for tougher sanctions in response. Cameron said: «Tougher EU [European Union] sanctions against Russia will be needed if Moscow does not change its approach to the downing of the Malaysia Airlines plane over Ukraine.»
Subordinate ministers went even further in their accusations. Britain’s new Defence Minister Michael Fallon told media that Russia was «sponsoring terrorism» in Ukraine, on the back of the stricken airliner incident.
However, it is clear from a closer reading of the media reports carried in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post and the British press that the alleged case for implicating Russia relies on a mixture of anonymous assertions by unidentified «US intelligence officials, fragments of unverified phone intercepts, and unverified video and photographs. The latter images purport to show a Buk launcher and its missiles being driven across the Ukrainian border into Russia. It is impossible to verify if the alleged location and time is accurate.
The second aspect of the «evidence» – anonymous, unspecified US intelligence – has no credibility whatsoever given the numerous times that such a formula has been invoked previously; and subsequently has been shown to be baseless or, worse, concocted, as in the Iraqi «weapons of mass destruction» that sparked off the US-led Gulf War in 2003, or in the allegations of chemical weapons allegedly used by the Syrian army last August against civilians, which also turned out to be false.
That leaves us with the third element – the alleged communication intercepts. Since the fatal crash of Flight MH17, the Western media have given prominence to audio files that purportedly relate to conversations between members of the anti-Kiev militia, in which individuals appear to acknowledge that militia units mistakenly hit a civilian airliner, thinking that it was a warplane belonging to the Kiev military forces.
The intercepts were supposed to be the central damning evidence of culpability against the pro-Russian militia, and by extension, Russia itself. The files, posted on the internet by the Kiev secret services, were referred to in all the major Western news media outlets as being «a smoking gun».
The Western media frenzy over the weekend based on all of the above «evidence» produced headlines such as: ‘Putin’s rebels blew up plane’ in Britain’s Daily Express; ‘Ukraine claims ‘compelling evidence’ of Russian involvement’ in the British Guardian; and ‘US sees evidence of Russian link to jet’s downing’ in the New York Times.
This political and media stampede to impugn Moscow and Russian President Vladimir Putin in particular is telling in itself of a premeditated black operation.
But then came this devastating twist. Russian audio recording experts revealed over the weekend that the intercepts invoked by Kiev and its Western supporters turn out to be fake.
Reputed digital sound analyst Nikolai Popov and his expert team examined the files made public by the Kiev intelligence services, and they found that the files had been doctored from separate and unrelated conversations.
On first hearing, the alleged conversations tend to implicate the self-defence militia in firing a missile at the passenger plane. But on closer examination, the digital fingerprints show that the files were fabricated, taken from separate recordings and spliced together to give the impression of integral conversations.
«This audio recording is not an integral file and is made up of several fragments,» Popov told Russian news agency Itar-Tass.
Moreover – and this is crucial – the sound analysis of digital data shows that the tapes were engineered the day
before Flight MH17 was seemingly hit by a missile and blown out of the sky.
This latest discovery makes for some incontrovertible and deeply unsettling conclusions: firstly, parties were involved in deliberately forging the files with the purpose of framing others – the self-defence militia and Moscow; secondly, and more disturbingly, the people who faked the files must have known that the airliner was going to be hit with a missile, or some other catastrophic external force, in order to bring it down with all the horrific loss of life entailed.
In all the maelstrom of Western innuendo against Russia over the doomed airliner, the obvious anomaly is that neither the Moscow nor the anti-Kiev rebels would have anything to remotely gain by carrying out such a dastardly act.
Furthermore, the eastern Ukraine self-defence militia have categorically denied possessing such weaponry and the skill to operate these radar-controlled systems.
But here is more potentially damning information on who the culprits are. Russia’s ministry of defence says that it has radar data showing that an anti-aircraft Buk missile launcher was operated by the Kiev forces in the vicinity of the doomed airliner and that these Kiev forces had the plane in their radar target sites. A digital recording could easily verify that claim.
In addition, there are several other troubling questions that the Kiev regime has so far refused to answer: why was Flight MH17 instructed by Kiev Air Traffic Control to fly on this unusual more northerly route on that fateful day, through a dangerous conflict zone? Also, why were the pilots of MH-17 instructed to fly at the lower altitude of 33,000 feet instead of 35,000 feet?
