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3 reasons why UK poisoning is one big ‘May-Johnson’ government cover up (Video)

The Three Most Important Aspects of the Skripal Case so Far.

Alex Christoforou

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Keep calm and backpedal.

The UK Foreign Office was busted yesterday deleting a tweet on Russia producing the nerve agent allegedly used to poison Sergei and Yulia Skripal.

A UK military laboratory said it could not identify the source of the nerve agent used in the attack.

That’s despite Britain accusing Russia of orchestrating the attack moments after it happened, and with zero evidence produced, now two weeks after the fact.

The Three Most Important Aspects of the Skripal Case so Far…and Where They Might be Pointing: Via The Blog Mire…


I have now asked a total of 50 questions around the Skripal case, which you can find here and here. Having gone back through these questions, as far as I can see only three have been answered by the release of public information or events that have transpired. These are:

  • Are they (Sergei and Yulia Skripal) still alive?
  • If so, what is their current condition and what symptoms are they displaying?
  • Can the government confirm that its scientists at Porton Down have established that the substance that poisoned the Skripals and D.S. Bailey was actually produced or manufactured in Russia?

On the first two points we are now told that Yulia Skripal’s condition has significantly improved to the point where she is said to be recovering well and talking. However, although this provides something of an answer to these questions, it also raises a number of others. Is she finally being allowed consular access? Is she being allowed to speak to her fiancé, her grandmother, or her cousin by telephone? Most importantly, how does her recovery comport with the claim that she was poisoned with a “military-grade nerve agent” with a toxicity around 5-8 times that of VX nerve agent?

On the other point, we do now have a definitive answer from none other than the Chief Executive of the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) at Porton Down, Gary Aitkenhead: No, Porton Down was not able to identify the substance as being produced or manufactured in Russia.

It is important that reasonable questions continue to be raised, as they not only help clarify the actual issues, but the answers — or lack thereof — are also a good barometer as to how the official narrative stacks up. As a keen observer of the case — especially since it took place just a few hundred yards from my home in Salisbury — I have to say that the official narrative of the British Government has not stood up to even the most cursory scrutiny from the outset. In fact, there are three crucial issues that serve to raise suspicions about it, and to my mind these issues are the most important aspects of the case so far:

  1. The absurd speed at which the British Government reacted to the incident
  2. The British Government’s ignoring of legal frameworks and protocols
  3. The large number of discrepancies between events and the official narrative

Let’s just look at these in turn.

1. The absurd speed at which the British Government reacted to the incident

I remain astonished at the manner and the speed with which the British Government reacted to this incident. There was the speed with which the Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, first pointed the finger of culpability, less than 48 hours after the incident, and before any investigation or analysis of the substance had taken place. There was the speed with which Porton Down was apparently able to analyse and identify the substance, even though it is set to take the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) at least three weeks to carry out a similar identification. There was the speed with which the British Government officially accused the Russian Government of being behind the incident, and the 36-hour ultimatum given to it to prove its innocence without being given any of the evidence that apparently showed its culpability. There was the speed with which the British Government, armed with evidence that looked like it was put together by a rather dull 14-year-old on work experience, managed to convince a number of other countries to expel diplomats, including 60 from the United States.

Why, if it was so sure of its claims, did the British Government feel the need to act so hastily and recklessly, rather than await the results of the investigation?

2. The British Government’s ignoring of legal frameworks and protocols

Not only has the British Government acted with lightning speed, it has also ridden roughshod over a number of international legal agreements and protocols.

Firstly, there is the involvement of the OPCW. What ought to have happened is the British Government should have invited the OPCW in as part of the investigation immediately upon suspicion of the use of a nerve agent. However, according to the British Government’s own timeline, it wasn’t until March 14th– the day that Mrs May formally announced the culpability of the Russian State to Parliament – that she actually wrote to the OPCW to involve them in the case. This is, I understand, contrary to the obligations Britain has as a member of the OPCW, and signatory to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC).

In addition, the British Government has refused to provide evidence to the Russian Government. Again, my understanding is that this is contrary to the protocols set out in the CWC.

The British Government has also refused to grant the Russian Embassy in London consular access to two Russian nationals, Sergei and Yulia Skripal, which it is legally obliged to do under Articles 36 and 37 of the 1963 Vienna Convention and Article 35 (1) of the 1965 Consular Convention.

