Connect with us

Latest

Breaking

News

CONFIRMED: UN inquiry clears Russia of Aleppo convoy attack

UN Board of Inquiry rejects US assertions of Russian involvement in attack on convoy. Report suggests convoy attacked by Syrian air force in error because as a result of a communications failure Syrian pilots believed it was a legitimate military target.

Alexander Mercouris

Published

on

7,198 Views

On 19th September 2016 an attack took place on a joint UN-Red Crescent convoy transporting humanitarian supplies near Aleppo in Syria.

The attack provoked a huge media storm, with the US issuing statements attributing the attack to the Russian and Syrian air forces, and with senior US officials, including Secretary of State John Kerry, Defence Secretary Ashton Carter, and General Dunford, the Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, all holding Russia responsible.

Thus Ashton Carter, US Defence Secretary, said the following

The Russians are responsible for this strike whether they conducted it or not.

(bold italics added)

And here is what General Dunford said

I don’t have the facts.  There is no doubt in my mind that the Russians are responsible

(bold italics added)

At the time of the attack I pointed out that this rush to condemn the Russians was made before any investigation of the incident had taken place, before any attempt had been made to secure the place where the attack happened, and in the absence of any inspection of the area.  Here are some of the things I said

Since the attack is being called by some a war crime, it would seem a basic step first to secure and inspect what in that case would be a crime scene before drawing any inferences and making any accusations.  Almost a week after the attack not only has that not been done, but no one seems to be in any hurry to do it.

With the crime scene not secured, the possibility of contamination or outright manipulation of the evidence is very real, especially given the strong incentive to do so of the Jihadi fighters who are in physical control of it.  After all that is what many claim the Jihadi fighters did to the scene of the chemical attack on Ghouta in August 2013.

I was also openly skeptical about the chances of any inquiry into the incident being set up

Sadly I must also say that I do not think that how the convoy came to be attacked or by whom will ever be known.  Quite simply those who are in a position to find out the truth are not interested in doing so.

On the last point it turns out I was wrong, because on 21st October 2016 – more than a month after the attack on the convoy had taken place and with minimal publicity – UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon did set up a Board of Inquiry.

That Board of Inquiry has now reported, though its report too is being barely reported.  Ban Ki-moon has however provided a summary of its report, and it can be found here.

In brief, the reason the Inquiry and its report are receiving minimal publicity is because its results satisfy do not satisfy certain powerful governments.

It says the convoy was destroyed as the result of an air attack.  It completely exonerates the US and the other Western powers.  It also completely exonerates the Jihadis of staging the incident. However it also indirectly but nonetheless clearly exonerates the Russians.

Whilst it puts the blame for the attack – though only indirectly – on the Syrians, it makes it clear that it believes they attacked the convoy unintentionally and in error.

It also confirms that Western governments pressured the Board of Inquiry to try to get it to implicate the Russians in the attack on the convoy, which however the Inquiry refused to do.

The Board of Inquiry’s findings are open to challenge.  This is because of the delay in setting up the inquiry and the failure to secure the crime scene.  As a result the Board of Inquiry was unable to carry out a physical inspection of the crime scene.  Here is what the report says about this

The Board was not allowed to visit the scene of the incident in Urem al-Kubra, the [Syrian] Government stating that it was unable to ensure the safety of the Board, given the ongoing military operations at that location. In this regard, the Board noted that 11 weeks had already elapsed by then since the date of the incident, by which time damaged vehicles had been removed and some destroyed structures had been repaired or rebuilt. Subsequent actions had therefore adversely affected the integrity of the site of the incident and consequently the availability of physical evidence. A visit to the site might therefore not have yielded commensurate results.  The Board accordingly developed alternative methods of evidence collection.

All this is true but it is also deeply regrettable.  As I said in my article of 26th September 2016 (see above) securing the crime scene immediately following the attack ought to have been the immediate priority.  Realistically that would have required cooperation by all the Great Powers (including the US, Russia, Syria and Turkey) and probably a Resolution of the UN Security Council.  The way the Western powers politicised the incident and sought to make political capital out of it made all that impossible, which is why an inspection of the crime scene has never happened.

Unfortunately without a proper inspection of the crime scene the Inquiry report is incomplete, and its findings open to challenge.

The Board of Inquiry has set out how in the absence of an inspection of the crime scene it undertook its investigation

The Board was not allowed to visit the scene of the incident in Urem al-Kubra, the Government stating that it was unable to ensure the safety of the Board, given the ongoing military operations at that location. In this regard, the Board noted that 11 weeks had already elapsed by then since the date of the incident, by which time damaged vehicles had been removed and some destroyed structures had been repaired or rebuilt. Subsequent actions had therefore adversely affected the integrity of the site of the incident and consequently the availability of physical evidence. A visit to the site might therefore not have yielded commensurate results.  The Board accordingly developed alternative methods of evidence collection.

 The Board was only able to travel to the Syrian Arab Republic from 5 to 9 December 2016, as the issuance of visas by the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic was only confirmed on 28 November 2016.  The Board travelled to Damascus, where the Board met with the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic, including the High Relief Committee, SARC Damascus and the United Nations Country Team.  At the Russian Embassy in Damascus, the Board also met military officers from the Russian Military airbase in Hmeimim.  In West Aleppo City, the Board met the Governor of Aleppo, members of the local relief committee and the Commanding General of the Russian Reconciliation Centre, Hmeimem. The Board also interviewed primary witnesses in West Aleppo.

The Board also met with the members of the High Negotiations Committee for the Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces (HNC) and the National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces (SOC). Furthermore, the Board met with representatives of armed opposition groups. It interviewed primary witnesses (eye witnesses) in Gaziantep and Reyhanli.

The Board also collaborated with UNITAR-UNOSAT, which provided technical capabilities to analyse satellite imagery and ground photography.

