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How Mainstream Media Join the US Government Offensive Against Iran: Case Study of Reuters

How a single Reuters article became central to the US disinformation effort against Iran

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This article is republished in full with the author’s permission.  First published by Consortium News and the Strategic Culture Foundation

Ever since the beginning of the Iranian Islamic Revolution, the United States has been leading a propaganda campaign against Iran, minimizing own harmful role in key historical events, justifying an ousted monarchist regime, and demonizing the new political system. Frequently it is done in lighter forms, for example by claiming that new government is far from perfect or even the same as a previous one, but the methods can sometimes be so radical that the characteristics of the two systems are completely inverted.

While the Reuters claims Iran is active in spreading disinformation online, the history of the agency’s reports about Iran shows the opposite. The latest of such reports is a false report about Iran’s missile program. The falsehood of the article has been dissected here. The case which I have dissected is a 2013 article authored by Steve Stecklow, Babak Dehghanpisheh, and Yeganeh Torbati. The article represents a perfect example of such radicalism and disinformation reporting about Iran.

The Reuters report has been cited by at least four books published one after another, the most recently in 2018. The books are “Iran’s Political Economy since the Revolution” by Suzanne Maloney (2015); “Democracy in Iran: Why It Failed and How It Might Succeed”by Misagh Parsa (2016); “Challenging Theocracy: Ancient Lessons for Global Politics” by David Tabachnick, Toivo Koivukoski, and Herminio Meireles Teixeira (2018); and “Losing Legitimacy: The End of Khomeini’s Charismatic Shadow and Regional Security” by Clifton W. Sherrill (2018).

The chorus doesn’t stop there and it’s not limited to academic publishing or book industry. The 2013 report lays the ground for an ongoing war of words and decisions to impose more sanctions on Iran. Speaking at Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Library in July 22, 2018, Secretary of State Mark Pompeo used the ­2013 Reuters report to attack Iran; he said:

And not many people know this, but the Ayatollah Khamenei has his own personal, off-the-books hedge fund called the Setad, worth $95 billion, with a B. That wealth is untaxed, it is ill-gotten, and it is used as a slush fund for the IRGC. The ayatollah fills his coffers by devouring whatever he wants. In 2013 the Setad’s agents banished an 82-year-old Baha’i woman from her apartment and confiscated the property after a long campaign of harassment. Seizing land from religious minorities and political rivals is just another day at the office for this juggernaut that has interests in everything from real estate to telecoms to ostrich farming. All of it is done with the blessing of Ayatollah Khamenei.”

The speech applauded by Iran hawks in Washington.

The year 2013 was the year of big news about Iran. Four months before the release of the Reuters’­ ­article, CIA finally admitted role in 1953 Iranian coup

Marking the sixtieth anniversary of the overthrow of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddeq, the National Security Archive is today posting recently declassified CIA documents on the United States’ role in the controversial operation. American and British involvement in Mosaddeq’s ouster has long been public knowledge, but today’s posting includes what is believed to be the CIA’s first formal acknowledgement that the agency helped to plan and execute the coup.”

Disinformation is dangerous. It used once to oust democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh, and has been leveraged again to bring back the Shah of Iran, William David Pear writes. He continues,

“Since Iran was a developing democracy, an excuse had to be found for a US intervention. Churchill accused Mossadegh of being a communist. There was no evidence that he was. Mossadegh was an anti-colonial nationalist who cared about the welfare of the Iranian people, and that was all the evidence that Eisenhower needed. Mossadegh had to be punished for standing up to the British and demanding Iran’s natural resources for the benefit of the Iranian people.”

The 2013 article of Reuters reminds us of the same pattern of disinformation about Iran.

The ­2013 Reuters story claims that the Execution of Imam Khomeini’s Order (EIKO), also known as Setad, a little-known organization created to help the poor, morphed into the $95 billion financial empire controlled by Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. More precisely, they uncovered something unknown to Western intelligence services, economists and most prominent scholars of Iranian studies, even to the Iranian leadership themselves. In fact, much to the contrary, among ordinary Iranians the organization is known for their social programs, helping the poor families and doing charity works.

According to the Reuters article, the Iranian president’s office and the Foreign Ministry didn’t respond to requests for comment. Iran’s embassy in the UAE issued a statement calling their findings “scattered and disparate” and said that “none has any basis,” but it didn’t elaborate. Hamid Vaezi, the Setad‘s then director general of public relations, said that the information presented is “far from realities and is not correct,” but he also didn’t go into specifics. Their short denials are understandable, considering that the same response would be received from a scientist if asked to make a serious review of a fantasy book. For the same reason, there is no scientific review of Reuters‘ article. Fortunately, this review will go deeply into the details, focusing on personal testimonies and claims of several groups of informers, thus developing a linear counter-story.