Why, if it was so sure of its claims, did the British Government feel the need to ignore international agreements to which it is a signatory, and instead act in this opaque and frankly suspicious manner?

3. The number of oddities and discrepancies in the official narrative

The speed of apportioning blame and the ignoring of international legal agreements might not have looked nearly as suspicious had the narrative presented by the British Government and the facts on the ground been in harmony with one another. But they have not been. Instead, many of the actual events that have transpired over the weeks since the incident was first reported simply do not fit the overarching explanation given. Below are five of the most important:

1. As mentioned above, the Chief Executive of Porton Down, Gary Aitkenhead has confirmed that the laboratory was unable to identify the origin of the substance used to poison the Skripals. This is in direct contradiction to the claims made by the Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, who said the following on the Andrew Marr Show on 18th March:

“Obviously to the best of our knowledge this is a Russian-made nerve agent that falls within the category Novichok made only by Russia, and just to get back to the point about the international reaction which is so fascinating…”

If it’s made only by Russia, as Mr Johnson claimed, then it must have originated in Russia. Right? Yet Mr Aitkenhead says they were unable to identify where it was made.

Then in an interview with Deutsche Welle two days after his above comments, Mr Johnson was categorical about the source of the nerve agent as being Russian. Here’s the exchange:

Interviewer: You argue that the source of this nerve agent, Novichok, is Russia. How did you manage to find it out so quickly? Does Britain possess samples of it?

Johnson: “Let me be clear with you … When I look at the evidence, I mean the people from Porton Down, the laboratory …”

Interviewer: “So they have the samples …

Johnson: “They do. And they were absolutely categorical and I asked the guy myself, I said, ‘Are you sure?’ And he said there’s no doubt.”

Who “the guy” is, perhaps we’ll never know. The cleaner perhaps? I suppose a politician of Mr Johnson’s calibre will happily try to weasel his way out of the implications of what he said. But to us lesser mortals, it does rather look like he was deliberately misleading, doesn’t it

2. Much of the investigation initially concentrated on where the Skripals were poisoned. Amongst the suggestions made were the bench on which they collapsed, the Zizzi restaurant where they had eaten, Ms Skripal’s luggage or Mr Skripal’s car. Then, some 24 days after the incident, it was announced that a high concentration of the “military-grade nerve agent” had been found on the front door, and that this was the likely place of poisoning. Yet it is known that after leaving the house, Mr Skripal and his daughter drove into the City Centre, went to the Mill pub, and then to the restaurant where they ate a meal together. In other words, according to the door theory, the two of them were poisoned by a military grade nerve agent, which then took over three hours to have any effect. Odd, wouldn’t you say?

3. Furthermore, it has been stated that the two of them became ill at the same time on the bench in the Maltings. Therefore, if they were poisoned at the front door, this would mean that not only did the two of them feel little or no effects for the three hours or so that followed, but it would also mean that a large 66-year-old man and an averagely built 33-year-old woman, of different height, weight and metabolism, somehow succumbed to the effects of poisoning at exactly the same time, some three hours or so later. Again, is that not very odd?

4. The claim that they were poisoned by a military grade nerve agent, of a type said to be 5-8 times the toxicity of VX nerve agent, is itself surely open to question. Both Mr Skripal and his daughter not only survived, but Yulia Skripal is now said to be sitting up and talking just weeks later. Perhaps it is possible to survive a miniscule dose of such a nerve agent. The problem with this is that according to many earlier claims, there were significant traces of the substance in various parts of the City of Salisbury, which indicates that it cannot have been a very miniscule amount that they came into contact with at the door. Which means that we are being asked to believe that they were poisoned by “more than a miniscule amount” of this deadly poison, but both somehow survived, despite neither receiving an antidote (a fact now confirmed by Gary Aitkenhead). Does that not seem improbable?

5. The official explanation – that this was planned and authorised at the highest level within the Russian Government – would lead one to believe that the action was carried out by top level agents of the FSB. Yet the mode of attack – nerve agent apparently smeared or sprayed on the door – has to be one of the least effective methods that could be used to assassinate anyone. For a start, it rains a lot in Salisbury, and it did indeed rain on the day of the poisoning. If the substance was left at the front door (assuming it was the outside), the attacker(s) could have had no guarantee that it would not be washed off before Mr Skripal touched it. Nor could they have had any guarantee that he, as opposed to his daughter or perhaps a delivery person etc, would come into contact with it. And of course there is the fact that Mr Skripal is still alive. Does any of this seem consistent with the narrative of a professional, Kremlin-authorised hit-job.

