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Donald Trump’s team views Iran, not Russia, as major threat to US

All four of the persons selected by U.S. President-Elect Donald Trump for the top U.S. national-security posts are committed to replacing the outgoing U.S. President Barack Obama’s #1 military target, Russia, by a different #1 military target, Iran.

Eric Zuesse

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Published with the permission of the author. First appeared on strategic-culture.org

Saudi Arabia dominates above all other nations as a supplier of suicide bombers, and its royal family dominates as the world’s top financial backer of Al Qaeda and other jihadist groups, but incoming President Donald Trump has chosen to lead his national-security team, only people who blame Iran and not Saudi Arabia, as being the main source of international terrorism.

Iran has long been the #1 military target in the view of Michael Flynn, the chosen Trump National Security Advisor; and of James Mattis, the chosen Trump Secretary of Defense; and of Dan Coats, the chosen Trump Director of National Intelligence; and of Mike Pompeo, the chosen CIA Director.

Coats’s appointment to become the DNI in Trump’s Administration is a clear indication that Trump intends to refocus American foreign policy away from Russia as being America’s #1 enemy, to Iran as being that.

Like Lt. General Michael Flynn, who will be Trump’s National Security Advisor; and like Marine General James Mattis, who has been selected to be the head of the Defense Department; and like the next CIA Director, Mike Pompeo; Dan Coats views Shiite Iran, and not ‘America’s ally’ (the rabidly anti-Iranian) Sunni Saudi Arabia, as being the source of 9/11 and other terrorist acts against the U.S. and Europe.

However, in fact, Al Qaeda is funded mainly by the Sunni-fundamentalist Saudi royal family. Al Qaeda is a fundamentalist Sunni armed force, and it condemns Shiites; it is hostile toward Iran, not in any way an extension of Iran. ISIS, too, is Sunni-fundamentalist, and kills Shia. And all four men have said that America should, at least at the start, try to work with Russia against such ‘terrorists’ (meaning mainly against Iran, which actually produces vastly fewer terrorists than America’s Sunni-fundamentalist ‘allies’ do).

Russia has long been allied with Iran, and could provide the U.S. government crucial help to conquer Iran. The idea is to persuade Russia to sell-out Iran, instead of for Trump’s foreign policy to start off by continuing to treat Russia as being America’s number-one enemy (such as U.S. President Barack Obama did despite Obama’s having famously mocked Romney’s «Russia, this is, without question, America’s number one geopolitical foe»).

This means that President Trump intends to make a deal with Russia’s President Putin, for Russia to separate from and isolate, and so allow America’s (and/or Israel’s) military to defeat, Iran. (Invasions, after all, can be extremely profitable, for some people.) Also, for Marine General James Mattis and the entire Marine Corps, who have long craved revenge against the Iranian-backed suicide-bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Lebanon in 1983, conquering Iran would be a long-delayed sweet victory.

That terrorist act was against America’s support for Israel against Palestinians, which was one of the very few anti-Western jihadist acts that were Shiite-fundamentalist instead of Sunni-fundamentalist.

This foreign policy is based upon false assumptions, especially that terrorists are fundamentalist Shiites instead of fundamentalist Sunnis — such as they actually are. All of the 9/11 hijackers were fundamentalist Sunnis, and 15 of the 19 were Saudis. Virtually all Islamic terrorists except against Israel, are fundamentalist Sunnis. That’s just a fact — but one that the American aristocracy refuse to acknowledge publicly, because America’s aristocracy is allied with the Saudis and other Arabic, fundamentalist-Sunni, royal families: America’s ‘allies’ finance Al Qaeda and other such groups.

So, this is not a foreign policy that’s actually designed to overcome the terrorist threat against the United States (since jihadism doesn’t come from Iran but does come from America’s Arab ‘allies’), but it is a foreign policy that’s designed to continue the pretext for America’s overspending on the military (very profitable for the U.S. aristocracy). That, more than anything else, is what the U.S. aristocracy (who control the ‘defense’ firms such as Raytheon etc.) demand from their agents in the U.S. Congress and White House.

Even conquering Russia (in order to take its oil and gas etc.) isn’t as important to them as keeping the ‘defense’ (i.e., aggression) budget astronomically high. Obama’s method of meeting the aristocracy’s requirement was to boost strategic nuclear forces against Russia and to claim that he was doing it mainly against Iran and held no hostility against Russia. He lied in order to hide his plan — a plan in cooperation with the Gulf Arab countries and America’s vassal-states in Europe — to conquer Russia.