Baha’i personal testimonies

First, there’s the story of Pari Vahdat-e-Hagh, an 82-year-old Baha’i woman living in Europe, who claims that she lost family’s property, more precisely three apartments in a multi-story building in Tehran, allegedly “built with the blood of herself and her husband.” She further claims that her husband Hussein was imprisoned in 1981 because he began working for a gas company that had been set up to assist unemployed members of the Baha’i faith, and finally executed a year later. All of this happened, as the article claims, just because they were Baha’i.

The article does not mention the fact that her husband, alleged philanthropist, was actually a lieutenant in Pahlavi regime’s military. It neither mentions the conditions for obtaining such amount of property in Iran’s capital city center at that time. Ordinary military personnel were provided with an apartment, but not three apartments, nor was it possible to earn such vast properties with a salary of a lieutenant and teacher, no matter how hard you work. Miss Vahdat-e-Hagh explicitly stated that all had been obtained by herself and her husband, so it’s very easy to exclude the possibility of inheritance.

The only way of being awarded with three apartments was, in fact, an extraordinary and obedient service to the Pahlavi’s regime, and taking into account that Hussein Vahdat-e-Hagh’s career was military as well as the only war that Shah led was one against his own people, his merits to the dictatorship become crystal clear. This also perfectly explains why Hussein Vahdat-e-Hagh was imprisoned and executed, while tens of thousands of other Baha’is and hundreds of ordinary lieutenants, those without ‘special merits’ and three apartments, were not. In other words, the only blood that Vahdat-e-Hagh mentioned can be the blood of the people and the blood on her husband’s hands. Fake philanthropy and contradictions do not stop here.

Pari Vahdat-e-Hagh, also known as Paridokht Khaze, lives in Berlin where she earns a living by giving interviews and selling memoirs about the Baha’i victimhood. In the preface of her 2014 book titled “In Search of Justice,” Vahdat-e-Hagh claimed that before the 1979 revolution she had hoped to one day fulfill her dream of serving the needy in Africa. Before selling fictitious biographies, according to her own personal testimony to Reuters, during the 1980s she was living in one of the above-mentioned three apartments and was earning by renting other two. During these years of war the country was full of orphans and the poor, but giving any free accommodation was obviously out of the question for a self-proclaimed philanthropist.

Her lucrative rental business continued in the 1990s when she was living in Germany, taking the rental income out of all three apartments. According to the Reuters article, she left Iran in 1993 and it took six years before Iranian authorities realized she was no longer living in the country. This information contradicts her other statement that government representatives came to her apartment and threatened to beat her if she did not leave, while she bravely opposed them and yelled: “You can come and kill me.” So this old lady, allegedly under constant pressure and control, indeed left her apartment and was further able to leave the country, and the government, allegedly so greedy for her properties that it sent thugs at her doors, did not even notice that she’s out of the country and renting the same properties for six years. Makes perfect sense, isn’t it?

In both the Reuters article and the Vahdat-e-Hagh’s memoirs, her departure from Iran is described as some sort of “courageous escape” typical for a dissident genre, from books to Hollywood movies. In reality, she was free to leave the country and there was no any ban, no control, no chase at the airport. In the Reuters article, her false courage and principles are additionally enhanced by claims that government finally discovered her absence and demanded to pay rent on the unit, but she refused. The reality is again quite the opposite: she was actually refusing to pay tax on the rental income profit for six years, and in the meantime, she did not even report the change of address i.e. living abroad. Putting aside the controversial origin of properties, the consequences of such long-term lawbreaking are pretty much identical all over the world.

The Reuters‘ caricature story of courage and injustice ends with a claim that Vahdat-e-Hagh’s “stolen” building appears to be vacant, most of the windows are broken, and property’s ownership isn’t clear. This rumors allegedly came from merchants in the neighborhood, but how three Reuters journalists based in New York, London and Dubai managed to obtain the information in the streets of Tehran, also isn’t clear. Even less clear is their message, which may imply either that the building remains unused since Vahdat-e-Hagh stopped renting it, or it is basically worthless. Both possibilities make the whole story even less credible than it already is. Most likely, it is only a dystopian allegory or their own fantasy conception of post-revolutionary Iran.

Besides the story of Vahdat-e-Haghs, the Reuters article also offers the story of Katirais, yet another Baha’i family, whose narrative is similar in terms of structure. Again, there’s a rented three-story building in central Tehran, owner’s emigration to Canada, controversial ties to the Pahlavi regime, and of course, “just because they’re Baha’i” cliche. Apart from the building, there’re also 750 hectares of land around the city of Hamedan in northwest Iran. The Iranian official version says that owner had left the country and had abandoned properties, as well as that prior to 1979 he collaborated with the Pahlavi government, while owner’s daughter Heideh Katirai claims that he was being targeted solely because of his religion and never had any ties to the Shah’s government. Now, who to trust?