Conclusion

Where does this leave us? The official narrative would have us believe that the Russian Government authorised the killing of a has-been (former?) MI6 spy, who it had freed in 2010 and who presumably posed no threat to it, just a week before the Russian election and weeks before the World Cup, using a nerve agent with an exclusively Russian signature, in a way (on the door) that could not guarantee the intended target would touch it. This would be difficult enough to swallow by itself, but the British Government’s rush to judgement, disregard for law, and the many discrepancies in the actual events themselves make this scenario absurdly implausible.

Another possibility – that the British Government or intelligence services were behind the incident – has been given great credibility by the British Government itself, in its absurdly quick reaction to the incident and its blatant ignoring of legal protocols. These actions were bound to fuel suspicions about the possibility of its own involvement, and I have to say that such suspicions are absolutely legitimate precisely because of the way it has behaved. However, it must be said that the oddities and discrepancies in the case don’t lend themselves very well to the idea of a carefully planned false flag. If British intelligence had planned a hit job on Mr Skripal using a military-grade nerve agent “of a type developed by Russia”, in order to then pin the blame on the Russian Government, I doubt very much that Mr Skripal and his daughter would still be alive, or that the explanation for where the poison was administered would be changing on a daily basis, or that the British Government’s evidence to other countries would have been as risible as it was (unless of course our intelligence agencies are as incompetent as such a scenario would require them to be, that is).

My hunch — and it is just that — is that Mr Skripal himself was perhaps still working for British intelligence, and may have been in possession of a nerve agent. Somehow, this involvement went wrong, and he ended up accidently poisoning himself and his daughter on the bench in The Maltings. The Government then scrambled to concoct a story in order to cover up the real story of a Russian working for MI6 and handling nerve agents, and so quickly decided to point the finger at that most convenient scapegoat, the Russian Government.

The reason that I’m attracted to this possibility is that it explains all three aspects I have described above, and which I think are the most important aspects of the case. The rush to judgement — which looked like panic-mode to me — could have been an attempt to divert attention away from the investigation looking at the possibility of Mr Skripal having military grade nerve agent in his possession. The ignoring of international legal protocols, at least for a time, could have been done to ensure that the case was not probed by any outside body, which may well have exposed discrepancies. And it could also explain many of the oddities mentioned above, such as traces of nerve agent apparently being found in various places in Salisbury, since these could have come about because Mr Skripal was in possession of some sort of nerve agent when he left his house that day.

As I say, this is just a hunch and purely speculative. I am probably wrong. But unless the British Government is able to produce far better evidence than it has so far produced, to back up the claims it has made, I shall consider it a more credible possibility than the one they have sold to the British public.

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Ukraine’s Cult of Stepan Bandera: Not a Detail, but a Cornerstone

Unlike Poroshenko with his aerial bombings of the Russian-speaking Donbass in 2014 and 2015, Bandera killed the “wrong” victims, the representatives of those nations that are valued even by the modern Western media.

Dmitry Babich

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Authored by Dmitry Babich via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


During the recent years of the confrontation between Russia and Ukraine, there has been one issue where the Western mainstream press simply cannot fully ignore or reject the Russian arguments. This issue concerns the life and actions of Stepan Bandera (1909-1959) and his followers from what is known as the “Banderite” faction of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN, a far-right organization that took terrorist actions against Polish and Soviet officials from the 1920s to the 1950s and which is now legally protected from any criticism in Ukraine).

THE “WRONG” AND “RIGHT” VICTIMS

Because Bandera was born on January 1, 1909, celebrations of his birthday have become disgusting New Year’s rituals in Ukraine in recent years, with thousands participating in Nazi-style torch-lit marches that include shouted protests against “Putin’s Russia” and rants such as, “Jews out!” which are heard by everyone except the police. This New Year was no exception, since the current Ukrainian government under President Petro Poroshenko (who publicly identified himself as a Banderite after taking office in 2014) officially added Bandera’s 110th birthday to the list of Ukraine’s most important anniversaries. This time, there were several quiet voices of condemnation heard in Poland, Israel, and even the US. Why? In truth, torches, masks, political murders, and mob attacks against “pro-Russian” public figures are nothing new in post-Maidan Ukraine. And these things usually pose no problem for the mainstream press of the US and its allies. So, why is Bandera an exception?