The Board used the following materials and methods to arrive at its findings: (i) satellite images; (ii) over 370 photographs and videos; (iii) interviews conducted by the Board of a total of 16 persons who were either eye witnesses to the incident or who were in the vicinity of Urem al-Kubra on the evening of 19 September 2016; (iv) interviews conducted by the Board of a total of 19 secondary witnesses, including United Nations personnel and  representatives of armed opposition groups; (v) information from Member States, including information on their air assets; (vi) air tracks shared with it by the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic; (vii) an oral briefing by the Syrian Government regarding their national investigation into the incident, which was still on-going, together with copies of autopsy reports;  (viii) information from the SARC.; (ix) documents from the United Nations Country Team for Syria; and (x) open-source information.

The Board declined to accept physical evidence, such as munitions remnants that were alleged to be from the site of the incident, as the chain of custody for these items could not be established.

This speaks of a proper and thorough investigation, with the opinions of all parties carefully sought and all the right questions asked.  However it cannot fully make up for the failure to examine the crime scene.

What however are the Inquiry’s conclusions, and on what are they based?

Firstly, they are wholly based on the Inquiry’s finding that the convoy was destroyed as the result of an air attack rather than a ground attack.  Here is what the report says about this

The Board found that, between 19:15 and 19:45 hours local time on 19 September 2016, the SARC compound was subject to an attack from the air, using multiple types of munitions deployed from more than one aircraft and aircraft type. The munitions used included non-precision unitary bombs and/or smaller blast-incendiary air-to-ground weapons, which could have been missiles, rockets or sub-munition bomblets.

In reaching this conclusion, the Board considered and rejected the possibilities that the incident was caused by direct fire or ground assault, whether by Syrian Government forces or by armed opposition groups, or by ground-delivered improvised explosive devices (IEDs), or by indirect fire, whether by Syrian Government forces or by armed opposition groups.  It also considered and rejected the possibility that it was a staged or hoax event.

A total of eight possible major impact points within and near the compound were identified by the Board, with further multiple smaller impacts to the northwest.  The southwestern, southern and eastern walls of the compound were damaged and buildings collapsed.  Extensive damage was also done to a wall on the opposite side of Highway 60.

Since the Board of Inquiry was unable to inspect the crime scene, it arrived at this conclusion that the convoy was attacked from the air by relying on the following evidence

The primary evidence for this conclusion came from an analysis of satellite and ground imagery, videos and eyewitness statements. Corroboration came from information provided by Member States and other witness interviews, as well as open-source research conducted by the Board.

(bold italics added)

When reviewing investigations of this sort I long ago realised that eyewitness evidence is unsafe.  Probably the Inquiry relied mostly on the “satellite and ground imagery” and the “corroboration provided by Member States”.

Unfortunately this immediately begs the questions: whose “satellite and ground imagery”, and which Member States?

On the question of the analysis of the “satellite and ground imagery”, we know this was provided by UNITAR-UNOSAT because the Board of Inquiry report tells us so (see above), but as to who provided the “satellite and ground imagery”, that is an entirely different matter, and that is something which the report is careful not to tell us.

As for which Member States provided the “corroboration”which supported the air attack conclusion, the Member States listed in the report are

 France, Iran (Islamic Republic of), the Russian Federation, the Syrian Arab Republic, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States of America.

Only evidence provided by Syria and Russia is mentioned in the report, none of which however appears to “corroborate” the air attack conclusion.  Almost certainly the “corroboration” comea from the four NATO powers (“France, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States of America”) since it most unlikely Iran would have done so, or would have had the information to do so.

None of this however means that the air attack conclusion is wrong.  However since “satellite and ground imagery” is always subject to interpretation, and since the “corroboration” almost certainly comes from the same NATO powers that in the immediate aftermath of the attack and before the Board of Inquiry was set up were already accusing Syria and Russia of responsibility for the attack, it is inevitable that some people are already taking issue with the Board of Inquiry’s findings, and are calling its report a whitewash.

I do not go that far.  On the contrary, I think the Board of Inquiry’s findings are almost certainly correct, and that the convoy was indeed destroyed by an attack from the air.

I also think that the Board of Inquiry is almost certainly correct in pointing to the Syrian air force as the perpetrator of the attack, even if the nature of its remit prevents it from saying so.

As the Board of Inquiry correctly says, since no one is accusing the US and the Western powers of carrying out the attack they can be safely excluded, as for different reasons can the Russians (see below).  Since the Board of Inquiry says the convoy was destroyed as a result of an air attack, and as the Jihadis do not have an air force, by elimination that means it must have been the Syrian air force which carried out the attack.

However, before discussing this further, it is essential to read carefully what the Board of Inquiry’s conclusions actually are

The area immediately around the SARC compound had been hit on at least two occasions between 26 June 2016 and 1 September 2016, with two separate groups of buildings, located between 55m and 140m away, having been attacked, most likely from the air. The Board considered that the location of the SARC compound, on the outskirts of a populated area, in an industrial zone and astride one of the two primary roads leading to southwestern Aleppo, made it a realistic possibility that the buildings around it were used by armed opposition groups prior to the date of the incident. Therefore the Board considered that it had most likely been attacked by pro-Government forces.

The Board noted that aircraft operating as part of the forces of the International Coalition Forces and aircraft of the Russian Federation and of the SAAF all had the capabilities needed to carry out an attack of the kind that had occurred on 19 September 2016, including at night.   Armed opposition groups did not have the capability to carry out air attacks.

The Board further noted that no party had alleged the involvement of International Coalition Forces aircraft and, as such, their involvement was highly unlikely.

The Board stated that it had received reports that information existed to the effect that the SAAF was highly likely to have perpetrated the attack, and even that the attack was carried out by three Syrian Mi-17 model helicopters, followed by three unnamed fixed-wing aircraft, with a single Russian aircraft also suspected of being involved. However, the Board did not have access to raw data to support these assertions and, in their absence, it was unable to draw a definitive conclusion. Moreover, the Governments of both the Russian Federation and Syrian Arab Republic denied all allegations of their involvement in the incident.

The Board noted in this connection that there were technical issues pertaining to a hypothesis of the incident being a result of a joint Syrian Arab Air Force/Russian Federation strike. The Board had been informed that that the Russian Federation did not conduct joint strikes. A high degree of interoperability and co-ordination would also be required for two air forces to operate in the same airspace, targeting the same location.

(bold italics added)

These are very carefully chosen words, which show the intense behind-the-scenes pressure from the Western powers on the Board of Inquiry.