Taken all this into account, the finger of suspicion now points not at Moscow, but rather at the Kiev regime and its military forces.
More damningly, given the close dependence of the Kiev junta on American government sponsorship for its military operations, the ongoing deep involvement of the CIA in bringing this regime to power in the first place with the illegal coup back in February; and given the concerted way that Washington has sought to exploit the airliner disaster for geopolitical gains – all that strongly points to a deeply criminal collusion. A criminal collusion that involves the deliberate shooting down of a civilian flight and the killing of nearly 300 people.
Posted by rogerhollander in Foreign Policy, Iran, Media.
Tags: chomsky, enrich uranium, Iran, iran nuclear, israel nuclear, john kerry, journalism, Media, new york times, non-proliferation, nonproliferation, nuclear deterrence, patrick smith, roger hollander
More misleading half-truths from a paper too cowed by power and myth to tell the truth about U.S. foreign policy.
Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com/Northfoto
November 16, 2013 |
Never before have I written a column concerning nothing more than a pair of quotation marks. Then again, never until now have I seen the power of punctuation so perniciously deployed.
It is not a new trick. Very popular in hackdom during the Cold War decades. Enclose something in quotation marks and all between them is instantly de-legitimized; no argument or explanation need be made. Here, try it:
“… the Cuban ‘doctors’ sent to Angola…”
Or: “… Soviet-made ‘farm equipment’ in Portugal since its 1974 revolution…”
Well, they were doctors and it was farm equipment. In the latter category I sat in a Soviet tractor out in the Portuguese vineyards, and damn it if the camponês did not find it useful.
In the end, this kind of thing is simply passive aggression, my least favorite neurosis. No one actively lies such that one can confront and reveal. It is lying by misleading and by implication, so sending us off full of groundless conviction and prejudice.
In this case, we have the irresponsible use of inverted commas, as the Brits say, to shape national opinion on a question of vital importance. The question is Iran. And now to the supine, corrupted and corrupting organ.
You have taken a wild guess, and you are right. We have our familiar problem with our friends on Eighth Avenue, the New York Times, faithful servants of the sanctioned orthodoxy. I give these folks an “A” for clever disguise this time, and I flunk them in the professional ethics class. Simply shameful, this round of reckless chicanery.
Here is the situation.
As all know, a deal with Iran over its nuclear program is the biggest game going these days — an historic opportunity, as previously asserted in this space. Fumble this, and the Obama administration will go down as hopelessly moronic on the foreign-relations side.
You may know, too, that a round of talks between six world powers and the Iranians just hit a pothole. It is essential to understand why.
The paradox is apparent, not real. Knowing why reveals what a nation with imperial ambitions looks like when it is nearing exhaustion and would rather decline than shape up, re-imagine itself, and take a new and constructive place in the global community. Not knowing why encourages Americans to preserve their righteous self-image even as the moths of history chew holes in it.
Best, in Washington’s view, that we do not know why talks in Geneva last weekend failed.
Complex story, but we can take care of it simply. Iran wants a nuclear program, and this includes the capacity to enrich uranium. This is Iran’s right under international law. Washington and the major European powers do not want Iran to have such a program because they worry Iran will eventually build a nuclear weapon. The talks in Geneva went sour because the U.S. and the Europeans demanded that Iran surrender its right.
O.K. Here is the lead in the Times report from the City of Diplomacy:
The Iranian government’s insistence on formal recognition
of its “right” to enrich uranium emerged as a major obstacle,
diplomats said Sunday.
Two big problems. Nothing emerged as an obstacle in Geneva other than Secretary of State Kerry’s duplicity, given that his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif, now charges him with misleading Iran as to demands to be made on the enrichment question. Iran has been quite clear all along: Enrichment under law will never get on the table. Zarif would have skipped the trip had he known Kerry’s plans; Kerry knew this.
Then the quotation marks. With them, the Times proposes to deprive Iran of its statutory rights so that Washington can lie to us as well as to the Iranians.