Here [with my comments in brackets] is from a speech that Senator Coats, the newly appointed DNI, delivered in the Senate on 17 November 2015:

* * *

We, the United States, need to show the world that threats to our principal freedoms are entirely unacceptable. Unfortunately, President Obama continues to fail to provide the American people with the leadership we so desperately need…

President Obama, in a shockingly dismissive tone, doubled down on his so-called strategy to deal with this global threat. What has his strategy to date accomplished? Well, ISIS [the most-fundamentalist of all Sunni sects] has expanded into more than half a dozen countries…

Time after time, the President has shown he simply doesn’t get it. In 2012, he boasted Al-Qaeda was on the path to defeat. In 2014, he dismissed the Islamic State as the «JV team», saying that ISIS «is not a direct threat to us nor something that we have to wade into». Last Thursday he said, «I don’t think [the Islamic State] is gaining strength» and saying «we have contained them». What will it take for this President to wake up and see what is happening around the world as a result of the ever-expanding threat of ISIS terrorism?..

I called for a diplomatic effort to persuade Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar [all three of which were actually allied with the U.S. in supporting Al Qaeda in Syria to overthrow and replace the Russia-allied Syria’s legitimate government, which is headed by the non-sectarian Shiite Bashar al-Assad], and other regions [all being Sunni] to join with us to resist more forcefully ISIS aggression.

Last year I called for much greater security assistance for our potential partners in the fight against ISIS… I said we also needed to find effective ways to support and directly arm the reliable, vetted Sunni tribes and Sunni leaders in Iraq who are essential partners in combatting ISIS extremism that ultimately are Sunni Islam’s greatest threat. 

[This is analogous to asserting that Dominionist fundamentalist Christians are ‘Christianity’s greatest threat’ — the greatest threat to Christianity. One might as well say that Orthodox or fundamentalist Jews are the greatest threat to Judaism. But Coats is himself a Dominionist fundamentalist Christian — a member of the super-secret «The Family» group of Washington insiders who aspire for the U.S. to take over the world for Christians. And he’s not saying that such Dominionist fundamentalist Christians are «Christianity’s greatest threat».] …

We need their engagement. They are in the crosshairs of ISIS. Why haven’t they stepped up? [The reason why is that the Saudis hire jihadists to attack and overthrow only other governments, not their own; same for the Thanis who control Qatar, and for all the other Arabic royal families: to overthrow only foreign governments, not their own.]… As I said, we also need to find effective ways to support the Sunni tribes and Sunni leaders. 

[He wants only Sunni Muslims as allies; no Shiites — this means that the leadership in both Iran and Syria need to be overthrown, not worked with.]… I have called for increased specialized military action by our own Armed Forces — intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and special forces — not a massive invasion. [This is exactly Obama’s approach.] …

Our bombing campaign — this strategy of bombing against ISIS targets — has been far from adequate. [He wants the Obama approach but more intense.]… Contrast this anemic bombing campaign with the bombing campaign before the first Gulf War, which was several thousand sorties a day.[He wants to get those American bomb-factories humming again at full capacity.] …

My bill would… recognize the reality that exists here in terms of abuse of the Visa Waiver Program or the possibility of abuse and inserting terrorists into the United States… When introducing this, I remember the response: Oh, that is too tough. Nothing is too tough these days to keep Americans safe. …

We need a comprehensive, realistic, articulate plan if we are going to destroy ISIS, and NATO action should be part of that plan…

Admiral Stavridis also suggests the possibility of forming some type of a coalition with Russia. We are seeing a strong Russian response today — last evening — once it was determined and proven the Russian airliner was brought down by a bomb and by ISIS. [He deceives there: Russia has consistently opposed jihadists and fundamentalist Islam itself; only the U.S. and its allies have supported jihadism, when it serves to defeat Russia or any government that’s friendly toward Russia. Coats knows this.] 

ISIS has taken credit for it, and ISIS will receive the wrath of the Russian military as a result [again repeating that lie about Russia], in direct contrast to what we have done for attempts on our own people. I am not a big fan of Putin. I am not a big fan of the current Russia government.