The answer is ethnic, as awful as that may sound. Unlike Poroshenko with his aerial bombings of the Russian-speaking Donbass in 2014 and 2015, Bandera killed the “wrong” victims, the representatives of those nations that are valued even by the modern Western media, with its double and triple standards. In the 1930s Bandera killed Polish officials, in the 1940s his people killed civilian Jews and Polish peasants, and these are groups whose plight even the New York Times cannot ignore today. If Bandera’s infamous slogan “Death to enemies!” had been directed only against “disloyal” Russians and anti-Banderite Ukrainians (the groups currently persecuted by Poroshenko), Bandera would have been no different from his modern admirers in the Ukrainian government. But Bandera’s followers from the OUN decimated the Jewish population of Lvov and Kiev in 1941, trying to curry favor with the advancing Germans. And between 1943 and 1944, the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), taking its orders from Bandera’s OUN officers, ethnically cleansed his native Western Ukraine of ethnic Poles, killing from 70,000-100,000 of them (the infamous “slaughter of Volhynia”). The aim was to create an “ethnically pure” Ukraine before the arrival of the Red Army in late 1944. Documents published by the Polish historian Grzegorz Motyka indicate that Bandera and the OUN hoped that the Red Army would soon be replaced by Anglo-American domination. “His strategy was to clean up the house before the arrival of the real master,” Motyka concludes in his book.

THE LADY OF THE RADA VS. ISRAEL’S PRESIDENT

The American domination took another 70 years, but it did come. And now the Banderites’ (and Poroshenko’s) only historic disagreement with the West is over the infamous “ethnic cleansing,” to which Bandera’s “glorious heroes” subjected Ukraine in 1941-1944. When Israeli President Reuven Rivlin dared to raise the issue during his visit to Ukraine in 2016, he got a scolding from the vice speaker of the Ukrainian parliament (Verkhovna Rada), Irina Gerashchenko: “The Israeli president allowed himself some incorrect and undiplomatic words about the OUN’s tragic history,” Gerashchenko said at the time. “It was highly inappropriate, especially now, when Ukraine is fighting for its independence.” Gerashchenko forgot to mention the fact that Babi Yar, the burial site of some 30,000 Jews killed by German and Ukrainian Nazis in Kiev in 1941, was vandalized nine times between 2015 and 2016, according to data provided by the Ukrainian Jewish Committee.

WHY THE WEST WANTS TO FORGET, BUT CANNOT

In the immediate aftermath of the Maidan coup in 2014, the mainstream press was ready to forget even that, since an honest account of Bandera’s activities between 1939 and 1959 could rekindle memories of the undesirable parallels to the “resistance to Russian occupation” by Poroshenko’s army in the Donbass in 2014 and 2015. Between the summer of 2014 and the winter of 2015, about 10,000 people died there, victims of the aircraft and tanks sent by Poroshenko (just months earlier, the US and the EU had been unable to abide the use of truncheons by the police of the ousted president, Viktor Yanukovych). At the time, the NYT called Bandera the “Ukrainian nationalists’ hero.” Obviously, the NYT’s authors were taking their cues from the Washington Post’s Anne Applebaum, with her Banderite headline, “Nationalism is exactly what Ukraine Needs” in the once-glorious New Republic.

But here the mainstream press tried to kill off a memory that will never die — the memory of how Hitler’s East European Nazi allies participated in the destruction of the region’s Jewish population in the early 1940s. This was something not even Anne Applebaum could make people forget.

In his articles in the American press, the director of the Ukrainian Jewish Committee, Eduard Dolinsky, tried to explain to the American public that Bandera’s cult is not an isolated, unpleasant phenomenon: Stepan Bandera never acted alone, he represented a crudely nationalist ideology. Unfortunately, this ideology reigns triumphant in modern Ukraine behind the “liberal” façade displayed for the West. For example, Dolinsky notes that Poroshenko’s hypocritical speeches memorializing Jewish victims can be heard next to, say, a memorial to OUN activist Ivan Rogach, whose newspaper called Jews “the greatest enemy of the people” in 1941. “The Ukrainian leadership set itself on the course of rehabilitating anti-Semitism and introducing censorship of history,” concludes the official statement of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, an international Jewish human-rights group, famous for its work to bring Nazi criminals to justice.