You are all set now for the corker. You search through the piece to understand the quotation marks, and you come to this, edited down so as to get to the point:
Iran has asserted repeatedly that it has the right to enrich uranium….
The Obama administration is prepared to allow Iran to enrich
uranium to the low level of 3.5 percent…. But the administration
is not prepared to acknowledge at this point that Iran has a “right”
This is how the consciousness of empire is dribbled into us and sustained, one touch at a time. Iran asserts only the validity of international law. What the administration is prepared to allow or acknowledge has nothing to do with what Iran can and cannot do as a sovereign nation.
This is also why these talks are very likely to fail. If they do, it will be the fault of Washington and its allies and the complicit media. It is this kind of language that enables Congress to begin debates on new sanctions against Iran. Concessions and demands are different: Iran may choose to concede this or that; the U.S. cannot demand those things by pretending international law does not (somehow) apply.
In my view, we are amid a pandemic of misinformation as to our global behavior. The dishonesty with which we are given the world — an essentially fantastic version of it — is becoming abject to the point of danger. And it is frighteningly willful. Here is the paradox: We cannot bear to see things as they are because things as they are constitute a refutation of our dearest mythologies, but we must see things as they are if we are to make sense of ourselves in the 21st century.
The Iran case has just become urgent in this regard. As I have asserted previously, it will be profoundly detrimental if the U.S. and the Europeans do not pursue what is a patently serious effort on Iran’s part to claim its rights and ease the world’s worries as to its nuclear program.
If the honorable editor will permit the unconventional, two things belong in caps so that a modest few Americans might stop wandering in the dark purposely created by the Times and all the other media too weak-minded to make judgments without reference to the Times:
ONE: IRAN HAS AN UNAMBIGUOUS RIGHT UNDER LAW TO A NUCLEAR PROGRAM, INCLUDING ENRICHMENT, EVEN IF THIS MAKES IT (AS IT WILL) NEARLY CAPABLE OF WEAPONIZING. READ YOUR DAILY NEWS DOSAGE WITH THIS IN MIND.
TWO. THERE IS ZERO EVIDENCE THAT IRAN DESIRES A NUCLEAR WEAPON, AND DECADES OF POLICY TO INDICATE IT PREFERS A NUCLEAR-FREE MIDDLE EAST. THERE IS ONLY ONE REASON IRAN WOULD CHANGE ITS MIND: ISRAEL’S NEVER-MENTIONED ARSENAL OF NUKES. THE MOTIVE WOULD BE DETERRENCE, AND MOST OF US WORSHIPPED AT THE ALTAR OF DETERRENCE WELL ENOUGH DURING THE COLD WAR. IRAN HAS SIGNED THE NUCLEAR NON-PROLIFERATION TREATY; ISRAEL DECLINES TO DO SO.
The adage among properly cynical diplomats used to be that they were sent abroad to lie for their country. During the Cold War, as Washington’s sponsored atrocities grew evident, the thought took a turn: Diplomats were sent abroad to lie to their country.
Consider it a template and apply it to our press folk.
Correspondents used to be sent abroad to keep the country informed (in theory, at least). Now correspondents go forth to send home a simulacrum of truth, a semblance, while keeping their country misinformed.
It is no good positing some golden age of spotless integrity, some yesteryear when newspapers, the wires and broadcasters glistened with high principle. There never was such a time. A good press is ever a work in progress, requiring the calloused hands of each generation to make it however good it can, always and by definition short of any ideal.
Too far short when one considers this columnist’s cohort.
Posted by rogerhollander in Foreign Policy, Iran, Israel, Gaza & Middle East.
Tags: aipac, foreign policy, french government, geneva negotiations, hollande, house of saud, Iran, iran nuclear, iran talks, israel, john kerry, netanyahu, pepe escobar, roger hollander
Roger’s note: It is no secret that the Middle East is a time bomb and that the State of Israel with its ultra-right racist government is responsible for provoking the creation of new generation of terrorists. Iran, a small country virtually insignificant in terms of geopolitical relevance wants to develop nuclear energy (something I personally oppose, but that is beside the point here). Given its size and isolation, the likelihood of Iran developing nuclear weapons is virtually impossible, especially if it opens itself to international inspection. Nevertheless, the ruling elites of the State of Israel, themselves armed to the teeth with both conventional and nuclear weapons, are doing everything they can to derail the diplomatic enterprise in progress that would eliminate perhaps the greatest source of tension in the Middle East. They have their reasons, which I will not go into here. I post the following article to demonstrate how the American government and a large part of the powerful AIPAC Israel lobby allow themselves to become complicit in this disastrous strategy. The recent return to power in Israel of the crypto-fascist Avigdor Lieberman as foreign minister for the racist Netanyahu government also is a cause for deep concern to all peace loving people.