I spoke out strongly about Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea, and have strongly advocated for Russia’s diplomatic isolation. In fact, I so strongly advocated for it that Russia put me on a list of seven people who are banned from entering Russia for life. Well, I have been to Russia, and I don’t need to go back. So it is no big deal. Apparently it was a big deal to them. But now we are facing an emergency situation.

Russian forces are deployed in Syria. Russian efforts need to be coordinated with NATO efforts, if we go the NATO route. We are already coordinating in terms of some of our flights. As we learned in 1941, national emergencies can create strange bedfellows…

In conclusion, let me say this. In 2014, the leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, said:

Our last message is to the Americans: Soon we will be in direct confrontation, and the sons of Islam have prepared for such a day. So watch, for we are with you, watching.

This is the enemy we are dealing with. This is not some vague threat; this is a direct threat. We have seen how they carry out their direct threats, and we stand in the crosshairs.

* * *

There is no evidence whatsoever that either the Iranian regime, or any other Shia Muslims, participated in, or knowingly assisted, the 9/11 attacks. The 9/11 attackers were 100% Sunni and almost entirely Saudi — and the 9/11 Commission Report devoted only two of its 585 pages (240-241) to the topic, «Assistance from Hezbollah and Iran to al Qaeda» and was unable to find anything against Iran other than the Iranian regime’s attempts pre-9/11 to have cordial relations with both Al Qaeda and the Saudis.

The U.S. government never sought cordial relations with Iran, except when America’s coup-imposed stooge, the brutal Shah, infamous for torturing all opponents, headed Iran. Those attempts at rapprochement with the Saudis and their agents, bore no fruit. To the contrary, the Saudis, during Obama’s regime in the U.S., increased their hostility against Iran.

After 9/11, Iran sided with the U.S. even against Al Qaeda, but the U.S. government has even blamed Iran for 9/11, while covering-up the massive evidence that the Saudis had actually financed the 9/11 attacks. The U.S., under Obama, even sided with Hitler against Russia and Russians — and even against Jews. Obama was every bit as depraved a liar as was George W. Bush, but depended upon votes from the opposite Party of suckers of the U.S. aristocracy.

Regarding Mike Flynn, his international-affairs viewpoint is well summarized by the anti-Russian, but even more anti-Iranian, conservative commentator, Michael J. Totten, writing in the neoconservative World Affairs journal, headlining «How Trump’s General Mike Flynn Sees the World», and it’s remarkably similar to the views that were propounded there by Dan Coats. This is more an anti-Iranian neoconservatism, than an anti-Russian neoconservatism (which was backing Hillary Clinton).

Flynn is openly anti-Muslim, but that’s only because he erroneously equates what is actually fundamentalist-Sunni Islam, with Islam itself; and then he misattributes Shia Islam — and especially Iran — with that (alleged ‘Muslim’ threat), and he assumes that the jihadists who endanger Americans, the actually fundamentalist Sunnis who are financed actually by the U.S. aristocracy’s allies the Saudis and other fundamentalist-Sunni royal Arabic families, will somehow be able to become destroyed by an alliance between the U.S. government and those actual funders of jihadists (plus perhaps Russia, if Putin will agree to join Trump’s war against IRAN — not against the Saud family etc.).

It’s stupid, but apparently it’s sincere — not intended merely to advance Flynn’s career serving the U.S. oligarchy (who are even more obsessed to conquer Russia, like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were hoping to achieve, than they are to conquer Russia). Thus the U.S. aristocracy hate Trump’s guts even though he himself is a member of America’s aristocracy.

Marine General James Mattis, whom Trump has chosen to head the ‘Defense’ Department, is similarly focused against Iran and Shia Islam (including Hezbollah) as the main source of jihadism, and as being America’s number-one enemy. Consequently, on 4 December 2016, Mark Perry at Politico headlined «James Mattis’ 33-Year Grudge Against Iran», and he attributed Mattis’s obsessive hatred of Iran to the 23 October 1983 bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, by an Iranian, during the Lebanese civil war — an event that had turned the Marine Corps (the entire institution) rabid against Iran.

Perry wrote that «It was also this Iran obsession that led Obama to force Mattis’ retirement back in January 2013». Referring to Obama’s National Military Strategy, Perry wrote: «The gravest threat to America, according to the document, is not ‘Iran, Iran, Iran’ [as Mattis insisted], but ‘Russia, Russia, Russia’». Obama would not keep any general who failed to share his hatred of Russia.