THE RUSSIAN QUESTION BEHIND THE JEWISH ONE

If the West cannot afford to be completely silent about Bandera’s participation in the Holocaust, it is willingly ignoring another huge injustice that is inseparable from Bandera’s cult in modern Ukraine — the erasure of the Russian and anti-Banderite component of Ukraine’s historic memory. In 2017, Kiev’s Vatutin Avenue was renamed Bandera Avenue, resulting in an outcry in Russia and complete silence in the West. This avenue, a major thoroughfare in the Ukrainian capital, had originally been named in honor of General Nikolai Vatutin, who liberated Kiev from Nazi occupation in 1943 and died in a shootout with the OUN’s guerillas in 1944. At the time, there was no question about where America’s sympathies lay: the fight against Hitler was not yet over, and Vatutin, born in 1901 to a peasant family living immediately adjacent to the future Russian-Ukrainian border, was a useful ally for the United States. Will Bandera and his modern followers be a good replacement? Only someone with Poroshenko’s plans for Ukraine or with Anne Applebaum’s views on history could agree.

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Entering a Major Regional Re-set – The Syria Outcome Will Haunt Those Who Started This War

It should be obvious now that we are entering a major regional re-set.

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Authored by Alastair Crooke via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


The Middle East is metamorphosing. New fault-lines are emerging, yet Trump’s foreign policy ‘hawks’ still try to stage ‘old movies’ in a new ‘theatre’.

The ‘old movie’ is for the US to ‘stand up’ Sunni, Arab states, and lead them towards confronting ‘bad actor’ Iran. ‘Team Bolton’ is reverting back to the old 1996 Clean Break script – as if nothing has changed. State Department officials have been briefing that Secretary Pompeo’s address in Cairo on Thursday was “ slated to tell his audience (although he may not name the former president), that Obama misled the people of the Middle East about the true source of terrorism, including what contributed to the rise of the Islamic State. Pompeo will insist that Iran, a country Obama tried to engage, is the real terrorist culprit. The speech’s drafts also have Pompeo suggesting that Iran could learn from the Saudis about human rights, and the rule of law.”

Well, at least that speech should raise a chuckle around the region. In practice however, the regional fault-line has moved on: It is no longer so much Iran. GCC States have a new agenda, and are now far more concerned to contain Turkey, and to put a halt to Turkish influence spreading throughout the Levant. GCC states fear that President Erdogan, given the emotional and psychological wave of antipathy unleashed by the Khashoggi murder, may be mobilising newly re-energised Muslim Brotherhood, Gulf networks. The aim being to leverage present Gulf economic woes, and the general hollowing out of any broader GCC ‘vision’, in order to undercut the rigid Gulf ‘Arab system’ (tribal monarchy). The Brotherhood favours a soft Islamist reform of the Gulf monarchies – along lines, such as that once advocated by Jamal Khashoggi .

Turkey’s leadership in any case is convinced that it was the UAE (MbZ specifically) that was the author behind the Kurdish buffer being constructed, and mini-state ‘plot’ against Turkey – in conjunction with Israel and the US. Understandably, Gulf states now fear possible Turkish retribution for their weaponising of Kurdish aspirations in this way.

And Turkey is seen (by GCC States) as already working in close co-ordination with fellow Muslim Brotherhood patron and GCC member, Qatar, to divide the collapsing Council. This prefigures a new round to the MB versus Saudi Wahhabism spat for the soul of Sunni Islam.

GGC states therefore, are hoping to stand-up a ‘front’ to balance Turkey in the Levant. And to this end, they are trying to recruit President Assad back into the Arab fold (which is to say, into the Arab League), and to have him act, jointly with them, as an Arab counter to Turkey.

The point here is obvious: President Assad is closely allied to Iran – and so is Moscow and Turkey. To be fashionably Iranophobic – as Pompeo might wish the GCC to be – simply would spoil the GCC’s anti-Turkey ‘play’. Syria indeed may be (justly) skeptical of Turkey’s actions and intent in Syria, but from President Assad’s perspective, Iran and Russia are absolutely crucial to the managing of an erratic Turkey. Turkey does represent an existential Syrian concern. And trying to lever President Assad – or Lebanon or Turkey – away from Iran, would be absurd. It won’t happen. And the GCC states have enough nous to understand this now (after their stinging defeat in Syria). The Gulf anti-Iranian stance has had ‘the burner’ turned sharply down, (except when their need is to stroke US feathers).