source: Asia Times
Foreign minister Laurent Fabius told France Inter radio yesterday that Paris would not accept a “fools’ game.” Photograph: Pool/REUTERS
PARIS – US Secretary of State John Kerry has famously stated the US “is not blind” or “stupid” in its push to clinch a historic deal over the Iranian nuclear program. So now that the world has been informed, he must, cryptically, have been talking about France.
The failed Geneva negotiations this past weekend over a temporary nuclear deal at least carried the merit of revealing who is really blocking it: the axis of fear and loathing composed by the Likudniks in Israel, the House of Saud, and the Francois Hollande administration in France.
Torrents of bytes have already detailed how Israel routinely hijacks US foreign policy. Here’s yet one more graphic demonstration of how Wag the Dog works. Last Friday evening, President Barack Obama called Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu asking him not to derail Geneva. Bibi then duly picked up the phone and called, in succession, British Prime Minister David Cameron, Russian President Vladimir Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Hollande and asked them … to derail Geneva.
Hollande was the only one who followed Bibi’s marching orders. And all this after Kerry himself had been lectured by Bibi at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport on Friday morning.
Flash forward to the coda, early Sunday morning. Not by accident, Wendy Sherman, the lead US negotiator on the Iranian nuclear dossier, a certified Israeli-firster and borderline racist, flew from Geneva straight to Israel to duly “reassure” her true leader, Bibi, that no deal would be clinched.
It’s no secret that Bibi and the Likudniks also run a great deal of Capitol Hill. Apart from bombing Geneva, Bibi may also rack up another temporary victory, with the US Congress about to add even more sanctions on Iran by attaching them to the National Defense Authorization Act.
Meet Bandar Fabius
As far as French behavior is concerned, it is conditioned as much by the formidable Israeli lobby in Paris as hard cash from Gulf petro-monarchies.
It certainly helped that, according to The Times of Israel, French parliament member Meyer Habib — also a holder of an Israeli passport, a former official Likud spokesperson in France, and a close pal of Bibi’s — called French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius to tell him Israel would attack Iranian nuclear installations if the current deal on the table was clinched.
Call it the AIPAC effect. Habib is the vice-president of the Conseil Representatif des Institutions juives de France, or CRIF — the French equivalent to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. The ghostwriter of President Hollande’s speeches also happens to be a member of CRIF.
Fabius, grandiloquent and as slippery as runny Roquefort, invoked — what else — “security concerns of Israel” to derail Geneva. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammed Javed Zarif were always extremely worried about being sabotaged by their own internal opposition, the hard-line Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. So their number one directive was that no details of the deal should be leaked during the negotiations.
That’s exactly what Fabius did. Even before Kerry landed in Geneva, Fabius was telling a French radio station that Paris would not accept a jeu des dupes (“fools’ game”).
The role of Fabius was pricelessly summed up by the proverbial unnamed Western diplomat telling Reuters, “The Americans, the EU and the Iranians have been working intensively for months on this proposal, and this is nothing more than an attempt by Fabius to insert himself into relevance late in the negotiations.”
Terabytes of spin have been asserting that Washington and Paris are playing good cop-bad cop on the Iranian dossier. Not exactly; it’s more like the Gallic rooster once again showing off.
Hollande was gung-ho on bombing Damascus when Obama backed off at the 11th minute from the Pentagon’s “limited” attack; Hollande was left staring at a stale bottle of Moet. On both Syria and Lebanon, Paris is unabashedly playing a mix of neocolonial hugs and kisses while sharing the bed with Israel and the House of Saud.
