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The ‘Forgotten’ US shoot down of Iranian Airliner Flight 655

On the rare occasions the US mainstream media refer to the US shoot-down of an Iranian airliner in 1988, they sustain the myth it was simply a “mistake”.

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This summer marks 30 years since the shoot-down by the USS Vincennes of Iran Air flight 655, which killed all of the plane’s 290 civilian passengers. This shoot-down of a civilian airliner by a US naval ship occurred on July 3, 1988, toward the end of the eight-year Iran-Iraq War.

This incident is, of course, something that the people of Iran well remember. Americans who rely on the US mainstream media, on the other hand, would have to be forgiven for never having heard about it.

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Furthermore, in the rare instances when the media do mention it, to this day they tend to maintain official US government falsehoods about what occurred and otherwise omit relevant details that would inform Americans about what really happened.

The lack of mention of the incident or, when it is mentioned, the deceptive reporting about what occurred illustrates an institutionalized bias in the media. The consequence is that Americans seeking to understand US-Iran relations today fail to grasp a key historical event that has helped to define that relationship.

How the Mainstream Media Report the US shoot-down of Flight 655

If one does a quick Google search for relevant keywords specific to the shootdown, only a handful of US mainstream media reports turn up on first-page results.

Max Fisher in the Washington Post wrote a piece about it several years ago, appropriately titled “The Forgotten story of Iran Air Flight 655”. For context, Fisher asserted that “the Vincennes was exchanging fire with small Iranian ships in the Persian Gulf.” As explanation for how the Vincennes “mistook the lumbering Airbus A300 civilian airliner for a much smaller and faster F-14 fighter jet”, Fisher suggested it was “perhaps” due to “the heat of battle” or “perhaps because the flight allegedly did not identify itself.”

The Washington Examiner a couple years ago ran a piece with the headline “Iran says 1988 airliner shootdown is why U.S. can’t be trusted”. The author, Charles Hoskinson, stated simply that “An investigation revealed that the cruiser’s crew mistook the airliner for an attacking F-14 fighter jet while involved in a confrontation with Iranian gunboats.”

Fred Kaplan in Slate noted in a 2014 piece that the incident “is almost completely forgotten” (at least in the US). His article was appropriately subtitled “The time the United States blew up a passenger plane—and covered it up.” As a journalist who had reported on the incident at the time and challenged the US government’s official story, Kaplan noted that “American officials told various lies” intended to blame the Iranians for the tragedy.

The government had claimed that the Vincennes was in international waters at the time, that the plane was flying “outside of the prescribed commercial air route” and descending at the “high speed” of 450 knots directly toward the Vincennes, and that the plane’s transponder was squawking a code over a military channel.

In truth, the Vincennes was in Iran’s territorial waters, the plane was ascending through 12,000 feet at 380 knots within the established commercial air route, and its transponder was squawking the plane’s identity over a civilian channel.

The USS Vincennes

Like Fisher and Hoskinson, however, Kaplan nevertheless maintained the US government’s narrative that “the Iranian Airbus A300 wandered into a naval skirmish” and on that basis characterized it as a “horrible mistake”.

These are the only three examples from within the past decade that appeared in initial search results for various relevant keywords at the time of this writing. It’s also helpful see how America’s “newspaper of record”, the New York Times, has reported it over the years, by searching its online archives.

Doing various related keyword searches at the New York Times website turns up a smattering of articles. Without going further back, a November 1988 piece acknowledged that, contrary to the US government’s claims, “Flight 655 was behaving normally for a commercial jet”. The Times nevertheless maintained the government’s official line that “Iranian [air traffic] tower officials clearly are guilty of not listening to the dozens of radio warnings broadcast by the Navy and ordering the airliner to change course”.

The following month, the Times revealed that this attempt to blame the Iranians was also untruthful. As the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) determined in an investigation of the incident, seven of the eleven warnings issued by the Americans “were transmitted on a military channel that was inaccessible to the airliner crew.” The other four were transmitted on the international civil aviation distress frequency. Of these, only one, transmitted by the USS Sides “39 seconds before the Vincennes fired, was of sufficient clarity that it might have been ‘instantly recognizable’ to the airliner as being directed at it.”