They can see clearly that the Master of Ceremonies in the Levant – putting together the new regional ‘order’ – is not Mr Bolton, but Moscow, with Tehran (and occasionally Ankara), playing their equal part ‘from behind the curtain’.

Presumably, America’s intelligence services know, (and Gulf states certainly are aware), that in any case, Iranian forces are almost all gone from Syria (though of course Syria’s ‘Iranian connection’ remains as firm, as ever) – even as Pompeo and Israel say the precisely the opposite: that they are pushing-back hard at the ‘threatening’ Iranian military ‘footprint’ in Syria. Few in the region will believe it.

The second notable emerging regional fault line then, evidently is the one that is opening between Turkey and the US and Israel. Turkey ‘gets it’: Erdogan ‘gets it’ very clearly: that Washington now deeply distrusts him, suspects that Turkey is accelerating into Moscow and Beijing’s orbit, and that DC would be happy to see him gone – and a more NATO-friendly leader installed in his stead.

And it must be clear to Washington too ‘why’ Turkey would be heading ‘East’. Erdogan precisely needs Russia and Iran to act as MCs to moderate his difficult relations with Damascus for the future. Erdogan needs Russia and Iran even more, to broker a suitable political solution to the Kurds in Syria. He needs China too, to support his economy.

And Erdogan is fully aware that Israel (more than Gulf States) still hankers after the old Ben Gurion ideal of an ethnic Kurdish state – allied with Israel, and sitting atop major oil resources – to be inserted at the very pivot to south-west and central Asia: And at Turkey’s vulnerable underbelly.

The Israeli’s articulated their support for a Kurdish state quite plainly at the time of Barzani’s failed independence initiative in Iraq. But Erdogan simply, unmistakably, has said to this ‘never’ (to Bolton, this week). Nonetheless, Ankara still needs Russian and Iranian collaboration to allow Bolton to ‘climb down his tree’ of a Kurdish mini-state in Syria. He needs Russia to broker a Syrian-led buffer, vice an American-Kurdish tourniquet, strapped around his southern border.

It is unlikely however, that despite the real threat that America’s arming of the Kurds poses to Turkey, that Erdogan really wants to invade Syria – though he threatens it – and though John Bolton’s ‘conditions’ may end by leaving Turkey no option, but to do it. Since, for sure, Erdogan understands that a messy Turkish invasion of Syria would send the delicately balanced Turkish Lire into free-fall.

Still … Turkey, Syria, Iran and Russia now all want America gone from Syria. And for a moment, it seemed it might proceed smoothly after Trump had acquiesced to Erdogan’s arguments, during their celebrated telephone call. But then – Senator Lindsay Graham demurred (against the backdrop of massed howls of anguish issuing from the Beltway foreign policy think-tanks). Bolton did the walk-back, by making US withdrawal from Syria contingent on conditions (ones seemingly designed not to be met) and not tied any specific timeline. President Erdogan was not amused.

It should be obvious now that we are entering a major regional re-set: The US is leaving Syria. Bolton’s attempted withdrawal-reversal has been rebuffed. And the US, in any event, forfeited the confidence of the Kurds in consequence to the original Trump statement. The Kurds now are orientated toward Damascus and Russia is mediating a settlement.

It may take a while, but the US is going. Kurdish forces (other than those linked with the PKK) are likely to be assimilated into the Syrian army, and the ‘buffer’ will not be directed against Turkey, but will be a mix of Syrian army and Kurdish elements – under Syrian command – but whose overall conduct towards Turkey will be invigilated by Russia. And the Syrian army will, in due time, clear Idlib from a resurgent al-Qaida (HTS).

The Arab states are returning to their embassies in Damascus – partly out of fear that the whipsaw of American policy, its radical polarisation, and its proclivity to be wholly or partially ‘walked-back’ by the Deep State – might leave the Gulf unexpectedly ‘orphaned’ at any time. In effect, the GCC states are ‘hedging’ against this risk by trying to reconnect a bifurcated Arab sphere, and to give it a new ‘purpose’ and credibility – as a balance against Turkey, Qatar and the Muslim Brotherhood (Syria’s old nemesis).

