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“Israel has the right to defend itself” — so does Syria

The relentless media campaign against Syria is intended to conceal the fact that Syria is defending itself against a war of aggression waged against by or with the complicity of the Western powers. The contrast between the way the West reacts to Israeli actions purportedly in self-defence, and the way it condemns far more justified actions in self-defence made by Syria, exposes the truth about Western aggression against Syria.

Rick Sterling

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There is a hypocritical disconnect in Western and especially U.S. foreign policy. When it comes to Israel, the US is quick to claim “Israel has a right to defend itself”.  For Syria, that same right does not seem to exist.   

Is Israel Defending Itself or Defending Occupation/Apartheid?

When Israel executed intense bombing campaigns against Gaza in 2008, 2012 and 2014 the US justified the attacks. At the United Nations on 18 July 2014, US Ambassador Samantha Power said ,

“President Obama spoke with Prime Minister Netanyahu this morning to reaffirm the United States’ strong support for Israel’s right to defend itself…. Hamas’ attacks are unacceptable and would be unacceptable to any member state of the United Nations. Israel has the right to defend its citizens and prevent these attacks.”

Israel claims it is simply responding defensively. The human rights group BtSelem reports that over the decade between June 2004 and July 2015, Palestinians launched over 8700 rockets and 5000 mortars from Gaza into Israel. However, the total number of civilians killed over 10 years was 28 for an average of fewer than three persons per year.  Using this as a justification, Israel has attacked by air and invaded every few years with extreme discrepancy in casualty rates.  For example, Israeli attacks on Gaza in Summer 2014 resulted in over 2900 deaths ….. 97% of them Palestinian.

With so few deaths and little damage caused by the rockets from Gaza, it seems Palestinians have launched these as almost symbolic protests against Israeli repression. The Gazan economy is hugely restricted, the borders are closed, and even the sky and ocean are off limits.

Many people would say that Israel is keeping the entire population of Gaza in prison-like circumstances.

In addition, many residents of Gaza are descendants of refugees from nearby Israeli towns and cities. Under the Geneva Conventions and UN Resolution 194, they have the right to return but have been deprived of this in addition to most other rights. 

In summary, Palestinians have launched rockets and mortars to protest Israeli occupation and apartheid policies.   

The Palestinians are not seeking overthrow of the Israeli state so much as recognition of their rights and an end to the Occupation. Casualties have been few.

In response, the West has given Israel a virtual free pass to attack Palestinians in Gaza and unleash horrific bombing in densely populated urban areas where there are huge civilian casualties. The Israeli government is not defending itself; it is imposing punishment on a captive and defenceless population.   

The Syrian State is Under Real Attack

The situation in Syria is dramatically different.

The armed opposition in Syria has inflicted a huge number of deaths and damage in the 5 year campaign to overthrow the government.  Data from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights show the following number of casualties since March 2011:  Pro Government forces (army and militias) – 105,000 ;  Anti Government forces – 101,000;   Civilians – 86,000. 

These numbers show the intensity of violence. They also indicate how wrong it is for critics to blame Assad and the Syrian government for all the deaths. As shown, soldiers and militias defending the state make up the largest number of casualties. 

It is frequently claimed that protests only became violent after peaceful protests were brutally crushed. This is untrue. There were seven police killed in the first protests in Deraa. That was soon followed by dozens of soldiers being massacred in Deraa and Banyas at the end of March and in April 2011. 

The conflict in Aleppo is currently in the news.  This was the largest city in Syria and the country’s industrial and financial engine.

The largest and most effective opposition force in Aleppo is the Al Qaeda associated Nusra.  Nusra is recognized to be ‘terrorist’ even by the USA and were never part of the ‘cessation of hostilities’. 

There are other factions and fighting groups, but they are all seeking to destroy the Syrian state. Most of the groups are explicitly Wahhabi sectarian and are hostile to secularism, Christianity and moderate Islamic faiths.

The opposition in Syria is heavily armed with weapons, ammunition and explosives. Daily they launch hell cannon missiles into western Aleppo, killing randomly.  Car bombs have killed thousands of civilians and soldiers. Tunnel bombs have killed thousands more.