The Times nevertheless sustained the US government’s narrative that Iran was at least partly to blame by “allowing an airliner to fly into the area at the time when warships were involved in an intense battle with Iranian gunboats.”

In May 1989, Iran sued the US in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) over the shoot-down. The Times ran a piece in July about how the US was trying to settle the matter by offering to compensate victims’ families with up to $250,000. The only details of the attack the Times offered readers was to relay the claim from a senior State Department official that “the Vincennes was defending itself against what it believed was a ‘coordinated attack’”.

Another Times article that August reported that Iran’s case was proceeding at the ICJ. For context, the Times simply parroted the government’s official line that, “At the time, the Vincennes was part of a group of American warships protecting neutral shipping in the [Persian] gulf during the war between Iraq and Iran.”

(The ICJ case was dropped in 1996 when the US and Iran reached a settlement in which the US “expressed deep regret” and agreed to pay $61.8 million to the victims’ families.)

In 1992, a Times article reported on the further unravelling of the US government’s official account. It noted that, contrary to the government’s claims, Flight 655 was ascending and flying within the commercial air corridor.

Vice President George H. W. Bush had told the UN that the shoot-down occurred “in the midst of a naval attack initiated by Iranian vessels against a neutral vessel and subsequently against the Vincennes.” In fact, as government officials were now admitting, the Vincennes was in Iranian waters at the time. Furthermore, an investigative report for ABC’s Nightline determined that it was not the Iranian ships that started the naval skirmish, but the US Navy’s.

The US government maintained that, while the Vincennes was admittedly within Iran’s territorial waters, it was the Iranian ships who initiated hostilities. However, even the commander of the USS Sides, Captain David Carlson, whose ship was in the same American convoy, had stated three years prior that the actions of the Vincennes under the command of Captain Will Rogers were “consistently aggressive.”

The Times also noted that neither Captain Rogers nor any other officers or crew of the Vincennes were disciplined.

There are only scarce mentions of the incident by the Times since. Columnist Roger Cohen in an August 2009 piece referred in passing to “the mistaken 1988 shooting-down of Iran Air Flight 655, in which 290 people perished”. A 2015 article mentioned it, stating that the Vincennes was “patrolling the strait [of Hormuz]” and that its crew “apparently mistook the plane for an Iranian F-14 fighter.” The most recent mention that turned up was from February 2 of this year, in an article that states simply that “Iran called the attack deliberate and the United States called it a mistake.”

The above is not an exhaustive list, but these examples illustrate that, on the rare occasions when the US mainstream media do mention the incident, to this day they sustain the US government’s narrative that this killing of 290 civilians was simply a “mistake” for which no one should be held criminally responsible.

So how well does this narrative hold up?

The Facts about the US shoot-down of Flight 655

After the Vincennes shot down Flight 655, as Fred Kaplan noted in his Slate piece, Vice President George H. W. Bush responded by saying, “I will never apologize for the United States of America—I don’t care what the facts are.”

The facts were that the Aegis cruiser USS Vincennes, under the command of Captain Will Rogers III, had entered Iran’s territorial waters and opened fire on and sank two Iranian gunboats posing no threat to the American vessels. (Aboard another Iranian boat the Vincennes was passing by at the same moment Rogers gave the order to open fire, the crew was seen relaxing topside, as captured by the camera of US Navy journalists.)

At the time, as a Navy investigation later acknowledged, the Vincennes detected a plane ascending “on a normal commercial air flight plan profile” and squawking a transponder signal identifying itself as a commercial aircraft.

Aboard the Sides, with identical radar information as received aboard the Vincennes, Captain Carlson determined the plane was a “non-threat”.

Aboard the Vincennes, Lieutenant William Montford warned Captain Rogers that the plane was “possible COMAIR”, but Rogers nevertheless ostensibly convinced himself that his ship was under attack from an F-14 fighter plane and minutes later ordered it shot down.

(Incidentally, the US had sold F-14s to Iran in the early 1970s while it was under the thumb of Washington’s strongman, Mohammed Reza Shah Pahlavi, who was put in power after a CIA-orchestrated coup in 1953 overthrew Iran’s democratically elected government by deposing Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh for having nationalized the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company. The Shah was in turn overthrown during Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution.)

Well aware that his action might kill civilians, Rogers ordered his gunner to open fire on the plane, shooting it out of the sky.