But why, once again, shoot itself in the foot? Paris has lost a lot of money — not to mention French jobs, via automaker Peugeot — because of the Iran sanctions dementia.
Ah, but there is always the seduction of Saudi Arabia’s intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan, aka Bandar Bush, and the Gulf petro-monarchies. In a nutshell; Bandar Fabius was nothing but playing paperboy for the House of Saud. The prize: huge military contracts — aircraft, warships, missile systems — and possible construction of nuclear power plants in Saudi Arabia, a deal similar to the one energy giant French Areva clinched last year with the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
The ghost of Montaigne must be squirming; France does not do irony anymore. Iran has no right to have its own nuclear plants, but France builds them and operates them for its Wahhabi clients.
Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Chemical Biological Weapons, Israel, Gaza & Middle East, Media, War.
Tags: assad, chemical weapons, Colin Powell, Dale Gavlak, ghouta, jim naureckas, john kerry, Mnar Muhawesh, Prince Banda, putin, roger hollander, sarin gas, saudi arabia, Syria, syrian rebels, Yahya Ababneh
Let’s compare a couple of accounts of the mass deaths apparently caused by chemical weapons in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta on August 21. One account comes from the U.S. government (8/30/13), introduced by Secretary of State John Kerry. The other was published by a Minnesota-based news site called Mint Press News (8/29/13).
The government account expresses “high confidence that the Syrian government carried out a chemical weapons attack” on August 21. The Mint report bore the headline “Syrians in Ghouta Claim Saudi-Supplied Rebels Behind Chemical Attack.” Which of these two versions should we find more credible?
The U.S. government, of course, has a track record that will incline informed observers to approach its claims with skepticism–particularly when it’s making charges about the proscribed weapons of official enemies. Kerry said in his address that “our intelligence community” has been “more than mindful of the Iraq experience”–as should be anyone listening to Kerry’s presentation, because the Iraq experience informs us that secretaries of State can express great confidence about matters that they are completely wrong about, and that U.S. intelligence assessments can be based on distortion of evidence and deliberate suppression of contradictory facts.
Secretary of State John Kerry making the case that Damascus has used chemical weapons (US State Department)
Comparing Kerry’s presentation on Syria and its accompanying document to Colin Powell’s speech to the UN on Iraq, though, one is struck by how little specific evidence was included in the case for the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons. It gives the strong impression of being pieced together from drone surveillance and NSA intercepts, supplemented by Twitter messages and YouTube videos, rather than from on-the-ground reporting or human intelligence. Much of what is offered tries to establish that the victims in Ghouta had been exposed to chemical weapons–a question that indeed had been in some doubt, but had already largely been settled by a report by Doctors Without Borders that reported that thousands of people in the Damascus area had been treated for “neurotoxic symptoms.”
On the critical question of who might be responsible for such a chemical attack, Kerry’s presentation was much more vague and circumstantial. A key point in the government’s white paper is “the detection of rocket launches from regime-controlled territory early in the morning, approximately 90 minutes before the first report of a chemical attack appeared in social media.” It’s unclear why this is supposed to be persuasive. Do rockets take 90 minutes to reach their targets? Does nerve gas escape from rockets 90 minutes after impact, or, once released, take 90 minutes to cause symptoms?
In a conflict as conscious of the importance of communication as the Syrian Civil War, do citizen journalists wait an hour and a half before reporting an enormous development–the point at which, as Kerry put it, “all hell broke loose in the social media”? Unless there’s some reason to expect this kind of a delay, it’s very unclear why we should think there’s any connection at all between the allegedly observed rocket launches and the later reports of mass poisoning.
When the evidence isn’t circumstantial, it’s strikingly vague: “We intercepted communications involving a senior official intimately familiar with the offensive who confirmed that chemical weapons were used by the regime on August 21 and was concerned with the UN inspectors obtaining evidence,” the report asserts. Taken at face value, it’s one of the most damning claims in the government’s report–a veritable confession. But how was the identity of this official established? And what exactly did they say that “confirmed” chemical weapons use? Recall that Powell played tapes of Iraqi officials supposedly talking about concealing evidence of banned weapons from inspectors–which turned out to show nothing of the kind. But Powell at least played tapes of the intercepted communication, even as he spun and misrepresented their contents–allowing for the possibility of an independent interpretation of these messages. Perhaps “mindful of the Iraq experience,” Kerry allows for no such interpretation.