Aleppo was relatively quiet until the summer of 2012 when thousands of armed fighters invaded and occupied neighbourhoods in the eastern part of the city.

The ‘rebels’ were disliked by the majority of the population from the start. This was documented even by western journalists such as James Foley and Stephen Sotloff who went there inclined to be sympathetic to the opposition.

Martin Chulov of the Guardian described East Aleppo in 2015 and estimated its population at just 40K.  In sharp contrast, there is a large population of about 1.5 million Syrians living in the rest of the city.  This is reflective of the reality: the vast majority of Syrians support the government and hate the terrorists. This includes many who are critical of the Baath Party and who want reforms but not violence and destruction.

This important fact is generally ignored by western media. The current situation in Western Aleppo is described by journalist Eva Bartlett.

In contrast with the Israeli situation, the Syrian government is truly fighting to defend itself against an armed opposition that is violent, sectarian and unpopular with the large majority of Syrians.

The Foreign Factor

Adding to the legitimacy of the Syrian government’s right to defend itself, the armed opposition in Syria has been heavily supported by foreign governments.

Western states and their Gulf allies have supplied weapons, training, logistical support and salaries for many thousands of fighters.  Qatar’s Al Jazeera has broadcast misinformation, fabricated stories and heavily biased reporting from the start.

The same governments have been complicit in the recruitment and travel to Syria by thousands of foreigners from all parts of the globe.

European, North American and Australian governments “looked the other way” as their citizens were recruited and then traveled to Syria via Turkey to join ISIS or Nusra.

According to one study, over 12,000 foreigners including 3,000 from Europe and North America traveled to Syria in the first three years of the conflict. That was before ISIS peaked. Only in the last year, following terrorist actions in the West, have Western governments started arresting or detaining recruits and recruiters.

Violating International Law

The situation in Syria is more extreme but has similarities to the situation in Nicaragua in the 1980s. On 27 June 1986, the International Court of Justice ruled:

“the United States of America, by training, arming, equiping, financing and supplying the contra forces or otherwise encouraging, supporting and aiding military and paramilitary activities in and against Nicaragua, has acted, against the Republic of Nicaragua, in breach of its obligation under customary international law not to intervene in the affairs of another State”. 

The court also decided the US should make reparations to Nicaragua for injury caused by the violations.

The US ignored the ruling and later withdrew from the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice.

The former Nicaragua Foreign Minister and former President of the United Nations General Assembly, Father Miguel D’Escoto, has written

“What the U.S. government is doing in Syria is tantamount to a war of aggression, which, according to the Nuremberg Tribunal, is the worst possible crime a State can commit against another State.”

(personal correspondence quoted with permission)

Soft Power aligned with Hard Violent Power

Some foreign governments seeking overthrow of Damascus have poured huge amounts of money into ‘smart’ or ‘soft power’.

They have funded an array of organisations with nice sounding names to control the narrative and influence public opinion.

There is the Syrian Justice and Accountability Centre, initiated by Secretary Clinton, to prepare for victor’s justice. 

There is the Syrian Network for Human Rights which largely ignores the deaths of Syrian soldiers and seeks US/NATO intervention.

There is the Syrian Civil Defense also known as the White Helmets. This organisation is a support group for Al Qaeda/Nusra but most importantly is a political lobbying tool actively campaigning for US/NATO intervention.

All of these organisations, and many more, are said to be “Syrian”. They all claim to be “independent”. However they were all created after the conflict began, and they are all funded by the foreign governments that seek to overthrow the Syrian government.

These and other organisations support the opposition in various ways, demonise the Syrian government, and romanticise the opposition. 

They are ‘soft power’ acting in concert with hard and violent power.

For example the White Helmets was originally called the Syrian Civil Defence and began with a military contractor training some Syrians in Turkey.

This group was then rebranded as the “White Helmets” by a New York marketing company called “The Syria Campaign”.