The Navy’s self-investigation attributed the discrepancy between the known facts and Rogers’ actions to “scenario fulfillment”. Rogers had made “an unconscious attempt to make available evidence fit a preconceived scenario.”

In other words, even though the information the officers and crew aboard the Vincennes were receiving indicated that the plane was ascending along a commercial flight path and squawking its identify as a civilian airliner, Rogers imagined it to be an F-14 fighter jet coming down out of the sky to attack his ship.

US government officials evidently also suffered from “scenario fulfillment” as they proceeded to make claims about what had happened bearing no relationship to reality.

President Ronald Reagan claimed that the killing of 290 civilians was justified as “a proper defensive action”.

Never one to apologize, Vice President Bush, while campaigning for the presidency, called it “just an unhappy incident” and reassured Americans that “life goes on.”

As he was scheduled to speak before the UN Security Council about the incident, Bush said, “I can’t wait to get up there and defend the policy of the United States government” by presenting “the free world’s case” for why 290 mostly Iranian civilians were dead.

Speaking before the Security Council, Bush blamed Iran for allowing a civilian airliner to go about its business carrying passengers to Dubai at a time when an American warship was “engaged in battle”.

He declined to explain how the pilot, Captain Mohsen Rezaian, or the air traffic controllers at the airport in Bandar Abbas, where Flight 655 had taken off, could possibly have known that a US warship with an imaginative captain on board was in Iran’s territorial waters firing at anything that moved.

Bush lied to the Council that the Vincennes had “acted in self-defense” against “a naval attack initiated by Iranian vessels” on the American ship when it “came to the aid” of an “innocent ship in distress.”

Also not wont to question the actions of the US government, the New York Times in an editorial published July 5, 1988, urged Americans via their headline to put themselves “In Captain Rogers’s Shoes”.

Sympathizing with the killer, the Times editors described the shootdown as “horrifying”, but “nonetheless an accident.” It was “hard to see what the Navy could have done to avoid it.” Captain Rogers “had little choice” but to open fire, they opined, assuming the US government’s account “turns out even approximately correct”.

Of course, the official account turned out to be pretty much the opposite of the truth in virtually every aspect, but the Times was, as ever, not over-eager to seriously question the government’s claims.

Thus, the editors maintained the deception that the Vincennes was “in a combat zone” and “engaged in action against Iranian gunboats making high-speed runs against it.”

The editors also relayed as fact that the radar operators aboard the Vincennes had “reported an aircraft heading toward the ship and descending.” Furthermore, they “apparently had indications, which the Navy refuses to discuss, that the plane was a powerful F-14 jet.”

Unimaginatively, the Times editors failed to conceive of the most obvious reason why the Navy would refuse to discuss that claim: because there were no such indications.

The furthest the Times would go to question the official narrative was to state that it was “not yet clear why sophisticated radar did not distinguish between an F-14 and a much larger Airbus.”

The lie the Times was upholding then—as to this day—was that the ship’s sophisticated radar had indicated it was something other than a civilian airliner.

After axiomatically accepting this lie, the editors immediately urged their readers to “put yourself in Captain Rogers’s shoes”. They proceeded to assert that the “evidence” suggested “an imminent attack” by the plane on the Vincennes.

Note that the word “evidence” in this context is being used euphemistically by the Times’ editorial board to mean claims by US government officials that were directly contradicted by the actual evidence available to them.

The Times proceeded to state that, if the US government’s account was at least “largely correct”, then we could safely conclude that the Iran Air pilot was to blame “for failing to acknowledge the ship’s warnings and flying outside the civilian corridor. Iran, too, may bear responsibility for failing to warn civilian planes away from the combat zone of an action it had initiated.”

They concluded that “the onus for avoiding such accidents in the future” fell not on the captains of American warships operating in the territorial waters of other countries, but “on civilian aircraft” flying in their own airspace.

The takeaway lesson presented by the Times was that civilian aircraft should just “avoid combat zones, fly high, [and] acknowledge warnings.”

Finally, the editorial concluded that ultimate blame lay with the government of Iran, with the “accident” instructing the world that it was time for Tehran “to bring an end to its futile eight-year war with Iraq.”