And yet – there remains still another layer to this calculus, as described by veteran Middle East journalist, Elijah Magnier:

“Indeed the Levant is returning to the centre of Middle East and world attention in a stronger position than in 2011. Syria has advanced precision missiles that can hit any building in Israel. Assad also has an air defence system he would have never dreamed of before 2011 – thanks to Israel’s continuous violation of its airspace, and its defiance of Russian authority. Hezbollah has constructed bases for its long and medium range precision missiles in the mountains and has created a bond with Syria that it could never have established – if not for the war. Iran has established a strategic brotherhood with Syria, thanks to its role in defeating the regime change plan.

NATO’s support for the growth of ISIS has created a bond between Syria and Iraq that no Muslim or Baathist link could ever have created: Iraq has a “carte blanche” to bomb ISIS locations in Syria without the consent of the Syrian leadership, and the Iraqi security forces can walk into Syria anytime they see fit to fight ISIS. The anti-Israel axis has never been stronger than it is today. That is the result of 2011-2018 war imposed on Syria”.

Yes. This is the third of the newly emergent fault-lines: that of Israel on the one hand, and the emerging reality in the Syrian north, on the other – a shadow that has returned to haunt the original instigators of the ‘war’ to undermine Syria. PM Netanyahu since has put all the Israeli eggs into the Trump family ‘basket’. It was Netanyahu’s relationship with Trump which was presented in Israel as being the true ‘Deal of the Century’ (and not the Palestinian one). Yet when Bibi complained forcefully about US withdrawal from Syria (leaving Syria vulnerable, Netanyahu asserts, to an Iranian insertion of smart missiles), Trump nonchalantly replied that the US gives Israel $ 4.5 billion per year – “You’ll be all right”, Trump riposted.

It was seen in Israel as an extraordinary slap to the PM’s face. But Israelis cannot avoid, but to acknowledge, some responsibility for creating precisely the circumstances of which they now loudly complain.

Bottom line: Things have not gone according to plan: America is not shaping the new Levantine ‘order’ – Moscow is. And Israel’s continual, blatant disregard of Russia’s own interests in the Levant, firstly infuriated, and finally has provoked the Russian high command into declaring the northern Middle East a putative no-fly zone for Israel. This represents a major strategic reversal for Netanyahu (and the US).

And finally, it is this repeating pattern of statements being made by the US President on foreign policy that are then almost casually contradicted, or ‘conditioned’, by some or other part of the US bureaucracy, that poses to the region (and beyond) the sixty-four-thousand-dollar question. The pattern clearly is one of an isolated President, with officials emptying his statements of executive authority (until subsequently endorsed, or denied, by the US bureaucracy). It is making Trump almost irrelevant (in terms of the setting of foreign policy).

Is this then a stealth process – knowingly contrived – incrementally to remove Trump from power? A hollowing out of his Presidential prerogatives (leaving him only as a disruptive Twitterer) – achieved, without all the disruption and mess, of formally removing him from office? We shall see.

And what next? Well, as Simon Henderson observes, no one is sure – everyone is left wondering:

“What’s up with Secretary Pompeo’s extended tour of the Middle East? The short answer is that he is trying to sell/explain President Trump’s “we are leaving Syria” policy to America’s friends … Amman, Jordan; Cairo, Egypt; Manama, Bahrain; Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE); Doha, Qatar; Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; Muscat, Oman; Kuwait City, Kuwait. Wow, even with his own jet and no immigration hassles, that’s an exhausting itinerary … The fact that there now are eight stops in eight days, probably reflects the amount of explaining that needs to be done.”

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Kaspersky Lab snags former NSA contractor stealing hacking tools

Semi-buried article did see publication on Politico and Fox News, but Kaspersky Lab was not vindicated for its help in solving this case.

Seraphim Hanisch

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In a time known for Smear Campaigns of the Strangest Kind, we have seen Russia blamed for being there, for interfering and preventing the election of Hillary Rodham Clinton to the Presidency, putting Donald Trump in the White House instead. One of Russia’s companies, Kaspersky Lab, has a particularly notable history of late; that is to say, this computer security company has found itself on the receiving end of quite frankly, illegal levels of slander and punishment without cause from the US government. Kaspersky Lab owner and CEO tried very hard to come to the US to discuss these matters with a Congressional committee, only to have the meeting shelved into limbo.