Since then, the “feel good” White Helmets brand has been heavily promoted. As a measure of marketing success, the White Helmets recently won the Right Livelihood Award for 2016, and are even nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Ironically, there is a REAL Syrian Civil Defense working since 1953, and a REAL White Helmets/CascosBlancos from Argentina, which have received little recognition alongside the slick new “White Helmets” created and promoted by the shadowy PR firm.    

Soft power distorts the reality in the conflict. Thus we are not told that the Syrian government is defending against terrorists but we are told that the “Assad regime” is ‘”targeting hospitals and civilian markets”.

Are the claims true? My investigation of the claims regarding the Doctors Without Borders / MSF supported ‘Al Quds Hospital’ in April 2016 revealed that the accusations were full of contradictions, inconsistencies and unverified accusations.

The “hospital” was an unmarked building; the damage was unclear; the number of deaths varied wildly and could not be verified. The photographic evidence, supplied by the ubiquitous White Helmets, was dubious.

The investigation resulted in a open letter to MSF. So far they have failed to corroborate or document their accusations and claims.

Doctors Without Borders / MSF continues to issue politically biased messages. Their recent 2nd October 2016 tweet about a “bloodbath in East Aleppo” led to false accusations that two teenagers were killed by Syrian government bombing when they were actually killed by terrorist bombing.

Currently the Union of Medical Care and Relief Organisations (UOSSM), funded by France and other countries, has been at the forefront of accusing Syria and Russia of intentionally bombing an underground hospital.

Is the story real or fabricated propaganda? The Russians and Syrians are trying to fight the terrorists; why would they waste resources and generate negative publicity by attacking a hospital?

The reports seem to be based on phone or Skype conversations with sources of unknown reliability.

The narrative promoted by ‘soft power’ is that the Syrian government is an unpopular dictatorship dominated by the Alawte religious group.  Is that true?  On the contrary, key ministries including Defence and Foreign Affairs are held by Sunni leaders. The majority of the Syrian Arab Army are Sunni. Visitors to Syria readily meet mothers who are proud of their sons who died defending their country against foreign backed terrorism. 

The narrative promoted by ‘soft power’ is that the Syrian uprising was largely progressive, secular, and seeking democracy.

This myth makes for a good rationalisation for effectively supporting the ‘regime change’ war against Syria, but it is contradicted by the US Defense Intelligence Agency. In a classified report from August 2012 they analysed the conflict as follows:

“THE SALAFIST [sic], THE MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD, AND AQI ARE THE MAJOR FORCES DRIVING THE INSURGENCY IN SYRIA.”

“Soft power” in Syria has involved the creation and funding of Syrian groups who convey a message supportive of the regime change goals.

For example there is a group in the town of Kafranbel which produces an English language banner each week.  They are provided with the message by a foreign source and the group holds the banner to be photographed and displayed on social media in the West.  Most of the locals probably have no clue what it says.

Then there is the Aleppo Media Center which creates videos targeting Western audience, and the White Helmets previously discussed. 

These Western created groups are the examples of the “Syrian Revolution” by those who promote this narrative. What kind of “revolution” is on contract with the US State Department?

The Current Situation and Coming Crisis

The Syrian government, with the support of the majority of the Syrian people, is doing its best to defend itself against an onslaught financed by some of the wealthiest and most powerful countries on earth.

The Syrian Army and popular militias have suffered huge losses but are advancing. In the last year, Russia has provided crucial air support. Unlike the invasion of Syrian land and air space by the USA, the Russian intervention is in compliance with international law. 

Currently the Syrian government and allies are seeking to crush or expel Nusra and other terrorist groups in eastern Aleppo. If that is successful, they could then focus on ISIS in Raqqa and on remaining terrorists in other parts of the country.

Unlike densely populated Gaza, the opposition held areas of Aleppo have very few civilians. Although civilian casualties happen in all wars, it makes no sense that the Syrian military would target civilians.  On the contrary they have opened corridors to facilitate civilians and fighters to leave Aleppo.