Colin Powell making the case that Iraq possessed proscribed weaponry
Another key claim is asserted without substantiation: “Syrian chemical weapons personnel were operating in the Damascus suburb of ‘Adra from Sunday, August 18 until early in the morning on Wednesday, August 21, near an area that the regime uses to mix chemical weapons, including sarin.” How were these personnel identified, and what were the signs of their operations? How was this place identified as an area used to mix sarin? Here again the information provided was far less detailed than what Powell gave to the UN: Powell’s presentation included satellite photographs of sites where proscribed weapons were being made, with an explanation of what they revealed to “experts with years and years of experience”: “The two arrows indicate the presence of sure signs that the bunkers are storing chemical munitions,” he said, pointing to an annotated photograph of bunkers that turned out to be storing no such thing. Powell’s presentation graphically demonstrated that US intelligence analysts are fallible, which is part of why presenting bare assertions without any of the raw materials used to derive those conclusions should not be very convincing.
Kerry did offer an explanation for why the report was so cursory: “In order to protect sources and methods, some of what we know will only be released to members of Congress, the representatives of the American people. That means that some things we do know, we can’t talk about publicly.” It is not clear, however, why intelligence methods that produced visual and audible evidence that could be shared with the public 10 years ago cannot be similarly utilized today. It does point to why the $52 billion the United States spends on surveillance annually, according to NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden (Washington Post, 8/29/13), provides relatively little information that’s of value to American democracy: The collection of information is considered so much more valuable than the information collected that it rarely if ever can be used to inform a public debate. Instead, as we discuss the dreadful question of whether to launch a military attack on another country, we are offered an undemocratic “trust us” from the most secretive parts of our government–an offer that history warns us to be extremely wary of.
Unlike the U.S. government, Mint does not have much of a track record, having been founded only about a year and a half ago (CJR, 3/28/12). The founder of the for-profit startup is Mnar Muhawesh, a 24-year-old Palestinian-American woman who believes, reasonably enough, that “our media has absolutely failed our country” (MinnPost, 1/18/12). One of its two reporters on its Syrian chemical weapons piece, Dale Gavlak, is a longtime Associated Press Mideast stringer who has also done work for NPR and the BBC. AP was one of the few US corporate media outlets to question official assertions about Iraqi WMDs, contrasting Powell’s assertions with what could be discerned from on-the-ground reporting (Extra!, 3-4/06).
Mint takes a similar approach to the Syrian story, with a reporter in Ghouta–not Gavlak but Yahya Ababneh, a Jordanian freelancer and journalism grad student–who “spoke directly with the rebels, their family members, victims of the chemical weapons attacks and local residents.” The article reports that “many believe that certain rebels received chemical weapons via the Saudi intelligence chief, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, and were responsible for carrying out” the chemical attack. The recipients of the chemical weapons are said to be Jabhat al-Nusra, an Al-Qaeda-linked rebel faction that was caught possessing sarin nerve gas in Turkey, according to Turkish press reports (OE Watch, 7/13).
Mint quotes Abu Abdel-Moneim, described as the father of a rebel killed in the chemical weapons attacks, as saying that his son had described carrying unconventional weapons provided by Saudi Arabia to underground storage tunnels–a “tubelike structure” and a “huge gas bottle.” A rebel leader identified as J describes the release of toxic weaponry as accidental, saying, “Some of the fighters handled the weapons improperly and set off the explosions.” Another rebel referred to as K complains, “When Saudi Prince Bandar gives such weapons to people, he must give them to those who know how to handle and use them.”
Of course, independent media accounts are not necessarily more credible than official reports–or vice versa. As with the government white paper, there are gaps in the Mint account; while Abdel-Moneim cites his late son’s account of carrying chemical weapons, the rebels quoted do not indicate how they came to know what they say they know about the origin of the weapons. But unlike the government, Mint is honest about the limits of its knowledge: “Some information in this article could not be independently verified,” the story admits. “Mint Press News will continue to provide further information and updates.”