Firstly, the first paragraph all but confirms that the convoy was attacked in error.

It seems the convoy was attacked because it was inside a compound located astride two main roads, one of which was one of the two main routes used by the Jihadis to send supplies and fighters to the battlefields near Aleppo.  It was also located next to buildings which were almost certainly occupied by the Jihadis and used by them for their own purposes.

That one of the two roads next to the compound in which the convoy was located was a major supply route used by the Jihadis sending supplies and reinforcements to Aleppo is confirmed in an earlier part of the report

The SARC compound, the incident site, is located approximately 1.5 km east of the town of Urem al-Kubra.  It consists of mixed light industry and dwellings.  The compound is located alongside Highway 60 — the primary Aleppo-to-Idlib road.  Highway 60 was one of the two primary lines of communication — the other being the M5 highway, which runs South to Hama and Homs — that could be used by armed opposition groups to move military materiel, equipment and personnel to frontline areas in Aleppo.

Jihadi military convoys moving down Highway 60 and Jihadi fighters based in the buildings immediately adjoining the compound where the convoy was located, are legitimate military targets.  Almost certainly the Syrian aircraft which attacked the convoy mistook it for part of the military traffic the Jihadis were sending down Highway 60 to reinforce the fighters in Aleppo.

Whilst the report is careful to say that the UN and Red Crescent had kept the Syrian and Russian authorities fully informed of the convoy’s movements, it seems this information was not passed on to the Syrian air force pilots who carried out the attack on what they clearly assumed was a legitimate military target located inside a Jihadi base.  Such tragedies are unfortunately all too common in war.  That there was a communications breakdown which meant that the Syrian authorities failed to pass on to the Syrian air force information about the whereabouts of the convoy is strongly hinted in the report in the following paragraph

The Board noted that it could not gain a full understanding of the coordination measures employed by the Syrian authorities and that it was not evident from the answers that it had received to its questions that the Syrian Arab Air Force (SAAF) was informed of the convoy.

There is however unfortunately possibly more to it than that.

Recently I speculated that some of the attacks on hospitals in eastern Aleppo had happened because the Jihadis had intentionally located hospitals next to military sites, which were legitimate military targets for air attack.  Here is what I wrote about this

I will here set out my own view, which is that though certain hospitals were indeed bombed in eastern Aleppo, this was either done unintentionally, or was the result of the Al-Qaeda led Jihadis deliberately positioning hospitals and medical facilities close to their ammunition depots, firing positions, and assembly areas, putting them intentionally in the line of fire, so as to cause attacks on them, which could be exploited for their propaganda value.

Unfortunately the report at least leaves open the possibility that this was what was done to the convoy.

The report shows that it was the Jihadis who ‘escorted’ the convoy in the days before it was attacked, and that they were even pilfering its supplies along the way.  It is possible that it was the  Jihadis who positioned the convoy inside a compound near what was apparently a Jihadi military base.

If this is correct then the Jihadis placed the convoy in danger, either because they hoped to use it to give cover to their adjoining military base and to the military traffic they were sending down Highway 60, or because they hoped to milk a possible attack on the convoy for propaganda purposes by intentionally locating it somewhere where it was likely to be attacked, or possibly because they also made a mistake.

In any case, if – as is overwhelmingly likely and as the Board of Inquiry clearly believes – the Syrian air force attacked the convoy in error because it was either intentionally or negligently placed next to a military target, and because as a result of a communications failure the Syrian pilots who carried out the attack believed it was a legitimate target, then there was no war crime, and no grounds to allege one.

It is however in what the report says about alleged Russian involvement in the attack that the report becomes most interesting.

In the days immediately following the attack two US government officials were prowling around the offices of Western news media agencies, anonymously making claims that the convoy was destroyed as a result of a Russian air strike, and talking of the supposed presence of two Russian SU24 aircraft in the area at the time of the attack.  Here is what I had to say about this at the time

Instead of the US publicly identifying who they say attacked the convoy, two US officials are doing  so anonymously, in comments to the BBC and Reuters, spreading a story of two Russian SU24 fighter bombers supposedly being seen in the air (by whom?) in the area of the convoy.  These same two unnamed US officials are also claiming that the attack on the convoy was revenge for the US air strike on the Syrian troops defending Deir Ezzor.

Given the choice between straightforward public and categorical statements of denial from the Syrians and the Russians, and elliptical semi-secret off-the-record insinuations of Russian guilt from the US, the Western media without hesitation preferred the elliptical semi-secret off-the-record insinuations of Russian guilt from the US.  As a result it was reporting all of yesterday as fact that it was the Russian air force which attacked the convoy.

This is the reverse of what responsible journalism would do.  It should hardly need saying that a straightforward public denial ought always to carry more weight than elliptical semi-secret off-the-record insinuations of guilt.

(bold italics added) 

In its carefully chosen words the Board of Inquiry has not only trashed the claims of the two US officials, effectively saying they were untrue, but has exposed the pressure it came under from the US.

Firstly, the Board of Inquiry says that it was told by some party, which it fails to name but which can only have been the US, that a “single Russian aircraft was also suspected of being involved”.  However the Board of Inquiry pointedly refused to accept this claim, pointing out that it had not been given “access to raw data to support these assertions”.

In other words the Board of Inquiry is implicitly saying that in the absence of evidence it is not prepared to accept the US’s word on this issue.

Having made this point, the Board of Inquiry then went on in its report to go much further, making it crystal clear, albeit indirectly, that it believes US claims of Russian involvement in the attack are untrue.

Not only does the report say that the Russian and Syrian air forces do not conduct joint air strikes (a fact which as an observer of the Syrian conflict I had already noticed) but it also says there is insufficient interoperability between the Russian and Syrian air forces to make such a thing possible (“to operate in the same airspace, targeting the same location.”)

Whilst evidence for this second assertion must have come from the Syrians and the Russians, the highly professional individuals who made up the Board of Inquiry (the chief of whom is an Indian general) are undoubtedly competent enough to verify it.  That they did so is shown by the way the report reports this assertion as true.