Largely unreported in the West,  the Syrian government has an active reconciliation program which allows former gunmen to move to a different area or return to society. This has been successfully used to clear the last remnant of terrorists from Al Waer near Homs and from Darraya near Damascus.  Many thousands of Syrian fighters who were coerced or bribed into joining the opposition have laid down their arms, signed an agreement, and rejoined society.

In contrast with the frenzy and alarm in Western media and political circles, there is a growing optimism and hope among the vast majority of people in Aleppo. Syrian journalist Edward Dark recently tweeted

“Aleppo soon will be freed from the jihadis that invaded & destroyed it. After 4 years of hell its people will finally know peace.”

They are looking forward to the final defeat or expulsion of the terrorists who invaded the city in 2012.

What will the foreign enemies of Syria do to prevent this?  Will they continue or escalate their campaign to destroy Syria as they destroyed Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya?  Are they prepared to risk potential World War III with Russia?

In the last month Turkey sent troops into northern Syria and the USA attacked the Syrian Army in Deir Ezzor, killing over 62 soldiers. The U.S. claims this was an accident, but many believe it was intentional. 

Since the collapse of the cessation of hostilities, ‘soft power’ propaganda has escalated. Accusations that the Syrians and Russians are targeting hospitals are linked to new social media campaigns to “Save Aleppo”.  Two things are clear:

* The public should be wary of media stories based on the claims of biased actors and not supported by solid evidence

* The Syrian government has the right to defend itself against foreign funded violent extremists seeking to destroy it.

Rick Sterling is an investigative journalist and member of Syrian Solidarity Movement.

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Russia ranks HIGHER than Switzerland in these areas of doing business

Some curious things happened with several businesspeople who attended World Cup events in Russia.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin

One of them was a distinctly renewed interest in doing business inside the country, and another was the realization to what extent perceptions have been tainted by media and political rhetoric directed against any real or imagined nastiness attributed to Russia these days.

These past few weeks have been invaluable, at the very least by affording a clear picture of Russia through which almost all anxiety-ridden preconceptions were illuminated and dispelled. More disturbing was the fact that the several businesspeople I was dealing with were furious. They were livid for being played for fools, and felt victimized by the dismally untrue picture painted about Russia and Russians in their home countries, both by their own politicians and the press.

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Most felt that they have been personally sanctioned by their own countries, betrayed through lack of clear unbiased information enabling them to participate and profit from Russia opportunities these past three growth years in spite of “sanctions”.

The door to doing good business in Russia has been and is open, and has been opening wider year after year. That is not just “highly likely”, but fact. Consistently improving structures, means and methods to conduct business in Russia sustainably, transparently and profitably are now part of the country’s DNA. It is a process, which has been worked on in the west for more than a century, and one, which Russia has only started these past 18 years.

True, there are sanctions, counter-sanctions, and regulations governing them that must be studied carefully. However if you are not a bank or doing business with those persons deemed worthy of being blacklisted by some countries “sanctions list”, in reality there are no obstacles that cannot be positively addressed and legally overcome despite the choir of political nay-sayers.

READ MORE: Russia just dumped $80 BILLION in US debt

The days of quickly turning over Russia opportunities into short-term cash are rapidly fading, they are a throwback to the 1990’s. Today the major and open opportunities are in the areas for Foreign Direct Investments. The nature of FDI is long term to make regularly recurring sustainable returns on investment.

Long term, Russia always was and increasingly confirms that it is a vibrant and attractive market. There is a significant consumer market with spending power, a well-educated workforce, a wealth of resources and the list goes on. The economic obstacles encountered have largely been imposed from without, and not from the dynamics and energies of the Russian economy itself.

Eventually sanctions will end, although the timeline is anyone’s guess. Meanwhile business continues, and any long-term engagement within Russia by establishing a working presence will yield both short and long-term investment rewards. These will only be amplified when the sanctions regimes are removed. In any event, these aspects are long-term investment decisions and one of the criteria in any risk assessment.

For some added perspective, Russia is ranked by the Financial Times as the No.2 country in Europe in terms of capital investments into Europe. It has a 2017 market share of 9% (US$ 15.9 billion) and includes 203 business projects. This is 2% higher than 2016 and better that 2014/2015 when sanctions were imposed.