Making a choice on this question is much easier if we consider there was the Shah’s White Revolution of 1963 which its purpose was to weaken those classes that supported the traditional system, primarily landed elites. Virtually all landlords lost their possessions, with only a few exceptions, i.e. just those with close ties to the government were spared. Taking also into account that the general status of Baha’is during the Pahlavi period was far from thriving, the claim that a Baha’i person without any connections to the Shah’s regime could keep 750 hectares of land and stay intact by land reforms, is clearly an insolent lie.

Instead of sticking to the facts known to every historian and Iranian, Reuters journalists use logically fallacious methods like appeals to emotion through empathy, false dilemmas, and good ol’ victimhood. For example, an article quotes Katirai’s daughter saying “I took my kids there every Friday to see the family” and “each corner of that house is a memory for us.” One may wonder whether these trite phrases can be applied in the same way to their former land holdings, perhaps “every single square meter is a memory for them” also, out of 7,500,000 square meters in total. Such colossal amount of land was highly uncommon even for the richest landlords, and since Katirais weren’t historically attested among noble or wealthy merchant families prior to the Pahlavi period, it is clear that they did not just keep the property due to the ties with the Shah’s regime, but they also gained it.

Other statements are less subtle and bear aggressive religious and political messages. “We know that Islam is a religion of peace, but how can a government that claims to be an Islamic government allow this to happen?” Katirai’s daughter had asked, and thus offered the false dilemma: either the Iranian government is not Islamic, or Islam is not a religion of peace. The third option, unoffered in the article but the most realistic one, is that she is a liar and demagogue. Additional evidence for it is yet another her claim that legal representatives refused to consider her father’s case solely because he did not belong to any of three constitutive minorities: Zoroastrians, Jews or Christians. This implies that all others, from Iranian Hindus to foreign-born East Asian communities, have no any legal rights. Utterly bizarre.

Legal and human rights “experts”

Another group of people used as a reference in the Reuters article are self-proclaimed human rights “experts” and lawyers, all Iranian-born and living abroad. The first one is Naghi Mahmoudi who in the introduction claimed that Khamenei as the Supreme leader oversaw the creation of a body of legal rulings and executive orders that enabled and safeguarded asset acquisitions, as well as that no supervisory organization can question its property. The article represents him as a “lawyer” and uncritically accepts his allegations which serve as the basis for further elaboration.

In reality, Naghi Mahmoudi is only a pity political activist who has a history of lying and manipulating. Back in mid-2010, Mahmoudi and his colleague Javid Hustan Kian claimed to be defectors and “lawyers” of an Iranian woman sentenced to lapidation, but the whole case turned out to be a well-organized hoax, while they were disclosed as impostors and members of the MEK terrorist cult. In the meantime, he almost completely vanished from the media, held several pro-MEK speeches in Germany, and sometimes shared a propaganda material on Twitter, including ridiculous pan-Turkist claims that “40% of Iranians are Azeri Turks deprived of basic human rights.” Ironically, even Ali Khamenei was born into an Azeri family, as the Reuters article correctly mentions.

The biographical details of other informers are no less controversial. Ottawa-based Hossein Raeesi is a legal advisor to the IHRDC, a US government-sponsored organization blacklisted as subversive by the Iranian Interior Ministry, and London-based Mohammad Nayyeri is a close associate of Shadi Sadr, an anti-Iranian activist who publicly advocated Arab separatism in Iran. It is interesting that both of them, along with certain Beverly Hills-based Reghabi couple, complain about legal complications over the return of property, but at the same time, they confirm it is actually possible and feasible. It only takes time, and money, as everywhere.

However, the informers could not agree on a precise legal fee, some of them claiming it is 20% while others even over 50%. Since both amounts are obviously extremely exaggerated and hardly provable, for this purpose two anonymous jump into the story and Reuters journalists use their testimonies as evidence. The first is an Iranian Shi’ite Muslim businessman now living abroad who put fee at 55%, and the second is alleged Nayyeri’s client who recovered the house but had to pay 20% of the property’s assessed value, a religious payment called “khoms” mandated under Islamic law. No names, no documents, and no sense. To fill such logical gaps and inconsistent claims, journalists also used orientalist cliché of ubiquitous corruption.

Political circles

Finally, the last group of informers consists of individuals more deeply involved in politics, comparing to the previous activists who operate under the guise of human rights. The Reuters article intentionally conceals the organizations they represent and introduces them as respectable scholars and politicians, allegedly authoritative on the subject. For example, three journalists first claim that they had identified “about $95 billion in property and corporate assets controlled by Setad” and that amount “surpasses independent historians’ estimates of the late shah’s wealth,” and as an evidence for such comparison they further used statements by Abbas Milani who believes the estimate of the Shah’s fortune was “extremely exaggerated” and stood at “a billion dollars.” In other words, about $3 billion in today’s money, or only a fraction of the worth of Setad‘s holdings, Reuters concluded.