At the far-right Heritage Foundation, on 13 May 2015, Mattis delivered a lecture in which he stated that jihadists are mainly Iranian or Shia (actually they’re almost 100% fundamentalist Sunnis, not Shia, and that’s one of several historical falsehoods in Mattis’s lecture). The only other major source of it that he even identified there was «the Muslim brothers in Cairo for a year» — by which he referred to the temporary Muslim Brotherhood rule of Egypt, from 30 June 2013 to 3 July 2013.

He didn’t mention there, for example, as being the main Sunni source of jihad, Al Qaeda, or ISIS — he gave as the main Sunni example of what he referred to as America’s number-one enemy, or «political Islam», the one example in which it was democratically elected into power (which jihadist groups never are).

He treated that «political Islam» which he identified as America’s top enemy, as being a threat that comes from the masses of Muslims (the Sunni public for example who voted Mohamed Morsi into Egypt’s Presidency) and not at all from the the Sunni elite (the royal families who own the Arabic nations that are allied with the U.S. aristocracy). He mentioned Sunni leaders only as being allies of America. Mattis is targeting only Iran’s aristocracy and public, and their supporters abroad.

As regards the next CIA Director, House Republican Mike Pompeo, Ryan Costello of the National Iranian American Council, bannered on 23 November 2016, «Trump CIA Pick Hyped Facts On Iran, Downplayed Costs Of War», and he wrote: «Pompeo has been a fierce ideological opponent of the Iran nuclear accord and gone out of his way to work to roll back the multilateral agreement. Perhaps most disconcertingly, Pompeo has downplayed the costs of bombing Iran», and «fought tooth and nail to prevent the deal from being struck».

Pompeo’s record is clear that he wants the U.S. to invade Iran. Furthermore, «Pompeo’s last tweet prior to his selection as Trump’s future CIA Director stated ‘I look forward to rolling back this disastrous deal with the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism’». This common neoconservative allegation — that Iran, instead of the Saudi royal family, is ‘the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism’ — contradicts the massive and compelling evidence, but now the U.S. CIA will be tasked to go full-bore ‘documenting’ this vicious, and bloody dangerous, lie.

Even Donald Trump’s opponent, the hater of Russia Hillary Clinton, said in her private communications:

«We need to use our diplomatic and more traditional intelligence assets to bring pressure on the governments of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which are providing clandestine financial and logistic support to ISIL and other radical Sunni groups in the region».

and, «Donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide».

She never mentioned that those «donors» — as Glenn Greenwald noted on 25 August 2016 — happened to have «donated between $10 million and $25 million to the Clinton Foundation, with donations coming as late as 2014, as she prepared her presidential run. A group called ‘Friends of Saudi Arabia,’ co-founded ‘by a Saudi Prince,’ gave an additional amount between $1 million and $5 million».

Those same people who funded the Clintons and Bushes had funded also Osama bin Laden. And, the Saud family own Saudi Arabia: the Saud family and the government of Saudi Arabia are the same entity. Like bin Laden’s former bagman said, «Without the money of the — of the Saudi you will have nothing». The Saud family are enemies of the American people, but to both Democratic and Republican Administrations, the Saud family, the Saudi government, are America’s ‘allies’.

Consequently, Donald Trump, like his predecessor, Obama, blames Iran, not Saudi Arabia — not the royal Saudis, who own Saudi Arabia — for Islamic terrorism. Trump, apparently, shares President Obama’s 100% backing of immunity for the dictatorial Saudi royal family’s financing the 9/11 attacks and for their continuing to finance Al Qaeda and other jihadist groups.

Obama had said that if the leaders of Saudi Arabia wouldn’t be immune for perpetrating 9/11, then American Presidents could similarly be prosecuted by other nations, perhaps (for example) like for Obama’s bloody coup overthrowing Ukraine’s democratically elected and Moscow-friendly President in 2014.

America’s mainstream news media supported him on that immunity for all international leaders, and even Britain’s liberal Guardian also reported favorably on Obama’s support for sovereign immunity (which puts The West now against — for example — the Nuremberg Tribunals, as merely victors’ ‘justice’ in the eyes of The West’s aristocracies today). (Hitler would be pleased.) Obama’s blaming Iran for such jihadists, will thus almost certainly be continued by President Donald Trump, and there will be no ‘draining of the swamp’ accountability, such as Trump had campaigned on.