The Board of Inquiry’s very limited remit means that it was under no duty to disclose that it had rejected information about Russian involvement provided by the US.  Nonetheless it chose to do so – a sure sign of the pressure it came under from the US, and the anger this caused amongst some of its members.  In the process it has exonerated the Russians of involvement in the attack and exposed US claims of Russian involvement, which circulated so widely and so publicly in the days following the attack, as untrue.

As a result of the Board of Inquiry’s work it is now possible to arrive at a reasonable conclusion of what happened to the convoy.

The convoy was almost certainly attacked in error by the Syrian air force because the Jihadis, whether intentionally or not, placed it next to their own military facilities, which were not only a legitimate target for attack, but which the Syrian air force actually had attacked on 1st September 2016 ie. just a few weeks before.

Since the attack was almost certainly an error, no war crime was committed.

All claims of Russian involvement in the attack are untrue.

Not only is the US unable to provide information to support this claim, but the Syrians and the Russians have provided technical information which proves it to be untrue.

All in all, this is a careful and good report, which has cast a clear light over this incident.  Whilst in the absence of an inspection of the crime scene its conclusions are open to challenge, everything suggests the Board of Inquiry went about its work properly and responsibly.  Overall there is no strong reason to doubt its conclusions, and for my part I accept them.

This marks a refreshing change from the way certain other Inquiries involving Russia have gone about their business.  The one headed by Professor McLaren, the one into the Litvinenko murder, and the two into the MH17 shoot-down, are cases in point.

It shows what can be achieved when an Inquiry carries out its work impartially and responsibly, refusing to be pressured or led by the nose into accepting wild assertions as facts, whilst taking care to listen to all the parties.

Liked it? Take a second to support The Duran on Patreon!
Advertisement
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

avatar
  Subscribe  
Notify of

Latest

Europe Unveils “Special Purpose Vehicle” To Bypass SWIFT, Jeopardizing Dollar’s Reserve Status

Creating “a defensible banking architecture” is the end goal for the Europeans, China and Russia.

Published

on

Via Zerohedge


In a stunning vote of “no confidence” in the US monopoly over global payment infrastructure, one month ago Germany’s foreign minister Heiko Maas called for the creation of a new payments system independent of the US that would allow Brussels to be independent in its financial operations from Washington and as a means of rescuing the nuclear deal between Iran and the west.

Writing in the German daily Handelsblatt, Maas said “Europe should not allow the US to act over our heads and at our expense. For that reason it’s essential that we strengthen European autonomy by establishing payment channels that are independent of the US, creating a European Monetary Fund and building up an independent Swift system,” he wrote.

Maas said it was vital for Europe to stick with the Iran deal. “Every day the agreement continues to exist is better than the highly explosive crisis that otherwise threatens the Middle East,” he said, with the unspoken message was even clearer: Europe no longer wants to be a vassal state to US monopoly over global payments, and will now aggressively pursue its own “SWIFT” network that is not subservient to Washington’s every whim.

Many discounted the proposal as being far too aggressive: after all, a direct assault on SWIFT, and Washington, would be seen by the rest of the world as clear mutiny against a US-dominated global regime, and could potentially spark a crisis of confidence in the reserve status of the dollar, resulting in unpredictable, and dire, consequences.

However, despite the diplomatic consequences, Europe was intent on creating some loophole to the US ability to weaponize the global currency of account at will, something observed most recently as part of Trump’s latest sanctions on Iran, and as a result, late on Monday, the European Union said that it would establish a special payment channel to allow European and other companies to legally continue financial transactions with Iran while avoiding exposure to U.S. sanctions.

The move, as the WSJ notes, “is a direct rebuke of President Trump’s policy on Iran and his decision to withdraw from the nuclear deal in May,” and sets the stage for a confrontation between the U.S. and Europe over the treatment of Iran, the payment for Iran oil, and potentially, jeopardizing the reserve currency status of the dollar itself.

While keeping SWIFT as is, for now, the EU’s foreign-policy head Federica Mogherini side by side with Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif announced a “special purpose vehicle” jointly, in English and Farsi, after a meeting at the U.N. of the parties still committed to the deal—Iran, EU, U.K., France, Germany, Russia and China. In fact, everyone but the US.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini (r), speaking alongside Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif

According to Mogherini, the plan to create the SPV “will mean that EU member states will set up a legal entity to facilitate legitimate financial transactions with Iran, and this will allow European companies to continue trade with Iran” despite Trump’s opposition.

As Bloomberg’s Leonid Bershidsky explains, with Iran sanctions back, it is clear to the Europeans (as well as the Chinese and Russians) that any future transactions with Iran must go through entities insulated from the American financial system.

In a July 2018 report, Axel Hellman of the European Leadership Network think tank and Esfandyar Batmanghelidj of the Iranian company Bourse & Bazaar proposed “a new banking architecture” in response to the U.S. sanctions, relying on the existing system of “gateway banks,” such as the Hamburg-based Europaeisch-Iranische Handelsbank, and the European branches of private Iranian bank. “A further third category of gateway banks can be envisioned,” they wrote, “which would comprise of special purpose vehicles established by European governments, or as part of public-private partnerships in order to facilitate Iran trade and investment.”

The new plan focuses on this third option.

Mogherini further indicated that Germany, France and the U.K. would set up a multinational state-backed financial intermediary that would deal with companies interested in Iran transactions and with Iranian counter-parties. Such transactions, presumably in euros and pounds sterling, would not be transparent to American authorities. European companies dealing with the state-owned intermediary technically might not even be in violation of the U.S. sanctions as currently written.

And, in a potentially massive development, the system would be likely be open to Russia and China as well as it would enable the world’s economies to trade with each other, fully independent of SWIFT.

Europe would thus provide an infrastructure for legal, secure sanctions-busting — and a guarantee that the transactions would not be reported to American regulators.

That said, Washington would not be without recourse, although at that point, all the U.S. could do is sanction the participating countries’ central banks or SWIFT for facilitating the transactions (if the special purpose vehicle uses SWIFT, rather than ad hoc messaging).