It is hard to enumerate how many manipulations this escapade contains. First of all, there are no “historians” here, but only one, namely Abbas Milani, who is far from “independent” because he is a member of the neoconservative Hoover Institution, an advocate of multilateral crippling sanctions against Iran in the US Congress. His books are full of revisionist portrayal of the US role in the 1953 coup, support of the Pahlavi regime’s oppression, the 1979 Revolution and afterward, and he offers other contorted interpretations like a claim that “Iran went from politically moderate Monarchy to totalitarian Islamic Republic.” Milani’s statement about the Pahlavi fortune does not represent a historical consensus, nor a serious scholarly assessment, only utter whitewashing of the Shah’s financial crime.

Already in January 1979, the New York Times reported that the Pahlavi wealth is rivaled in the Middle East only by the holdings of the Sauds of Saudi Arabia and the al‐Sabah dynasty in Kuwait, and according to bankers, the Shah’s personal portfolio is worth “well over $1 billion.” New York bankers told journalists that “a substantial part of the $2 billion to $4 billion belongs to the Pahlavi family,” speaking only of the sums that have been “transferred from Iran to the United States during last two years” [1977 and 1978]. The NYT article further states that “the accumulation of immense sums was made possible through the blurring of state funds and royal funds in Iran,” primarily the Pahlavi Foundation which the Shah controlled absolutely.

In 1958, the Shah formed the Pahlavi Foundation, declaring at the time that he was transferring 90% of his holding to the new institution, a combination of charitable organization and family trust. Documents proved the royal family’s penetration of almost every corner of the nation’s economy, including among other things 17 banks and insurance companies, an 80% ownership in the nation’s third-largest insurance company, 25 metal enterprises, 8 mining companies, 10 building materials companies, 45 construction companies, 43 food companies, and 26 enterprises in trade or commerce, and a share of ownership in almost every major hotel in Iran, or 70% of the hotel capacity. Some of these holdings are joint ventures with American corporations.

Behind a facade of charitable activities, the NYT article continues, “the foundation is apparently used in three ways: as a source of funds for the royal family, as a means of exerting control over the economy through the foundation’s holdings in key sectors, and as a conduit for rewards to supporters of the regime.” The transfer of billions of dollars out of Iran had started already in 1974, partly in the form of loans to members of his family that were never repaid, and numerous transactions from Iran were made through American corporations and banks as well as some New York investment houses. The additional uncounted resources were deposited in banks in Switzerland and other countries with strictly enforced bank-secrecy laws.

In the autumn of 1978, during the revolutionary turmoil, 64 members of the Pahlavi family have gone abroad. Like other wealthy Iranians, they all have made substantial deposits in Swiss bank accounts and bought luxury residences in Europe and North America. Of course, the court never revealed the true extent of its wealth, but Iranian and Western estimates place the fortune accumulated by the royal family, both inside and outside Iran, far above Abbas Milani’s “a billion dollars” claim. As New York bankers, Ervand Abrahamian and Michael Axworthy, both highly critical of the Islamic Republic but still regarded as authoritative historians of modern Iran in the West, offer a completely different picture.

According to Abrahamian’s monographies, the royal family’s total assets were estimated “anywhere between five and twenty billion dollars” (1982:437) or “in excess of $20 billion” (2008:131). With inflation, that would equal up to $60 billion by today’s currency. In Axworthy’s book, the capital that had been sent out of the country was “estimated around $120 billion” (2013:297). This figure includes the comprehensive wealth of all Iranian emigrants, but there is no doubt that the majority was concentrated in hands of the ruling family.

In January 1981, the Iranian government filed a $36 billion lawsuit in New York against 65 defendants, most of them relatives of the Shah, in an attempt to recover stolen wealth. Reuters journalists mentioned this fact but in the context of denying figures. “The suit was dismissed,” their paragraph ends, and therefore imply that “claimed” figure must be false. It is again a gross manipulation because the New York courts did not deny the amount of money, they dismissed the proceedings on the ground of ‘forum non conveniens’ though they admitted that there was no alternative forum. According to the book by Trevor C. Hartley, Emeritus Professor of Law at the LSE, this was an abuse of the doctrine, for political reasons, the courts were determinated to shield the Shah, and ‘forum non conveniens’ was the tool they chose (2009:238). After all, those are the same courts which recently ordered Iran to pay billions to relatives of 9/11 victims.