Even the American public approve of President Obama’s Presidency; so, they’re not bothered by his having constantly lied to them. The 9/11 victim-families are thus chillingly ignored by both the American public, and the American aristocracy (who actually control the government). Trump need not worry, so long as his words feed the standard (aristocracy-created) myths, which both Trump and Obama do very effectively.

Maybe the only good thing that one can reasonably say about Donald Trump as U.S. President is that, unlike his electoral opponent Hillary Clinton, he’s not heavily committed to forcing World War III. In fact, unlike her (and President Obama), he’s not (at least not yet) at all committed to conquering Russia. But still, America’s aristocracy rules; only now they’re aiming to conquer Iran, instead of to conquer Russia. They’ve chosen a less dangerous, more vulnerable, target, for the time being.

But as regards destroying jihadists, that’s still not their top foreign-policy, national ‘security’, objective. Conquest is. It’s still a neoconservative regime, just a less dangerous variety of that.

The American people have already been conquered by the American aristocracy. It has been done by lies, and by the public’s tolerance of being lied-to.

So, the people in Iran have sound reason now to be very worried.

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Airline wars heat up, as industry undergoes massive disruption (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 145.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris examine the global commercial airline industry, which is undergoing massive changes, as competition creeps in from Russia and China.

Reuters reports that Boeing Co’s legal troubles grew as a new lawsuit accused the company of defrauding shareholders by concealing safety deficiencies in its 737 MAX planes before two fatal crashes led to their worldwide grounding.

The proposed class action filed in Chicago federal court seeks damages for alleged securities fraud violations, after Boeing’s market value tumbled by $34 billion within two weeks of the March 10 crash of an Ethiopian Airlines 737 MAX.

*****

According to the complaint, Boeing “effectively put profitability and growth ahead of airplane safety and honesty” by rushing the 737 MAX to market to compete with Airbus SE, while leaving out “extra” or “optional” features designed to prevent the Ethiopian Airlines and Lion Air crashes.

It also said Boeing’s statements about its growth prospects and the 737 MAX were undermined by its alleged conflict of interest from retaining broad authority from federal regulators to assess the plane’s safety.

*****

Boeing said on Tuesday that aircraft orders in the first quarter fell to 95 from 180 a year earlier, with no orders for the 737 MAX following the worldwide grounding.

On April 5, it said it planned to cut monthly 737 production to 42 planes from 52, and was making progress on a 737 MAX software update to prevent further accidents.

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Via Zerohedge…

Step aside (fading) trade war with China: there is a new aggressor – at least according to the US Trade Rep Robert Lighthizer – in town.

In a statement on the USTR’s website published late on Monday, the US fair trade agency announced that under Section 301 of the Trade Act, it was proposing a list of EU products to be covered by additional duties. And as justification for the incremental import taxes, the USTR said that it was in response to EU aircraft subsidies, specifically to Europea’s aerospace giant, Airbus, which “have caused adverse effects to the United States” and which the USTR estimates cause $11 billion in harm to the US each year

One can’t help but notice that the latest shot across the bow in the simmering trade war with Europe comes as i) Trump is reportedly preparing to fold in his trade war with China, punting enforcement to whoever is president in 2025, and ii) comes just as Boeing has found itself scrambling to preserve orders as the world has put its orderbook for Boeing 737 MAX airplanes on hold, which prompted Boeing to cut 737 production by 20% on Friday.

While the first may be purely a coincidence, the second – which is expected to not only slam Boeing’s financials for Q1 and Q2, but may also adversely impact US GDP – had at least some impact on the decision to proceed with these tariffs at this moment.

We now await Europe’s angry response to what is Trump’s latest salvo in what is once again a global trade war. And, paradoxically, we also expect this news to send stocks blasting higher as, taking a page from the US-China trade book, every day algos will price in imminent “US-European trade deal optimism.”

Below the full statement from the USTR (link):

USTR Proposes Products for Tariff Countermeasures in Response to Harm Caused by EU Aircraft Subsidies

The World Trade Organization (WTO) has found repeatedly that European Union (EU) subsidies to Airbus have caused adverse effects to the United States.  Today, the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) begins its process under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974 to identify products of the EU to which additional duties may be applied until the EU removes those subsidies.