However, the truth made itself manifest when it became known that Kaspersky Lab actually helped the American FBI catch Harold T. Martin III, who was found to be attempting to steal some of the American government’s most sensitive hacking tools. This fact emerged on Wednesday, January 9, 2019, when sources familiar with this investigation spoke to The Politico magazine. Politico says the following in its report:

[Kaspersky Lab’s] role in exposing Martin is a remarkable twist in an increasingly bizarre case that is believed to be the largest breach of classified material in U.S. history.

It indicates that the government’s own internal monitoring systems and investigators had little to do with catching Martin, who prosecutors say took home an estimated 50 terabytes of data from the NSA and other government offices over a two-decade period, including some of the NSA’s most sophisticated and sensitive hacking tools.

The revelation also introduces an ironic turn in the negative narrative the U.S. government has woven about the Russian company in recent years.

Under both the Obama and Trump administrations, officials have accused the company of colluding with Russian intelligence to steal and expose classified NSA tools, and in 2016 the FBI engaged in an aggressive behind-the-scenes campaign to discredit the company and get its software banned from U.S. government computers on national security grounds. But even while the FBI was doing this, the Russian firm was tipping off the bureau to an alleged intelligence thief in the government’s own midst.

“It’s irony piled on irony that people who worked at Kaspersky, who were already in the sights of the U.S. intelligence community, disclosed to them that they had this problem,” said Stewart Baker, general counsel for the NSA in the 1990s and a current partner at Steptoe and Johnson. It’s also discouraging, he noted, that the NSA apparently still hasn’t “figured out a good way to find unreliable employees who are mishandling some of their most sensitive stuff.”

The Politico piece as well as Fox News’ variant still seem somewhat determined to keep that negative narrative in place, with Fox assessing that the FBI had a “strange bedfellow” in the investigation, and what appears to be an absolutely enormous presumption in Politico’s piece:

The first message sent on Aug. 13, 2016, asked one of the researchers to arrange a conversation with “Yevgeny” — presumably Kaspersky Lab CEO Eugene Kaspersky, whose given name is Yevgeny Kaspersky. The message didn’t indicate the reason for the conversation or the topic, but a second message following right afterward said, “Shelf life, three weeks,” suggesting the request, or the reason for it, would be relevant for a limited time.

However, there are many people in the world named “Yevgeny” (Evgeny, or Eugene) in Russia, and presumably many Evgenys in Kaspersky Lab itself. The notion that the CEO of the company would be involved in this appears to be an absolutely enormous leap of logic.

The maintenance of a negative narrative about Kaspersky Lab has been one of the most frustratingly effective examples of American propaganda in use since Russia overall became increasingly used as America’s newest scapegoat.

This is also not the first time that Kaspersky Lab saved the day for an American intelligence agency. In 2017 the same company’s services found 122 viruses on an NSA employee’s computer.

Kaspersky Lab itself is a highly sophisticated company based in Moscow, Russia, specializing in securing computers against malware, viruses, ransomware and all manner of invasive efforts by the bad guys out on the ‘Net, and among the providers of such services it consistently rates among the best in the industry, including in US surveys. While US retailers Best Buy, Office Depot and the US government have banned selling or running Kaspersky Lab software, European allies of the US have not even breathed the slightest bit of discontent with the AV provider. The narrative is the only thing that is actually wrong, and since Evgeny Kaspersky’s education was largely at the Academy that trained former KGB personnel, (now called FSB), the anti-Russia narrative in the US the acronym “KGB” is usually enough to alarm most low-information American news readers and watchers. 

However, logic and awareness of life in modern Russia, point to the fact that getting an education on security at the FSB Academy ought to be equivalent to the same education at the CIA. Who would know better about how to create security than those people specially trained to compromise it? However the propaganda vantage point that Kaspersky afforded the US government in its drive to get rid of President Donald Trump made the Russian company too juicy a target to ignore.

Over the last year or two, however, this narrative has slowly been falling apart, with this Politico article being a significant, though still small vindication of the company’s prowess and abilities.

That a Russian Internet Security company could succeed where American enterprises failed, and especially where it helped the Americans catch a man who was stealing very powerful hacking tools, is a significant story, indeed.

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