In addition to Abbas Milani, the Reuters article also quotes Mohsen Sazegara, introduced as a co-founder of the Revolutionary Guards who is now in exile in the United States, and David S. Cohen, then undersecretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence who also served as deputy director of the CIA. The former is a member of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), a subsidiary of the notorious American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), while the latter is a member of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), a hawkish and neoconservative organization led by Mark Dubowitz that was intensively lobbying for the anti-Iranian and anti-Setad sanctions for years.

Agenda unveiled

All of the above-mentioned lobbyists and their advocacy groups, along with three Reuters journalists, have the same agenda and are trying to convince the world that Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei is the same as Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, while Setad is no different than the Pahlavi Foundation. There is, however, a serious problem with this picture. More precisely, there are no Khamenei’s jewels, crowns or designer clothes, no luxury cars or art collections, no luxurious villas or expensive estates, either in Iran or abroad. There are no rich members of the family, no foreign bank accounts, no documents, no independent experts, no New Yorker or Swiss bankers. There is absolutely nothing which proves their claim.

There is, indeed, the Reuters “investigative” article with fancy charts and listed properties. Only a few months before the publication of Reuters‘ article, Washington imposed sanctions on Setad and some of its alleged corporate holdings, and the Treasury Department issued a press release containing boring numbers, hard charts, Persian-named properties and other dull text, incomprehensible for wider audiences. And that’s why the Reuters article jumped out.

Investigative journalism is when a report is built on the basis of the collected data, but here is an opposite case, all the details serve as buttress or decoration of the central point. In other words, when you take off all worthless tree charts, personal testimonies, stories of poor old ladies, allegations by fake human rights activists and lobbyists, and numerous other cliches, the only thing left standing is the official US press release and accompanying political rampage against the Iranian leadership. Nothing more.

Regarding Setad itself, as seen through the eyes of the US government, it serves as a useful bogeyman and has multiple purposes. Its first dimension is political-ideological because it follows the old discourse of bashing Iranian leaders and veterans, equalizing them with corrupt royal elites. Second, the economy of Iran is now being discussed under the guise of “Setad” name, a sort of trade name which sounds less offensive in public debates and official documents. Third and most important, it is a perfect tool for further targeting Iran’s economy and expanding sanctions, because any new emerging company can easily be declared as a Setad holding.

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Shaun Ramewe

The Zio-lying Western governments’ fake mainstream corporate media is now renown completely for its deceitful disinformation consistency – thanks to pro-democracy anti-terrorist resourced-rich well-connected Iran, Russia, Syria and China first and foremost. The reverse effect of what the ZOG-sickos wanted came into effect years ago and gathers more momentum every time the occidental news propagandists publish or air anything now in the West and everywhere else. Looks like they have totally trapped their pathetic selves in their own sneaky and desperate obsessions. Hilarious.

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Is the Violent Dismemberment of Russia Official US Policy?

Neocons make the case that the West should not only seek to contain “Moscow’s imperial ambitions” but to actively seek the dismemberment of Russia as a whole.

The Duran

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Authored by Erik D’Amato via The Ron Paul Institute for Peace & Prosperity:


If there’s one thing everyone in today’s Washington can agree on, it’s that whenever an official or someone being paid by the government says something truly outrageous or dangerous, there should be consequences, if only a fleeting moment of media fury.

With one notable exception: Arguing that the US should be quietly working to promote the violent disintegration and carving up of the largest country on Earth.

Because so much of the discussion around US-Russian affairs is marked by hysteria and hyperbole, you are forgiven for assuming this is an exaggeration. Unfortunately it isn’t. Published in the Hill under the dispassionate title “Managing Russia’s dissolution,” author Janusz Bugajski makes the case that the West should not only seek to contain “Moscow’s imperial ambitions” but to actively seek the dismemberment of Russia as a whole.

Engagement, criticism and limited sanctions have simply reinforced Kremlin perceptions that the West is weak and predictable. To curtail Moscow’s neo-imperialism a new strategy is needed, one that nourishes Russia’s decline and manages the international consequences of its dissolution.

Like many contemporary cold warriors, Bugajski toggles back and forth between overhyping Russia’s might and its weaknesses, notably a lack of economic dynamism and a rise in ethnic and regional fragmentation.But his primary argument is unambiguous: That the West should actively stoke longstanding regional and ethnic tensions with the ultimate aim of a dissolution of the Russian Federation, which Bugajski dismisses as an “imperial construct.”

The rationale for dissolution should be logically framed: In order to survive, Russia needs a federal democracy and a robust economy; with no democratization on the horizon and economic conditions deteriorating, the federal structure will become increasingly ungovernable…

To manage the process of dissolution and lessen the likelihood of conflict that spills over state borders, the West needs to establish links with Russia’s diverse regions and promote their peaceful transition toward statehood.

Even more alarming is Bugajski’s argument that the goal should not be self-determination for breakaway Russian territories, but the annexing of these lands to other countries. “Some regions could join countries such as Finland, Ukraine, China and Japan, from whom Moscow has forcefully appropriated territories in the past.”