USTR is releasing for public comment a preliminary list of EU products to be covered by additional duties.  USTR estimates the harm from the EU subsidies as $11 billion in trade each year.  The amount is subject to an arbitration at the WTO, the result of which is expected to be issued this summer.

“This case has been in litigation for 14 years, and the time has come for action. The Administration is preparing to respond immediately when the WTO issues its finding on the value of U.S. countermeasures,” said U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.  “Our ultimate goal is to reach an agreement with the EU to end all WTO-inconsistent subsidies to large civil aircraft.  When the EU ends these harmful subsidies, the additional U.S. duties imposed in response can be lifted.”

In line with U.S. law, the preliminary list contains a number of products in the civil aviation sector, including Airbus aircraft.  Once the WTO arbitrator issues its report on the value of countermeasures, USTR will announce a final product list covering a level of trade commensurate with the adverse effects determined to exist.

Background

After many years of seeking unsuccessfully to convince the EU and four of its member States (France, Germany, Spain, and the United Kingdom) to cease their subsidization of Airbus, the United States brought a WTO challenge to EU subsidies in 2004. In 2011, the WTO found that the EU provided Airbus $18 billion in subsidized financing from 1968 to 2006.  In particular, the WTO found that European “launch aid” subsidies were instrumental in permitting Airbus to launch every model of its large civil aircraft, causing Boeing to lose sales of more than 300 aircraft and market share throughout the world.

In response, the EU removed two minor subsidies, but left most of them unchanged.  The EU also granted Airbus more than $5 billion in new subsidized “launch aid” financing for the A350 XWB.  The United States requested establishment of a compliance panel in March 2012 to address the EU’s failure to remove its old subsidies, as well as the new subsidies and their adverse effects.  That process came to a close with the issuance of an appellate report in May 2018 finding that EU subsidies to high-value, twin-aisle aircraft have caused serious prejudice to U.S. interests.  The report found that billions of dollars in launch aid to the A350 XWB and A380 cause significant lost sales to Boeing 787 and 747 aircraft, as well as lost market share for Boeing very large aircraft in the EU, Australia, China, Korea, Singapore, and UAE markets.

Based on the appellate report, the United States requested authority to impose countermeasures worth $11.2 billion per year, commensurate with the adverse effects caused by EU subsidies.  The EU challenged that estimate, and a WTO arbitrator is currently evaluating those claims

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Mueller report takes ‘Russian meddling’ for granted, offers no actual evidence

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Via RT…


Special counsel Robert Mueller’s ‘Russiagate’ report has cleared Donald Trump of ‘collusion’ charges but maintains that Russia meddled in the 2016 US presidential election. Yet concrete evidence of that is nowhere to be seen.

The report by Mueller and his team, made public on Thursday by the US Department of Justice, exonerates not just Trump but all Americans of any “collusion” with Russia, “obliterating” the Russiagate conspiracy theory, as journalist Glenn Greenwald put it.

However, it asserts that Russian “interference” in the election did happen, and says it consisted of a campaign on social media as well as Russian military intelligence (repeatedly referred to by its old, Soviet-era name, GRU) “hacking” the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), the DNC, and the private email account of Hillary Clinton’s campaign chair, John Podesta.

As evidence of this, the report basically offers nothing but Mueller’s indictment of “GRU agents,” delivered on the eve of the Helsinki Summit between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin in what was surely a cosmic coincidence.

Indictments are not evidence, however, but allegations. Any time it looks like the report might be bringing up proof, it ends up being redacted, ostensibly to protect sources and methods, and out of concern it might cause “harm to an ongoing matter.”

‘Active measures’ on social media

Mueller’s report leads with the claim that the Internet Research Agency (IRA) ran an “active measures” campaign of social media influence. Citing Facebook and Twitter estimates, the report says this consisted of 470 Facebook accounts that made 80,000 posts that may have been seen by up to 126 million people, between January 2015 and August 2017 (almost a year after the election), and 3,814 Twitter accounts that “may have been” in contact with about 1.4 million people.

Those numbers may seem substantial but, as investigative journalist Gareth Porter pointed out in November 2018, they should be regarded against the background of 33 trillion Facebook posts made during the same period.

According to Mueller, the IRA mind-controlled the American electorate by spending “approximately $100,000” on Facebook ads, hiring someone to walk around New York City “dressed up as Santa Claus with a Trump mask,” and getting Trump campaign affiliates to promote “dozens of tweets, posts, and other political content created by the IRA.” Dozens!