That, Hellman and Batmanghelidj wrote, would be self-defeating: “There are two possible outcomes if these institutions proceed to work with Iran despite U.S. secondary sanctions. Either U.S. authorities fail to take enforcement action given the massive consequences for the operations and integrity of the American financial system, serving to “defang” the enforcement threats and reduce the risk of European self-sanctioning on the basis of fear, or U.S. authorities take such an enforcement action, a step that would only serve to accelerate European efforts to create a defensible banking architecture that goes beyond the Iran issue alone.”

Europe, naturally, needs a “neutral” pretext to implement this SPV, and that would be Brussels’ desire to continue transacting with Iran:

“We are not backing down [on the Iran nuclear agreement],” said a European diplomat. He said the speeches of European leaders at a Security Council meeting Mr. Trump is hosting on Wednesday on nonproliferation, including Iran, will reflect the Monday night statement.

Additionally, as basis for the potentially revolutionary development, the participants of the 2015 nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA, “underlined their determination to protect the freedom of their economic operators to pursue legitimate business with Iran.”

While the details of the SPV mechanism — which would be set up in future meetings with technical experts — were still to be determined, with the United States and the dollar dominating so much of global trade the statement said the new mechanism would “facilitate payments related to Iran’s exports (including oil) and imports, which will assist and reassure economic operators pursuing legitimate business with Iran.”

“In practical terms, this will mean that EU member states will set up a legal entity to facilitate legitimate financial transactions with Iran and this will allow European companies to continue to trade with Iran in accordance with European Union law and could be open to other partners in the world,” she told reporters.

As a result of Trump’s aggressive new sanctions on Iran, and potentially more sanctions after November as Trump hinted during his UN speech, European companies have been flocking out of Iran’s market and ending contracts to avoid risking U.S. sanctions.  Meanwhile, Iran – which has argued that the 2015 deal entitled the Islamic Republic to benefit from lifting of sanctions and to enter the world market – has seen its economy stumble, with the currency collapsing almost daily against the U.S. dollar since the U.S. exited the deal.

Telegraphing that Europe will continue cooperation with Iran despite US sanctions, Mogherini said Iran has remained fully committed to its obligations under the nuclear deal, as certified by a dozen reports from U.N.’s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency. She also hailed the 2015 agreement as a major achievement for diplomacy and nonproliferation and “deeply regrets” what she called the unilateral withdrawal of the U.S. from the deal.

* * *

In any case, creating “a defensible banking architecture” may well be the end goal for the Europeans, China and Russia, anyway because, as noted above, Iran is merely a convenient pretext: after all, the nuclear agreement is one of the few things that unite the EU, China and Russia against the U.S.

But, as Bershidsky notes, “working to undermine the dollar’s global dominance isn’t ultimately about Iran at all. In his recent State of the European Union speech, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker called for strengthening the euro’s international role and moving away from traditional dollar invoicing in foreign trade.”

China and Russia have long sought the same thing, but it’s only with Europe, home of the world’s second biggest reserve currency, that they stand a chance of challenging American dominance.

While it remains to be seen if the “special purpose vehicle” would entice European companies such as France’s Total or Germany’s Daimler to get back into business with Iran remains to be seen, the optics of the move by the European Union together with China and Russia to defy the U.S. signaled continued criticism of the Trump administration for its decisions on Iran.

More importantly, it strikes at the heart of the current economic and financial system which is held together by the dollar. By providing an alternative, the global #resistance sets the stage for what potentially could be the ascendancy of other global reserve currencies, and/or a world of bilateral trade agreements which bypass both the US Dollar and Swift entirely, eliminating Washington’s “veto powers” on global trade.

Given U.S. law enforcement’s wide reach, there would still be a risk involved, and European governments may not be able to protect the companies from it. Some firms will be tempted to try the new infrastructure, however, and the public isn’t likely to find out if they do.  In any case, in response to Trump’s aggressive foreign policies and “weaponization” of the dollar, it is worthwhile for Europe, Russia and China to experiment with dollar-free business.

But this brings up the bigger point: no currency’s international dominance has lasted forever, and there’s no reason for the U.S. dollar to be the exception to this rule.

Meanwhile, as Bershidsky concludes, “Trump’s confidence in his ability to weaponize the dollar against adversaries and stubborn allies alike could eventually backfire for the U.S. as efforts to push the dollar off its pedestal grow ever more serious.”

Liked it? Take a second to support The Duran on Patreon!
Continue Reading

Latest

The Incredible Case Of The Skripal ‘Patsies’ Visas

How likely is it that the day before the professional assassination attempt, which involved handling an agent with which any contact could kill you, Boshirov and Petrov would prepare, not by resting, but by an all night drugs and sex session?

The Duran

Published

on

Authored by Craig Murray via CraigMurray.org.uk:


The Metropolitan Police made one statement in the Skripal case which is plainly untrue; they claimed not to know on what kind of visa Boshirov and Petrov were travelling. As they knew the passports they used, and had footage of them coming through the airport, that is impossible. The Border Force could tell them in 30 seconds flat.

To get a UK visa Boshirov and Petrov would have had to attend the UK Visa Application Centre in Moscow. There not only would their photographs be taken, but their fingerprints would have been taken and, if in the last few years, their irises scanned. The Metropolitan Police would naturally have obtained their fingerprints from the Visa Application.

One thing of which we can be certain is that their fingerprints are not on the perfume bottle or packaging found in Charlie Rowley’s home. We can be certain of that because no charges have been brought against the two in relation to the death of Dawn Sturgess, and we know the police have their fingerprints. The fact of there being no credible evidence, according to either the Metropolitan Police or the Crown Prosecution Service, to link them to the Amesbury poisoning, has profound implications.

Why the Metropolitan Police were so coy about telling us what kind of visa the pair held, points to a wider mystery. Why were they given the visas in the first place, and what story did they tell to get them? It is not easy for a Russian citizen, particularly an economically active male, to get past the UK Border Agency. The visa application process is very intrusive. They have to produce evidence of family and professional circumstances, including employment and address, evidence of funds, including at least three months of bank statements, and evidence of the purpose of the visit. These details are then actively checked out by the Visa Department.