It is, needless to say, impossible to imagine anything like this happening without sparking a series of conflicts that could mirror the Yugoslav Wars. Except in this version the US would directly culpable in the ignition of the hostilities, and in range of 6,800 Serbian nuclear warheads.

So who is Janusz Bugajski, and who is he speaking for?

The author bio on the Hill’s piece identifies him as a senior fellow at the Center for European Policy Analysis, a Washington, D.C. think-tank. But CEPA is no ordinary talk shop: Instead of the usual foundations and well-heeled individuals, its financial backers seem to be mostly arms of the US government, including the Department of State, the Department of Defense, the US Mission to NATO, the US-government-sponsored National Endowment for Democracy, as well as as veritable who’s who of defense contractors, including Raytheon, Bell Helicopter, BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin and Textron. Meanwhile, Bugajski chairs the South-Central Europe area studies program at the Foreign Service Institute of the US Department of State.

To put it in perspective, it is akin to a Russian with deep ties to the Kremlin and arms-makers arguing that the Kremlin needed to find ways to break up the United States and, if possible, have these breakaway regions absorbed by Mexico and Canada. (A scenario which alas is not as far-fetched as it might have been a few years ago; many thousands in California now openly talk of a “Calexit,” and many more in Mexico of a reconquista.)

Meanwhile, it’s hard to imagine a quasi-official voice like Bugajski’s coming out in favor of a similar policy vis-a-vis China, which has its own restive regions, and which in geopolitical terms is no more or less of a threat to the US than Russia. One reason may be that China would consider an American call for secession by the Tibetans or Uyghurs to be a serious intrusion into their internal affairs, unlike Russia, which doesn’t appear to have noticed or been ruffled by Bugajski’s immodest proposal.

Indeed, just as the real scandal in Washington is what’s legal rather than illegal, the real outrage in this case is that few or none in DC finds Bugajski’s virtual declaration of war notable.

But it is. It is the sort of provocation that international incidents are made of, and if you are a US taxpayer, it is being made in your name, and it should be among your outrages of the month.

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Vladimir Putin visits Serbia, as NATO encircles the country it attacked in 1999 (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 171.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss Russian President Vladimir Putin’s official visit to Serbia.

Putin met with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic to further develop bilateral trade and economic relations, as well as discuss pressing regional issues including the possibility of extending the Turkish Stream gas pipeline into Serbia, and the dangerous situation around Kosovo.

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Via RT


Russian President Vladimir Putin got a hero’s welcome in Belgrade. The one-day visit to the last holdout against NATO’s ambitions in the Balkans may have been somewhat short on substance, but was certainly loaded with symbolism.

Even before he landed, the Russian leader was given an honor guard by Serbian air force MiGs, a 2017 gift from Moscow to replace those destroyed by NATO during the 1999 air campaign that ended with the occupation of Serbia’s province of Kosovo. Russia has refused to recognize Kosovo’s US-backed declaration of independence, while the US and EU have insisted on it.

Upon landing, Putin began his first official trip of 2019 by paying respects to the Soviet soldiers who died liberating Belgrade from Nazi occupation in 1944. While most Serbians haven’t forgotten their historical brotherhood in arms with Russia, it did not hurt to remind the West just who did the bulk of the fighting against Nazi Germany back in World War II.

After official talks with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, Putin visited the Church of St. Sava, the grand Orthodox basilica set on the spot where the Ottoman Turks torched the remains of the first Serbian archbishop back in 1594, in an effort to maintain power.

Sava, whose brother Stefan became the “first-crowned” king of medieval Serbia, was responsible for setting up the autocephalous Serbian Orthodox Church exactly eight centuries ago this year. For all its own troubles, the Serbian Church has sided with Moscow in the current Orthodox schism over Ukraine.

Russian artisans have been working on the grand mosaic inside the basilica, and asked Putin to complete the design by placing the last three pieces, in the colors of the Russian flag.

Whether by sheer coincidence or by design, Putin also weighed in on Serbia’s culture war, giving interviews ahead of his visit to two daily newspapers that still publish in Serbian Cyrillic – while the majority of the press, whether controlled by the West or by Vucic, prefers the Latin variant imported from Croatia.

Western media usually refer to Serbia as a “Russian ally.” While this is true in a historical and cultural sense, there is no formal military alliance between Moscow and Belgrade. Serbia officially follows the policy of military neutrality, with its armed forces taking part in exercises alongside both Russian and NATO troops.

This is a major source of irritation for NATO, which seeks dominion over the entire Balkans region. Most recently, the alliance extended membership to Montenegro in 2017 without putting the question to a referendum. It is widely expected that “Northern Macedonia” would get an invitation to NATO as soon as its name change process is complete – and that was arranged by a deal both Macedonia and Greece seem to have been pressured into by Washington.