Meanwhile, the key evidence against IRA’s alleged boss Evgeny Prigozhin is that he “appeared together in public photographs” with Putin.

Alleged hacking & release

The report claims that the GRU hacked their way into 29 DCCC computers and another 30 DNC computers, and downloaded data using software called “X-Tunnel.” It is unclear how Mueller’s investigators claim to know this, as the report makes no mention of them or FBI actually examining DNC or DCCC computers. Presumably they took the word of CrowdStrike, the Democrats’ private contractor, for it.

However obtained, the documents were published first through DCLeaks and Guccifer 2.0 – which the report claims are “fictitious online personas” created by the GRU – and later through WikiLeaks. What is Mueller’s proof that these two entities were “GRU” cutouts? In a word, this:

That the Guccifer 2.0 persona provided reporters access to a restricted portion of the DCLeaks website tends to indicate that both personas were operated by the same or a closely-related group of people.(p. 43)

However, the report acknowledges that the “first known contact” between Guccifer 2.0 and WikiLeaks was on September 15, 2016 – months after the DNC and DCCC documents were published! Here we do get actual evidence: direct messages on Twitter obtained by investigators. Behold, these “spies” are so good, they don’t even talk – and when they do, they use unsecured channels.

Mueller notably claims “it is clear that the stolen DNC and Podesta documents were transferred from the GRU to WikiLeaks” (the rest of that sentence is redacted), but the report clearly implies the investigators do not actually know how. On page 47, the report says Mueller “cannot rule out that stolen documents were transferred to WikiLeaks through intermediaries who visited during the summer of 2016.”

Strangely, the report accuses WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange of making “public statements apparently designed to obscure the source” of the materials (p.48), notably the offer of a reward for finding the murderer of DNC staffer Seth Rich – even though this can be read as corroborating the intermediaries theory, and Assange never actually said Rich was his source.

The rest of Mueller’s report goes on to discuss the Trump campaign’s contacts with anyone even remotely Russian and to create torturous constructions that the president had “obstructed” justice by basically defending himself from charges of being a Russian agent – neither of which resulted in any indictments, however. But the central premise that the 22-month investigation, breathless media coverage, and the 448-page report are based on – that Russia somehow meddled in the 2016 election – remains unproven.

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Rumors of War: Washington Is Looking for a Fight

The bill stands up for NATO and prevents the President from pulling the US out of the Alliance without a Senate vote.

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Authored by Philip Giraldi via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


It is depressing to observe how the United States of America has become the evil empire. Having served in the United States Army during the Vietnam War and in the Central Intelligence Agency for the second half of the Cold War, I had an insider’s viewpoint of how an essentially pragmatic national security policy was being transformed bit by bit into a bipartisan doctrine that featured as a sine qua non global dominance for Washington. Unfortunately, when the Soviet Union collapsed the opportunity to end once and for all the bipolar nuclear confrontation that threatened global annihilation was squandered as President Bill Clinton chose instead to humiliate and use NATO to contain an already demoralized and effectively leaderless Russia.

American Exceptionalism became the battle cry for an increasingly clueless federal government as well as for a media-deluded public. When 9/11 arrived, the country was ready to lash out at the rest of the world. President George W. Bush growled that “There’s a new sheriff in town and you are either with us or against us.” Afghanistan followed, then Iraq, and, in a spirit of bipartisanship, the Democrats came up with Libya and the first serious engagement in Syria. In its current manifestation, one finds a United States that threatens Iran on a nearly weekly basis and tears up arms control agreements with Russia while also maintaining deployments of US forces in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia and places like Mali. Scattered across the globe are 800 American military bases while Washington’s principal enemies du jour Russia and China have, respectively, only one and none.

Never before in my lifetime has the United States been so belligerent, and that in spite of the fact that there is no single enemy or combination of enemies that actually threaten either the geographical United States or a vital interest. Venezuela is being threatened with invasion primarily because it is in the western hemisphere and therefore subject to Washington’s claimed proconsular authority. Last Wednesday Vice President Mike Pence told the United Nations Security Council that the White House will remove Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro from power, preferably using diplomacy and sanctions, but “all options are on the table.” Pence warned that Russia and other friends of Maduro need to leave now or face the consequences.