Another item of perspective is the Country Risk Premium. All investors consider this when calculating the scope for long-term return on investments. What may surprise some is that Russia is no longer ranked as a very high-risk country. For comparisons sake: The risk premium for Germany is zero (no extra risk), the risk premium for Italy is 2.19%, and for Russia, it is 2.54%. When compared to politically popular investment destinations like Ukraine the risk premium is 10.4%  – food for thought. Bottom line is that the risks of investing in Russia are a smidge higher than investing in Italy.

Russia is ranked 35 among 190 economies in the ease of doing business, according to the latest World Bank annual ratings. The ranking of Russia improved to 35 in 2017 from 40 in 2016 and from 124 in 2010. It may also surprise some to learn that as concerns protecting the rights of minority investors, paying taxes, registering property and some other aspects of the World Bank comparisons, Russia comes out better than Switzerland (See: Rankings).

From operational standpoints, establishing an invested presence in Russia does not mean one must adopt Russian managerial methods or practices. The advantages for established foreign companies is that their management culture is readily applied and absorbed by a smart and willing workforce, enabling a seamless integration given the right training and tools.

The trend towards the ultimate globalization of business despite trade wars, tariffs, sanctions and counter-sanctions is clear. The internet of the planet, the blockchain and speed of information exchange makes it so whether we wish it or not. Personally, I hope that political globalization remains stillborn as geopolitics has a historical mandate to tinker with and play havoc with international trade.

Russia occupies a key strategic position between Europe and Asia. The “west” (US/Europe) have long had at times rather turbulent relationships with China. At the same time the Chinese are quite active investors in both the US and Europe, and western companies are often struggling to understand how to deal with China.

The answer to this conundrum is Russia: this is where East and West will ultimately come together with Russia playing a pivotal role in the relations between the west and China. At the end of the day, and taking the strategic long-term economic view, is what both Chinese and Western companies are investing in when they open their activities in Russia.

If long-term commitment and investment in Russia were simply a matter of transferring funds then I would not be bothering with this opinion article. Without a doubt, there are structural issues with investing in Russia. A still evolving and sometimes unclear rule of law, difficulties obtaining finance for investments directed towards Russia, the unique language and culture of business in the country. Nevertheless, companies that have an understanding and vision of global strategy will manage with these issues and have the means to mitigate them.

Money and other invested resources do not and should not play politics; any investment case when evaluated on objective financial criteria will reveal its fit, or lack of, within a company’s global strategic business objectives. The objective criteria for Russia over any long term horizon is both convincing and strong. This has been repeated by all of the businesspeople I have met with these past few weeks. Without doubt we shall see some new companies coming into the Russian market and objectively exploring the gains their playing fair business football here will yield.

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Media meltdown hits stupid levels as Trump and Putin hold first summit (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 58.

Alex Christoforou

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It was, and still remains a media meltdown of epic proportions as that dastardly ‘traitor’ US President Donald Trump decided to meet with that ‘thug’ Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Of course these are the simplistic and moronic epitaphs that are now universally being thrown around on everything from Morning Joe to Fox and Friends.

Mainstream media shills, and even intelligent alternative news political commentators, are all towing the same line, “thug” and “traitor”, while no one has given much thought to the policy and geo-political realities that have brought these two leaders together in Helsinki.

RT CrossTalk host Peter Lavelle and The Duran’s Alex Christoforou provide some real news analysis of the historic Trump-Putin summit in Helsinki, without the stupid ‘thug’ and ‘traitor’ monikers carelessly being thrown around by the tools that occupy much of the mainstream media. Remember to Please Subscribe to The Duran’s YouTube Channel.

And if you though that one summit between Putin and Trump was more than enough to send the media into code level red meltdown, POTUS Trump is now hinting (maybe trolling) at a second Putin summit.