That would leave only Serbia outside the alliance – partly, anyway, since NATO has a massive military base in the disputed province of Kosovo, and basically enjoys special status in that quasi-state. Yet despite Belgrade’s repeated declarations of Serbia wanting to join the EU, Brussels and Washington have set recognition of Kosovo as the key precondition – and no Serbian leader has been able to deliver on that just yet, though Vucic has certainly tried.

Putin’s repeated condemnations of NATO’s 1999 attack, and Russian support for Serbia’s territorial integrity guaranteed by the UN Security Council Resolution 1244, have made him genuinely popular among the Serbs, more so than Vucic himself. Tens of thousands of people showed up in Belgrade to greet the Russian president.

While Vucic’s critics have alleged that many of them were bused in by the government – which may well be true, complete with signs showing both Vucic and Putin – there is no denying the strong pro-Russian sentiment in Serbia, no matter how hard Integrity Initiative operatives have tried.

One of the signs spotted in Belgrade reportedly said “one of 300 million,” referring to the old Serbian joke about there being “300 million of us – and Russians.” However, it is also a send-up of the slogan used by current street protesters against Vucic. For the past six weeks, every Saturday, thousands of people have marched through Belgrade, declaring themselves “1 of 5 million” after Vucic said he wouldn’t give in to their demands even if “five million showed up.”

The opposition Democrats accuse him of corruption, nepotism, mismanagement, cronyism – all the sins they themselves have plenty of experience with during their 12-year reign following Serbia’s color revolution. Yet they’ve had to struggle for control of the marches with the nationalists, who accuse Vucic of preparing to betray Kosovo and want “him to go away, but [Democrats] not come back.”

There is plenty of genuine discontent in Serbia with Vucic, who first came to power in 2012 on a nationalist-populist platform but quickly began to rule as a pro-NATO liberal. It later emerged that western PR firms had a key role in his party’s “makeover” from Radicals to Progressives. Yet his subsequent balancing act between NATO and Russia has infuriated both the NGOs and politicians in Serbia beholden to Western interests, and US diplomats charged with keeping the Balkans conquered.

Washington is busy with its own troubles these days, so there was no official comment to Putin’s visit from the State Department – only a somewhat pitiful and tone-deaf tweet by Ambassador Kyle Scott, bemoaning the lack of punishment for $1 million in damages to the US Embassy during a 2008 protest against Kosovo “independence.” Yet as far as Western media outlets are concerned, why Moscow seems to be vastly more popular than Washington on the streets of Belgrade nonetheless remains a mystery.

By Nebojsa Malic

 

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Curious Bedfellows: The Neocon And Progressive Alliance To Destroy Donald Trump

The neocon metamorphosis is nearly complete as many of the neocons, who started out as Democrats, have returned home, where they are being welcomed for their hardline foreign policy viewpoint.

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Authored by Philip Giraldi via OffGuardian.com:


The Roman poet Ovid’s masterful epic The Metamorphoses includes the memorable opening line regarding the poem’s central theme of transformation. He wrote In nova fert animus mutatas dicere formas corpora, which has been translated as “Of shapes transformed to bodies strange, I purpose to entreat…”

Ovid framed his narrative around gods, heroes and quasi-historical events but if he were around today, he would no doubt be fascinated by the many transformations of the group that has defined itself as neoconservative.The movement began in a cafeteria in City College of New York in the 1930s, where a group of radical Jewish students would meet to discuss politics and developments in Europe. Many of the founders were from the far left, communists of the Trotskyite persuasion, which meant that they believed in permanent global revolution led by a vanguard party. The transformation into conservatives of a neo-persuasion took place when they were reportedly “mugged by reality” into accepting that the standard leftist formulae were not working to transform the world rapidly enough. As liberal hawks, they then hitched their wagon to the power of the United States to bring about transformation by force if necessary and began to infiltrate institutions like the Pentagon to give themselves the tools to achieve their objectives, which included promotion of regime change wars, full spectrum global dominance and unconditional support for Israel.

The neocons initially found a home with Democratic Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson, but they moved on in the 1970s and 1980s to prosper under Ronald Reagan as well as under Democrat Bill Clinton. Their ability to shape policy peaked under George W. Bush, when they virtually ran the Pentagon and were heavily represented in both the national security apparatus and in the White House. They became adept at selling their mantra of “strong national defense” to whomever was buying, including to President Obama, even while simultaneously complaining about his administration’s “weakness.”

The neoconservatives lined up behind Hillary Clinton in 2016, appalled by Donald Trump’s condemnation of their centerpiece war in Iraq and even more so by his pledge to end the wars in Asia and nation-building projects while also improving relations with the Russians. They worked actively against the Republican candidate both before he was nominated and elected and did everything they could to stop him, including libeling him as a Russian agent.