The development of the United States as a hostile and somewhat unpredictable force has not gone unnoticed. Russia has accepted that war is coming no matter what it does in dealing with Trump and is upgrading its forces. By some estimates, its army is better equipped and more combat ready than is that of the United States, which spends nearly ten times as much on “defense.”

Iran is also upgrading its defensive capabilities, which are formidable. Now that Washington has withdrawn from the nuclear agreement with Iran, has placed a series of increasingly punitive sanctions on the country, and, most recently, has declared a part of the Iranian military to be a “foreign terrorist organization” and therefore subject to attack by US forces at any time, it is clear that war will be the next step. In three weeks, the United States will seek to enforce a global ban on any purchases of Iranian oil. A number of countries, including US nominal ally Turkey, have said they will ignore the ban and it will be interesting to see what the US Navy intends to do to enforce it. Or what Iran will do to break the blockade.

But even given all of the horrific decisions being made in the White House, there is one organization that is far crazier and possibly even more dangerous. That is the United States Congress, which is, not surprisingly, a legislative body that is viewed positively by only 18 per cent of the American people.

A current bill originally entitled the “Defending American Security from Kremlin Aggression Act (DASKA) of 2019,” is numbered S-1189. It has been introduced in the Senate which will “…require the Secretary of State to determine whether the Russian Federation should be designated as a state sponsor of terrorism and whether Russian-sponsored armed entities in Ukraine should be designated as foreign terrorist organizations.” The bill is sponsored by Republican Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado and is co-sponsored by Democrat Robert Menendez of New Jersey.

The current version of the bill was introduced on April 11th and it is by no means clear what kind of support it might actually have, but the fact that it actually has surfaced at all should be disturbing to anyone who believes it is in the world’s best interest to avoid direct military confrontation between the United States and Russia.

In a a press release by Gardner, who has long been pushing to have Russia listed as a state sponsor of terrorism, a February version of the bill is described as “…comprehensive legislation [that] seeks to increase economic, political, and diplomatic pressure on the Russian Federation in response to Russia’s interference in democratic processes abroad, malign influence in Syria, and aggression against Ukraine, including in the Kerch Strait. The legislation establishes a comprehensive policy response to better position the US government to address Kremlin aggression by creating new policy offices on cyber defenses and sanctions coordination. The bill stands up for NATO and prevents the President from pulling the US out of the Alliance without a Senate vote. It also increases sanctions pressure on Moscow for its interference in democratic processes abroad and continued aggression against Ukraine.”

The February version of the bill included Menendez, Democrat Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, Democrat Ben Cardin of Maryland and Republican Lindsey Graham of South Carolina as co-sponsors, suggesting that provoking war is truly bipartisan in today’s Washington.

Each Senator co-sponsor contributed a personal comment to the press release. Gardner observed that “Putin’s Russia is an outlaw regime that is hell-bent on undermining international law and destroying the US-led liberal global order.” Menendez noted that “President Trump’s willful paralysis in the face of Kremlin aggression has reached a boiling point in Congress” while Graham added that “Our goal is to change the status quo and impose meaningful sanctions and measures against Putin’s Russia. He should cease and desist meddling in the US electoral process, halt cyberattacks on American infrastructure, remove Russia from Ukraine, and stop efforts to create chaos in Syria.” Cardin contributed “Congress continues to take the lead in defending US national security against continuing Russian aggression against democratic institutions at home and abroad” and Shaheen observed that “This legislation builds on previous efforts in Congress to hold Russia accountable for its bellicose behavior against the United States and its determination to destabilize our global world order.”

The Senatorial commentary is, of course, greatly exaggerated and sometimes completely false regarding what is going on in the world, but it is revealing of how ignorant American legislators can be and often are. The Senators also ignore the fact that the designation of presumed Kremlin surrogate forces as “foreign terrorist organizations” is equivalent to a declaration of war against them by the US military, while hypocritically calling Russia a state sponsor of terrorism is bad enough, as it is demonstrably untrue. But the real damage comes from the existence of the bill itself. It will solidify support for hardliners on both sides, guaranteeing that there will be no rapprochement between Washington and Moscow for the foreseeable future, a development that is bad for everyone involved. Whether it can be characterized as an unintended consequence of unwise decision making or perhaps something more sinister involving a deeply corrupted congress and administration remains to be determined.

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