Via Zerohedge

And cue another ‘meltdown’ in 3…2…1…

While arguments continue over whether the Helsinki Summit was a success (end of Cold War 2.0) or not (most treasonous president ever), President Trump is convinced “The Summit was a great success,” and hints that there will be a second summit soon, where they will address: “stopping terrorism, security for Israel, nuclear proliferation, cyber attacks, trade, Ukraine, Middle East peace, North Korea and more.”

However, we suspect what will ‘trigger’ the liberal media to melt down is his use of the Stalin-esque term “enemy of the people” to describe the Fake News Media once again…

 

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While US seeks to up the ante on pressure on the DPRK, Russia proposes easing sanctions

These proposals show the dichotomy between the philosophy of US and Russian foreign policy

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The United States last week accused the DPRK of violating refined petroleum caps imposed as a part of UN nuclear sanctions dating back to 2006, and is therefore submitting a proposal to cut all petroleum product sales to North Korea.

The Trump administration is keen on not only preserving pressure on North Korea over its nuclear arms development, but in increasing that pressure even as DPRK Chairman, Kim Jong-Un, is serially meeting with world leaders in a bid to secure North Korea’s security and potential nuclear disarmament, a major move that could deescalate tensions in the region, end the war with the South, and ease global apprehensions about the North’s nuclear arsenal.

Meanwhile, Russia is proposing to the UNSC sanctions relief in some form due to the North’s expressed commitment to nuclear disarmament in the light of recent developments.

Reuters reports:

MOSCOW/UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – Russia’s envoy to North Korea said on Wednesday it would be logical to raise the question of easing sanctions on North Korea with the United Nations Security Council, as the United States pushes for a halt to refined petroleum exports to Pyongyang.

“The positive change on the Korean peninsula is now obvious,” said the ambassador, Alexander Matsegora, according to the RIA news agency, adding that Russia was ready to help modernize North Korea’s energy system if sanctions were lifted and if Pyongyang can find funding for the modernization.

The U.N. Security Council has unanimously boosted sanctions on North Korea since 2006 in a bid to choke off funding for Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs, banning exports including coal, iron, lead, textiles and seafood, and capping imports of crude oil and refined petroleum products.

China tried late last month to get the Security Council to issue a statement praising the June 12 Singapore meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and expressing its “willingness to adjust the measures on the DPRK in light of the DPRK’s compliance with the resolutions.”

North Korea’s official name is Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).

But the United States blocked the statement on June 28 given “ongoing and very sensitive talks between the United States and the DPRK at this time,” diplomats said. The same day, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke to his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi about the importance of sanctions enforcement.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is due to informally brief U.N. Security Council envoys along with South Korea and Japan on Friday.

Diplomats say they expect Pompeo to stress the need to maintain pressure on North Korea during his briefing on Friday.

In a tweet on Wednesday Trump said he elicited a promise from Russian President Vladimir Putin to help negotiate with North Korea but did not say how. He also said: “There is no rush, the sanctions remain!”

The United States accused North Korea last week of breaching a U.N. sanctions cap on refined petroleum by making illicit transfers between ships at sea and demanded an immediate end to all sales of the fuel.

The United States submitted the complaint to the U.N. Security Council North Korea sanctions committee, which is due to decide by Thursday whether it will tell all U.N. member states to halt all transfers of refined petroleum to Pyongyang.

Such decisions are made by consensus and some diplomats said they expected China or Russia to delay or block the move.

When asked on June 13 about whether sanctions should be loosened, Russian U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said: “We should be thinking about steps in that direction because inevitably there is progress on the track that should be reciprocal, that should be a two-way street. The other side should see encouragement to go forward.”

The proposals of both the United States and Russia are likely to be vetoed by each other, resulting no real changes, but what it displays is the foreign policy positions of both nuclear powers towards the relative position of the DPRK and its rhetorical move towards denuclearization. The US demonstrates that its campaign of increased pressure on the North is necessary to accomplishing the goal of a denuclearized Korean peninsula, while Russia’s philosophy on the matter is to show a mutual willingness to follow through on verbal commitment with a real show of action towards an improved relationship, mirroring on the ground what is happening in politics.

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