Of course, as the Times editors were perfectly well aware, it was Iraq who started the war, which dragged on for eight long years in large part due to the fact that the US was backing the aggressor.

Far from being held accountable for the mass murder of 290 civilians, Captain Rogers was later presented with the Legion of Merit award “for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding service” during his time as commanding officer when the shootdown occurred.

Rogers’ weapons and combat systems officer at the time, Lieutenant Commander Scott E. Lustig, received two commendation medals and was praised for “heroic achievement” for his conduct during the incident.

The entire crew of the Vincennes received combat action ribbons.

Conclusion

The US shootdown of Iran Air Flight 655 receives only rare mentions in the US mainstream media despite being a key incident in the history of the US’s relations with Iran that serves as critical context for understanding how Iranians today view the US government.

When it is mentioned, the media’s tendency is to characterize the mass killing as an honest “mistake”, resulting from an action any other country’s navy would have taken if put in the same position. Although it has long been known that the US government’s account of the incident was a pack of lies, the US media to this day characterize it as though the resulting death of civilians was just an unfortunate consequence of war.

When Max Fisher wrote in in the Washington Post in 2013 that “the Vincennes was exchanging fire with small Iranian ships in the Persian Gulf”, it is hard to fathom that he was unaware that the US warship was in Iranian waters; and yet he declined to relay that critical piece of information to his readers.

It is equally hard to fathom that he was unaware it was the Vincennes that initiated hostilities; yet this fact, too, he omitted.

Fisher also unquestioningly parroted the US government’s claim that the Vincennes’ crew “mistook” the plane for an F-14, which he attributed either to “the heat of battle” or the plane’s failure to identify itself.

It may be true that, as the naval investigation determined, Captain Rogers imagined it to be an F-14. Yet, as Lieutenant Colonel David Evans wrote in the US Naval Institute’s Proceedings Magazine in August 1993, the information received by the American ships from the plane’s transponder unambiguouslyidentified it as an ascending commercial aircraft.

“Both Captain Rogers and Captain Carlson,” Evans noted in his essay, “had this information.”

It is no less hard to fathom how Fisher could have been unaware of the fact that Flight 655 had been squawking its identify as a civilian aircraft, something even the most precursory research into the incident would have revealed to him.

It is therefore difficult to escape the conclusion that Max Fisher’s purpose in writing was not to educate Americans about what happened, but to sustain the central myth that the shootdown was merely an unfortunate accident of the kind that happens in the fog of war.

He was, in other words, dutifully serving his role as a propagandist.

Charles Hoskinson in his 2015 Washington Examiner piece was hardly more forthcoming.

Fred Kaplan was far more forthcoming in his Slate piece from three years ago; yet even in the face of his own contrary evidence, he still preserved the central myth that the shootdown was merely a “mistake” resulting from Iran Air Flight 655 having “wandered into a naval skirmish”.

This is the same false narrative that America’s “newspaper of record” maintains on those rare occasions when the incident receives a passing mention.

The real story, in sum, is as follows:

Twenty-nine years ago, on July 3, 1988, US warships entered Iranian waters and initiated hostilities with Iranian vessels.

The consoles of the radar operators aboard the USS Vincennes at the time unambiguously showed an aircraft ascending within a commercial corridor in Iranian airspace, with the plane’s transponder signaling its identity as a commercial aircraft.

Captain Rogers nevertheless ordered his gunner to open fire on the plane, shooting it out of the sky and killing the 290 civilians on board.

Subsequently, rather than being held accountable for committing a war crime, Rogers and his entire crew received awards for their actions.

Like Captain Rogers, the mainstream media establishment seems to suffer from institutional “scenario fulfillment”, in which this action did not constitute a war crime or, at best, an act of international terrorism.

In the case of the media, the preconceived notion is that the US is an exceptional nation whose government is sometimes capable of “mistakes”, but only ever acts out of benevolent intent.

It is an assumption that, while deemed axiomatic by the mainstream media establishment, is no less self-delusional than Captain Rogers’ imaginary scenario of this “forgotten” episode in US-Iran relations.

This article was adapted largely from material presented on pages 349-350 of the author’s book Obstacle to Peace: The US Role in the Israeli-Palestinian ConflictSee the book’s references for additional resources.