If they had told the story to the visa section they told to Russia Today, that they were freelance traders in fitness products wanting to visit Salisbury Cathedral, they would have been refused a visa as being candidates for overstaying. They would have been judged not to have sufficiently stable employment in Russia to ensure they would return. So what story did Petrov and Boshirov give on their visa application, why were they given a visa, and what kind of visa? And why do the British authorities not want us to know the answer to these questions?

Which brings us to the claims of neo-conservative propaganda website Bellingcat. They claim together with the Russian Insider website to have obtained documentary evidence that Petrov and Boshirov’s passports were of a series issued only to Russian spies, and that their applications listed GRU headquarters as their address.

There are some problems with Bellingcat’s analysis. The first is that they also quote Russian website fontanka.ru as a source, but fontanka.ru actually say the precise opposite of what Bellingcat claim – that the passport number series is indeed a civilian one and civilians do have passports in that series.

Fontanka also state it is not unusual for the two to have close passport numbers – it merely means they applied together. On other points, fontanka.ru do confirm Bellingcat’s account of another suspected GRU officer having serial numbers close to those of Boshirov and Petrov.

But there is a bigger question of the authenticity of the documents themselves. Fontanka.ru is a blind alley – they are not the source of the documents, just commenting on them, and Bellingcat are just attempting the old trick of setting up a circular “confirmation”. Russian Insider is neither Russian nor an Insider. Its name is a false claim and it consists of a combination of western “experts” writing on Russia, and reprints from the Russian media. It has no track record of inside access to Russian government secrets or documents, and nor does Bellingcat.

What Bellingcat does have is a track record of shilling for the security services. Bellingcat claims its purpose is to clear up fake news, yet has been entirely opaque about the real source of its so-called documents.

MI6 have almost 40 officers in Russia, running hundreds of agents. The CIA has a multiple of that. They pool their information. Both the UK and US have large visa sections whose major function is the analysis of Russian passports, their types and numbers and what they tell about the individual.

I do not know if the two are agents or just tourists. But the claimed evidence they were agents is, if genuine, so obvious that the two would have been under close surveillance throughout their stay in the UK. If the official story is true, then the failures of the UK visa department and MI6 are abject and shameful. As is the failure to take simple precautions for the Skripals’ security, like the inexplicable absence of CCTV covering the house of Sergei Skripal, an important ex-agent and defector supposedly under British protection.

A further thought. We are informed that Boshirov and Petrov left a trace of novichok in their hotel bedroom. How likely is it, really, that, the day before the professional assassination attempt, which involved handling an agent with which any contact could kill you, Boshirov and Petrov would prepare, not by resting, but by an all night drugs and sex session? Would you really not want the steadiest possible hand the next day? Would you really invite a prostitute into the room with the novichok perfume in it, and behave in a way that led to complaints and could have brought you to official notice?

Is it not astonishing that nobody in the corporate and state media has written that this behaviour is at all unlikely, while scores of “journalists” have written that visiting Salisbury as a tourist, and returning the next day because the visit was ruined by snow, would be highly unlikely?

To me, even more conclusively, we were informed by cold war propagandists like ex White House staffer Dan Kaszeta that the reason the Skripals were not killed is that novichok is degraded by water. To quote Kaszeta “Soap and water is quite good at decontaminating nerve agents”.

In which case it is extremely improbable that the agents handling the novichok, who allegedly had the novichok in their bedroom, would choose a hotel room which did not have an en suite bathroom. If I spilt some novichok on myself I would not want to be queuing in the corridor for the shower. The GRU may not be big on health and safety, but the idea that their agents chose not to have basic washing facilities available while handling the novichok is wildly improbable.

The only link of Boshirov and Petrov to the novichok is the trace in the hotel room. The identification there of a microscopic trace of novichok came from a single swab, all other swabs were negative, and the test could not be repeated even on the original positive sample. For other reasons given above, I absolutely doubt these two had novichok in that bedroom. Who they really are, and how much the security services knew about them, remain open questions.

Liked it? Take a second to support The Duran on Patreon!
Continue Reading

Latest

Russia’s Economy Little Harmed by West’s Sanctions

Putin has been succeeding despite what the US aristocracy (and its allied aristocracies in Europe and Arabia) have been throwing to weaken Russia.

Eric Zuesse

Published

on

Originally posted at strategic-culture.org:


Despite Barack Obama’s economic sanctions against Russia, and the plunge in oil prices that King Saud agreed to with Obama’s Secretary of State John Kerry on 11 September 2014, the economic damages that the US and Saudis have aimed against a particular oil-and-gas giant, Russia, have hit mostly elsewhere — at least till now.

This has been happening while simultaneously Obama’s violent February 2014 coup overthrowing Ukraine’s democratically elected pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych (and the head of the ‘private CIA’ firm Stratfor calls it “the most blatant coup in history”) has caused Ukraine’s economy to plunge even further than Russia’s, and corruption in Ukraine to soar even higher than it was before America’s overthrow of that country’s final freely elected nationwide government, so that Ukraine’s economy has actually been harmed far more than Russia’s was by Obama’s coup in Ukraine and Obama’s subsequent economic sanctions against Russia (sanctions that are based on clear and demonstrable Obama lies but that continue and even get worse under Trump).

Bloomberg News headlined on February 4th of 2016, “These Are the World’s Most Miserable Economies” and reported the “misery index” rankings of 63 national economies as projected in 2016 and 60 as actual in 2015 — a standard ranking-system that calculates “misery” as being the sum of the unemployment-rate and the inflation-rate. They also compared the 2016 projected rankings to the 2015 actual rankings.

Top rank, #1 both years — the most miserable economy in the world during 2015 and 2016 — was Venezuela, because of that country’s 95% dependence upon oil-export earnings (which crashed when oil-prices plunged). The US-Saudi agreement to flood the global oil market destroyed Venezuela’s economy.

#2 most-miserable in 2015 was Ukraine, at 57.8. But Ukraine started bouncing back so that as projected in 2016 it ranked #5, at 26.3. Russia in 2015 was #7 most-miserable in 2015, at 21.1, but bounced back so that as projected in 2016 it became #14 at 14.5.