This humility about the difficulty of reporting on a covert, invisible attack in the midst of a chaotic civil war actually adds to the credibility of the Mint account. It’s those who are most certain about matters of which they clearly lack firsthand knowledge who should make us most skeptical.
Rebels and local residents in Ghouta accuse Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan of providing chemical weapons to an al-Qaida linked rebel group.
This image provided by by Shaam News Network on Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013, purports to show several bodies being buried in a suburb of Damascus, Syria during a funeral on Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013, following allegations of a chemical weapons attack that reportedly killed 355 people. (AP Photo/Shaam News Network)
Clarification: Dale Gavlak assisted in the research and writing process of this article, but was not on the ground in Syria. Reporter Yahya Ababneh, with whom the report was written in collaboration, was the correspondent on the ground in Ghouta who spoke directly with the rebels, their family members, victims of the chemical weapons attacks and local residents.
Gavlak is a MintPress News Middle East correspondent who has been freelancing for the AP as a Amman, Jordan correspondent for nearly a decade. This report is not an Associated Press article; rather it is exclusive to MintPress News.
Ghouta, Syria — As the machinery for a U.S.-led military intervention in Syria gathers pace following last week’s chemical weapons attack, the U.S. and its allies may be targeting the wrong culprit.
Interviews with people in Damascus and Ghouta, a suburb of the Syrian capital, where the humanitarian agency Doctors Without Borders said at least 355 people had died last week from what it believed to be a neurotoxic agent, appear to indicate as much.
The U.S., Britain, and France as well as the Arab League have accused the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for carrying out the chemical weapons attack, which mainly targeted civilians. U.S. warships are stationed in the Mediterranean Sea to launch military strikes against Syria in punishment for carrying out a massive chemical weapons attack. The U.S. and others are not interested in examining any contrary evidence, with U.S Secretary of State John Kerry saying Monday that Assad’s guilt was “a judgment … already clear to the world.”
However, from numerous interviews with doctors, Ghouta residents, rebel fighters and their families, a different picture emerges. Many believe that certain rebels received chemical weapons via the Saudi intelligence chief, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, and were responsible for carrying out the dealing gas attack.
“My son came to me two weeks ago asking what I thought the weapons were that he had been asked to carry,” said Abu Abdel-Moneim, the father of a rebel fighting to unseat Assad, who lives in Ghouta.
Abdel-Moneim said his son and 12 other rebels were killed inside of a tunnel used to store weapons provided by a Saudi militant, known as Abu Ayesha, who was leading a fighting battalion. The father described the weapons as having a “tube-like structure” while others were like a “huge gas bottle.”
Ghouta townspeople said the rebels were using mosques and private houses to sleep while storing their weapons in tunnels.
Abdel-Moneim said his son and the others died during the chemical weapons attack. That same day, the militant group Jabhat al-Nusra, which is linked to al-Qaida, announced that it would similarly attack civilians in the Assad regime’s heartland of Latakia on Syria’s western coast, in purported retaliation.
“They didn’t tell us what these arms were or how to use them,” complained a female fighter named ‘K.’ “We didn’t know they were chemical weapons. We never imagined they were chemical weapons.”
“When Saudi Prince Bandar gives such weapons to people, he must give them to those who know how to handle and use them,” she warned. She, like other Syrians, do not want to use their full names for fear of retribution.
A well-known rebel leader in Ghouta named ‘J’ agreed. “Jabhat al-Nusra militants do not cooperate with other rebels, except with fighting on the ground. They do not share secret information. They merely used some ordinary rebels to carry and operate this material,” he said.
“We were very curious about these arms. And unfortunately, some of the fighters handled the weapons improperly and set off the explosions,” ‘J’ said.
Doctors who treated the chemical weapons attack victims cautioned interviewers to be careful about asking questions regarding who, exactly, was responsible for the deadly assault.
The humanitarian group Doctors Without Borders added that health workers aiding 3,600 patients also reported experiencing similar symptoms, including frothing at the mouth, respiratory distress, convulsions and blurry vision. The group has not been able to independently verify the information.
More than a dozen rebels interviewed reported that their salaries came from the Saudi government.