When Trump was elected, it, therefore, seemed that the reign of the neocons had ended, but chameleonlike, they have changed shape and are now ensconced both in some conservative as well as in an increasing number of progressive circles in Washington and in the media. Against all odds, they have even captured key posts in the White House itself with the naming of John Bolton as National Security Adviser and Mike Pompeo as Secretary of State. Bolton’s Chief of Staff is Fred Fleitz, a leading neocon and Islamophobe while last week Trump added Iran hawk Richard Goldberg to the National Security Council as director for countering Iranian weapons of mass destruction. Goldberg is an alumnus of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, which is the leading neocon think tank calling incessantly for war with Iran.

Meanwhile, the neocon metamorphosis is nearly complete as many of the neocons, who started out as Democrats, have returned home, where they are being welcomed for their hardline foreign policy viewpoint. Glenn Greenwald reports that, based on polling of party supporters, the Democrats have gone full-Hillary and are now by far more hawkish than the Republicans, unwilling to leave either Syria or Afghanistan.

The neocon survival and rejuvenation is particularly astonishing in that they have been wrong about virtually everything, most notably the catastrophic Iraq War. They have never been held accountable for anything, though one should note that accountability is not a prominent American trait, at least since Vietnam. What is important is that neocon views have been perceived by the media and punditry as being part of the Establishment consensus, which provides them with access to programming all across the political spectrum. That is why neocon standard-bearers like Bill Kristol and Max Boot have been able to move effortlessly from Fox News to MSNBC where they are fêted by the likes of Rachel Maddow. They applauded the Iraq War when the Establishment was firmly behind it and are now trying to destroy Donald Trump’s presidency because America’s elite is behind that effort.

Indeed, the largely successful swing by the neocons from right to left has in some ways become more surreal, as an increasing number of progressive spokesmen and institutions have lined up behind their perpetual warfare banner. The ease with which the transformation took place reveals, interestingly, that the neocons have no real political constituency apart from voters who feel threatened and respond by supporting perpetual war, but they do share many common interests with the so-called liberal interventionists. Neocons see a global crisis for the United States defined in terms of power while the liberals see the struggle as a moral imperative, but the end result is the same: intervention by the United States. This fusion is clearly visible in Washington, where the Clintons’ Center for American Progress (CAP) is now working on position papers with the neoconservative American Enterprise Institute (AEI).

One of the most active groups attacking President Trump is “Republicans for the Rule of Law,” founded by Bill Kristol in January 2018, as a component of Defending Democracy Together(DDT), a 501(c)4 lobbying group that also incorporates projects called The Russia Tweets and Republicans Against Putin. Republicans Against Putin promotes the view that President Trump is not “stand[ing] up to [Vladimir] Putin” and calls for more aggressive investigation of the Russian role in the 2016 election.

DDT is a prime example of how the neoconservatives and traditional liberal interventionists have come together as it is in part funded by Pierre Omidyar, the billionaire co-founder of eBay who has provided DDT with $600,000 in two grants through his Democracy Fund Voice, also a 501(c)4. Omidyar is a political liberal who has given millions of dollars to progressive organizations and individuals since 1999. Indeed, he is regarded as a top funder of liberal causesin the United States and even globally together with Michael Bloomberg and George Soros. His Democracy Fund awarded $9 million in grants in 2015 alone.

Last week, the Omidyar-Kristol connection may have deepened with an announcement regarding the launch of the launch of a new webzine The Bulwark, which would clearly be at least somewhat intended to take the place of the recently deceased Weekly Standard. It is promoting itself as the center of the “Never Trump Resistance” and it is being assumed that at least some of the Omidyar money is behind it.

Iranian-born Omidyar’s relationship with Kristol is clearly based on the hatred that the two share regarding Donald Trump.

Omidyar has stated that Trump is a “dangerous authoritarian demagogue… endorsing Donald Trump immediately disqualifies you from any position of public trust.”

He has tweeted that Trump suffers from “failing mental capacity” and is both “corrupt and incapacitated.”

Omidyar is what he is – a hardcore social justice warrior who supports traditional big government and globalist liberal causes, most of which are antithetical to genuine conservatives. But what is interesting about the relationship with Kristol is that it also reveals what the neoconservatives are all about. Kristol and company have never been actual conservatives on social issues, a topic that they studiously avoid, and their foreign policy is based on two principles: creating a state of perpetual war based on fearmongering about foreign enemies while also providing unlimited support for Israel. Kristol hates Trump because he threatens the war agenda while Omidyar despises the president for traditional progressive reasons. That hatred is the tie that binds and it is why Bill Kristol, a man possessing no character and values whatsoever, is willing to take Pierre Omidyar’s money while Pierre is quite happy to provide it to destroy a common enemy, the President of the United States of America.

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