Bloomberg hadn’t reported misery-index rankings for 2014 showing economic performances during 2013, but economist Steve H. Hanke of Johns Hopkins University did, in his “Measuring Misery Around the World, May 2014,” in the May 2014 GlobeAsia, ranking 90 countries; and, during 2013 (Yanukovych’s final year as Ukraine’s President before his being forced out by Obama’s coup), Ukraine’s rank was #23 and its misery-index was 24.4. Russia’s was #36 and its misery index was 19.9. So: those can be considered to be the baseline-figures, from which any subsequent economic progress or decline (after Obama’s 2014 Ukrainian coup) may reasonably be calculated. Hanke’s figures during the following year, 2014, were reported by him at Huffington Post, “The World Misery Index: 108 Countries”, and by UAE’s Khaleej Times, “List of Most Miserable Countries” (the latter falsely attributing that ranking to Cato Institute, which had merely republished Hanke’s article). In 2014, Ukraine’s misery-index, as calculated by Hanke, was #4, at 51.8. That year had 8 countries above 40 in Hanke’s ranking. Russia was #42 at 21.42. So: Russia’s rank had improved, but, because of the globally bad economy, Russia’s absolute number was slightly worse (higher) than it had been before Obama’s coup in Ukraine and subsequent sanctions against Russia. By contrast, Ukraine’s rank had suddenly gotten far worse, #4 at 51.80 in 2014, after having been #23 at 24.4 in 2013.

The figures in Bloomberg for Russia were: during 2015, #7 with a misery-index of 21.1; and projected during 2016, #14 with a misery-index of 14.5; so, Bloomberg too showed a 2015-2016 improvement for Russia, and not only for Ukraine (where in the 2016 projection it ranked #5, at 26.3, a sharp improvement after the horrendous 2015 actual numbers).

“Hanke’s Annual Misery Index — 2017” in Forbes, showed 98 countries, and Venezuela was still #1, the worst; Ukraine was now #9 at 36.9; and Russia was #36 at 18.1.

Thus: whereas Russia was economically sunningly stable at #36 from start to finish throughout the entire five-year period 2013-2017, starting with a misery-index of 19.9 in 2013 and ending with 18.1 in 2017, Ukraine went from a misery-index of 24.4 in 2013 to 36.9 in 2017 — and worsening its rank from #23 to #9. During that five-year period Ukraine’s figure peaked in the year of Obama’s coup at 57.8. So, at least Ukraine’s misery seems to be heading back downward in the coup’s aftermath, though it’s still considerably worse than before the coup. But, meanwhile, Russia went from 19.9 to 18.1 — and had no year that was as bad as Ukraine’s best year was during that period of time. And, yet: that coup and the economic sanctions and the US-Saudi oil-agreement were targeted against Russia — not against Ukraine.

If the US were trying to punish the people of Ukraine, then the US coup in Ukraine would have been a raving success; but actually Obama didn’t care at all about Ukrainians. He cared about the owners of America’s weapons-making firms and of America’s extractive firms. Trump likewise.

During that same period (also using Hanke’s numbers) the United States went from #71 at 11.0 in 2013, to #69 at 8.2 in 2017. US was stable.

Saudi Arabia started with #40 18.9 during 2013, to #30 at 20.2 in 2017. That’s improvement, because the Kingdom outperformed the global economy.

During the interim, and even in the years leading up to 2014, Russia had been (and still is) refocusing its economy away from Russia’s natural resources and toward a broad sector of high technology: military R&D and production.

On 15 December 2014, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute headlined, “Sales by Largest Arms Companies Fell Again in 2013, but Russian Firms’ Sales Continued Rising,” and reported, “Sales by companies headquartered in the United States and Canada have continued to moderately decrease, while sales by Russian-based companies increased by 20 per cent in 2013.”

The following year, SIPRI bannered, on 14 December 2015, “Global Arms Industry: West Still Dominant Despite Decline,” and reported that, “Despite difficult national economic conditions, the Russian arms industry’s sales continued to rise in 2014. … ‘Russian companies are riding the wave of increasing national military spending and exports. There are now 11 Russian companies in the Top 100 and their combined revenue growth over 2013–14 was 48.4 per cent,’ says SIPRI Senior Researcher Siemon Wezeman. In contrast, arms sales of Ukrainian companies have substantially declined. … US companies’ arms sales decreased by 4.1 per cent between 2013 and 2014, which is similar to the rate of decline seen in 2012–13. … Western European companies’ arms sales decreased by 7.4 per cent in 2014.”

This is a redirection of the Russian economy that Vladimir Putin was preparing even prior to Obama’s war against Russia. Perhaps it was because of the entire thrust of the US aristocracy’s post-Soviet determination to conquer Russia whenever the time would be right for NATO to strike and grab it. Obama’s public ambivalence about Russia never persuaded Putin that the US would finally put the Cold War behind it and end its NATO alliance as Russia had ended its Warsaw Pact back in 1991. Instead, Obama continued to endorse expanding NATO, right up to Russia’s borders (now even into Ukraine) — an extremely hostile act.

By building the world’s most cost-effective designers and producers of weaponry, Russia wouldn’t only be responding to America’s ongoing hostility — or at least responding to the determination of America’s aristocracy to take over Russia, which is the world’s largest trove of natural resources — but would also expand Russia’s export-earnings and international influence by selling to other countries weaponry that’s less-burdened with the costs of sheer corruption than are the armaments that are being produced in what is perhaps the world’s most corrupt military-industrial complex: America’s. Whereas Putin has tolerated corruption in other areas of Russia’s economic production (figuring that those areas are less crucial for Russia’s future), he has rigorously excluded it in the R&D and production and sales of weaponry. Ever since he first came into office in 2000, he has transformed post-Soviet Russia from being an unlimitedly corrupt satellite of the United States under Boris Yeltsin, to becoming truly an independent nation; and this infuriates America’s aristocrats (who gushed over Yeltsin).

The Russian government-monopoly marketing company for Russia’s weapons-manufacturers, Rosoboronexport, presents itself to nations around the world by saying: “Today, armaments and military equipment bearing the Made in Russia label protect independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of dozens of countries. Owing to their efficiency and reliability, Russian defense products enjoy strong demand on the global market and maintain our nation’s leading positions among the world’s arms exporters. For the past several years, Russia has consistently ranked second behind the United States as regards arms exports.” That’s second-and-rising, as opposed to America’s first-and-falling.