In a recent article for Business Insider, reporter Geoffrey Ingersoll highlighted Saudi Prince Bandar’s role in the two-and-a-half year Syrian civil war. Many observers believe Bandar, with his close ties to Washington, has been at the very heart of the push for war by the U.S. against Assad.
Ingersoll referred to an article in the U.K.’s Daily Telegraph about secret Russian-Saudi talks alleging that Bandar offered Russian President Vladimir Putin cheap oil in exchange for dumping Assad.
“Prince Bandar pledged to safeguard Russia’s naval base in Syria if the Assad regime is toppled, but he also hinted at Chechen terrorist attacks on Russia’s Winter Olympics in Sochi if there is no accord,” Ingersoll wrote.
“I can give you a guarantee to protect the Winter Olympics next year. The Chechen groups that threaten the security of the games are controlled by us,” Bandar allegedly told the Russians.
“Along with Saudi officials, the U.S. allegedly gave the Saudi intelligence chief the thumbs up to conduct these talks with Russia, which comes as no surprise,” Ingersoll wrote.
“Bandar is American-educated, both military and collegiate, served as a highly influential Saudi Ambassador to the U.S., and the CIA totally loves this guy,” he added.
According to U.K.’s Independent newspaper, it was Prince Bandar’s intelligence agency that first brought allegations of the use of sarin gas by the regime to the attention of Western allies in February.
The Wall Street Journal recently reported that the CIA realized Saudi Arabia was “serious” about toppling Assad when the Saudi king named Prince Bandar to lead the effort.
“They believed that Prince Bandar, a veteran of the diplomatic intrigues of Washington and the Arab world, could deliver what the CIA couldn’t: planeloads of money and arms, and, as one U.S. diplomat put it, wasta, Arabic for under-the-table clout,” it said.
Bandar has been advancing Saudi Arabia’s top foreign policy goal, WSJ reported, of defeating Assad and his Iranian and Hezbollah allies.
To that aim, Bandar worked Washington to back a program to arm and train rebels out of a planned military base in Jordan.
The newspaper reports that he met with the “uneasy Jordanians about such a base”:
His meetings in Amman with Jordan’s King Abdullah sometimes ran to eight hours in a single sitting. “The king would joke: ‘Oh, Bandar’s coming again? Let’s clear two days for the meeting,’ ” said a person familiar with the meetings.
Jordan’s financial dependence on Saudi Arabia may have given the Saudis strong leverage. An operations center in Jordan started going online in the summer of 2012, including an airstrip and warehouses for arms. Saudi-procured AK-47s and ammunition arrived, WSJ reported, citing Arab officials.
Although Saudi Arabia has officially maintained that it supported more moderate rebels, the newspaper reported that “funds and arms were being funneled to radicals on the side, simply to counter the influence of rival Islamists backed by Qatar.”
But rebels interviewed said Prince Bandar is referred to as “al-Habib” or ‘the lover’ by al-Qaida militants fighting in Syria.
Peter Oborne, writing in the Daily Telegraph on Thursday, has issued a word of caution about Washington’s rush to punish the Assad regime with so-called ‘limited’ strikes not meant to overthrow the Syrian leader but diminish his capacity to use chemical weapons:
Consider this: the only beneficiaries from the atrocity were the rebels, previously losing the war, who now have Britain and America ready to intervene on their side. While there seems to be little doubt that chemical weapons were used, there is doubt about who deployed them.
It is important to remember that Assad has been accused of using poison gas against civilians before. But on that occasion, Carla del Ponte, a U.N. commissioner on Syria, concluded that the rebels, not Assad, were probably responsible.
Some information in this article could not be independently verified. Mint Press News will continue to provide further information and updates .
Dale Gavlak is a Middle East correspondent for Mint Press News and has reported from Amman, Jordan, writing for the Associated Press, NPR and BBC. An expert in Middle Eastern affairs, Gavlak covers the Levant region, writing on topics including politics, social issues and economic trends. Dale holds a M.A. in Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Chicago. Contact Dale at firstname.lastname@example.org
Yahya Ababneh is a Jordanian freelance journalist and is currently working on a master’s degree in journalism, He has covered events in Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Libya. His stories have appeared on Amman Net, Saraya News, Gerasa News and elsewhere.