The American aristocracy’s ever-growing war against Russia posed and poses to Putin two simultaneous challenges: both to reorient away from Russia’s natural resources, which the global aristocracy wants to grab, and also to reorient toward the area of hi-tech in which the Soviets had built a basis from which Russia could become truly cost-effective in international commerce, so as to, simultaneously, increase Russia’s defensive capability against an expanding NATO, while also replacing some of Russia’s dependence upon the natural resources that the West’s aristocrats want to steal.

In other words: Putin designed a plan to meet two challenges simultaneously — military and economic. His primary aim is to protect Russia from being grabbed by the American and Saudi aristocrats, via America’s NATO and the Sauds’ Gulf Cooperation Council and other alliances (which are trying to take over Russia’s ally Syria — Syria being a crucial location for pipelining Arab royals’ oil-and-gas into Europe, the world’s largest energy-market).

In addition, the hit to Russia’s economic growth-rate from the dual-onslaught of Obama’s sanctions and the plunging oil prices hasn’t been too bad. The World Bank’s April 2015 “Russia Economic Report” predicted: “Growth prospects for 2015-2016 are negative. It is likely that when the full effects of the two shocks become evident in 2015, they will push the Russian economy into recession. The World Bank baseline scenario sees a contraction of 3.8 percent in 2015 and a modest decline of 0.3 percent in 2016. The growth spectrum presented has two alternative scenarios that largely reflect differences in how oil prices are expected to affect the main macro variables.”

The current (as of 15 February 2016) “Russia GDP Annual Growth Rate” at Trading Economics says: “The Russian economy shrank 3.8 percent year-on-year in the fourth quarter of 2015, following a 4.1 percent contraction in the previous period, according to preliminary estimates from the Economic Development Minister Alexey Ulyukayev. It is the worst performance since 2009 [George W. Bush’s global economic crash], as Western sanctions and lower oil prices hurt external trade and public revenues.” The current percentage as of today, 17 September 2018, is 1.9%, after having plunged down from 2.2% in late 2017, to 0.9% in late 2017; so, it is rebounding.

The World Bank’s April 2015 “Russia Economic Report” went on to describe “The Government Anti-Crisis Plan”:

On January 27, 2014, the government adopted an anti-crisis plan with the goal to ensure sustainable economic development and social stability in an unfavorable global economic and political environment.

It announced that in 2015–2016 it will take steps to advance structural changes in the Russian economy, provide support to systemic entities and the labor market, lower inflation, and help vulnerable households adjust to price increases. To achieve the objectives of positive growth and sustainable medium-term macroeconomic development the following measures are planned:

• Provide support for import substitution and non-mineral exports;

• Support small and medium enterprises by lowering financing and administrative costs;

• Create opportunities for raising financial resources at reasonable cost in key economic sectors;

• Compensate vulnerable households (e.g., pensioners) for the costs of inflation;

• Cushion the impact on the labor market (e.g. provide training and increase public works);

• Optimize budget expenditures; and

• Enhance banking sector stability and create a mechanism for reorganizing systemic companies.

So: Russia’s anti-crisis plan was drawn up and announced on 27 January 2014, already before Yanukovych was overthrown, even before Obama’s agent Victoria Nuland on 4 February 2014 instructed the US Ambassador in Ukraine whom to have appointed to run the government when the coup would be completed (“Yats,” who did get appointed). Perhaps, in drawing up this plan, Putin was responding to scenes from Ukraine like this. He could see that what was happening in Ukraine was an operation financed by the US CIA. He could recognize what Obama had in mind for Russia.

The “Russia Economic Report, May 2018: Modest Growth Ahead” says:

Global growth continued its 2017 momentum in early 2018. Global growth reached a stronger than- expected 3 percent in 2017 — a notable recovery from a post-crisis low of 2.4 percent in 2016. It is currently expected to peak at 3.1 percent in 2018. Recoveries in investment, manufacturing, and trade continue as commodity-exporting developing economies benefit from firming commodity prices (Figure 1a). The improvement reflects a broad-based recovery in advanced economies, robust growth in commodity-importing Emerging Markets and Developing Economies (EMDEs), and an ongoing rebound in commodity exporters. Growth in China – and important trading partner for Russia – is expected to continue its gradual slowdown in 2018 following a stronger than-expected 6.9 percent in 2017.

Putin’s economic plan has softened the economic blow upon the masses, even while it has re-oriented the economy toward what would be the future growth-areas.

The country that Putin in 2000 had taken over and inherited from the drunkard Yeltsin (so beloved by Western aristocrats because he permitted them to skim off so much from it) was a wreck even worse than it had been when the Soviet Union ended. Putin immediately set to work to turn it around, in a way that could meet those two demands.

Apparently, Putin has been succeeding — now even despite what the US aristocracy (and its allied aristocracies in Europe and Arabia) have been throwing to weaken Russia. And the Russian people know it.

PS: The present reporter is an American, and used to be a Democrat, not inclined to condemn Democratic politicians, but Obama’s grab for Russia was not merely exceedingly dangerous for the entire world, it is profoundly unjust, it is also based on his (and most Republicans’) neoconservative lies, and so I don’t support it, and I no longer support Obama or his and the Clintons’ Democratic Party, at all. But this certainly doesn’t mean that I support the Republican Party, which is typically even worse on this (and other matters) than Democratic politicians are. On almost all issues, I support Bernie Sanders, but I am not a part of anyone’s political campaign, in any way

Liked it? Take a second to support The Duran on Patreon!
Continue Reading

JOIN OUR YOUTUBE CHANNEL

Your donations make all the difference. Together we can expose fake news lies and deliver truth.

Amount to donate in USD$:

5 100

Validating payment information...
Waiting for PayPal...
Validating payment information...
Waiting for PayPal...
Advertisement

Advertisement

Quick Donate

The Duran
EURO
DONATE
Donate a quick 10 spot!
Advertisement
Advertisement

Advertisement

The Duran Newsletter

Trending