Via Foreign Policy Journal

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G GeorgeGonzogalregolo gelliniStop Bush and ClintonMarc Landreville Recent comment authors
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G George
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G George

This has been, and continues to be US behavior for over two centuries now. One of these days it will bite them in the ass; hopefully sooner than later.

Gonzogal
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Gonzogal

comment image comment image comment image

regolo gellini
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regolo gellini

Just hope that coward and assassin Captain Rogers, as well as his medal of honor, received a nice/nasty pancreas cancer ! May he burn in hell with all his family !

Stop Bush and Clinton
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Stop Bush and Clinton

I just shot Hitlery Clinton, John McCain, Lindsey Graham and some of their fellow warmongers. But you have to believe me, it’s because I imagined they were Putin!!! The justice system must let me get away with it and give me a medal for single-handedly defeating the Russian menace that was about to attack us!

Somehow I don’t think it would turn out that way for me.

I also think Rogers was carrying out orders to create a pretext to enter the war against Iran.

Marc Landreville
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Marc Landreville

Notwithstanding that the ship was inside Iranian waters, the shootdown was indeed a mistake. The radar officer that noted that the aircraft was descending was having a dyslexic episode, ostensably due to the pucker factor. The whole Vincennes operation was a comedy of incompetence and errors. They checked the airline schedules over that airway they were under, but failed to appreciate that the aircraft may have been late departing. In any case, after the face-saving and self-congratulatory medals were given, the US Navy never gave Capt. Rogers III another command. He was retired very prematurely the year after… in other… Read more »

Volker
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Volker

IMO it was an deliberate act of US-Terrorism and mass-murderer to provoke Iran in attacking the US-Terrorist Ship and lure them into a war, the USA give a shit about human lifes specially when their victims are non-americans, they give a shit about american lifes if they are black, brown, red or poor.

franz kafka
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franz kafka

If they had only stuck to shooting down airliners.’…

US Deep, and Shallow, State involvement was on full display following 9/11.
In fact, following the Silverstain, Busch, Cheney Demolition of the downtown core of Manhattan, the point man for spreading the OCT (Official Conspiracy Theory) was, if memery [sic] does not fail me, Head of FBI, Agent Mueller.

What a dreadful dejavu I just had.

Logan
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Logan

So while skirmishing with a US warship in the gulf why not just fly a civilian jetliner over them…how so very Persian.

normski1
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normski1

I still believe USA had a hand in the shoot down of MH17!.

Jordi Ferran
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Jordi Ferran

Worth remembering another past event:
” In 1980 NATO brought down Italian airliner in botched attempt to assassinate Gaddafi ”
http://www.minareport.com/2017/05/28/in-1980-nato-brought-down-italian-airliner-in-botched-attempt-to-assassinate-gaddafi/

This combined with NATO Gladio operations shows terrorism (even against your own civilians) has been a valid option for a very long time.

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Saudi Arabia’s version of events: Jamal Khashoggi died during a fist fight (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 5.

Alex Christoforou

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The BBC examines the stunning Saudi admission that Jamal Khashoggi was murdered from three angles:

What is Saudi Arabia’s version of events?

The kingdom says a fight broke out between Mr Khashoggi, who had fallen out of favour with the Saudi government, and people who met him in the consulate – ending with his death.

It says investigations are under way, and so far 18 Saudi nationals have been arrested.

Unnamed officials speaking to Reuters news agency and the New York Times say the Saudis did not know the whereabouts of the body after it was handed to a “local collaborator” to dispose of.

In addition to the arrests, two senior officials have been sacked over the affair – deputy intelligence chief Ahmad al-Assiri and Saud al-Qahtani, senior aide to Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman.

The Saudi authorities have yet to give evidence to support this version of events.

Observers are questioning whether Saudi Arabia’s Western allies will find their account of a “botched rendition” convincing – and whether it will persuade them not to take punitive action against them.

US President Donald Trump said what had happened was “unacceptable” but that the arrests were an important “first step”. The UK Foreign Office said it was considering its next steps after hearing the report.

What did Turkey say?

“Turkey will reveal whatever had happened,” said Omer Celik of Turkey’s ruling AKP party, according to Anadolu news agency.

“Nobody should ever doubt about it. We are not accusing anyone in advance but we don’t accept anything to remain covered [up].”

Publicly Turkey has so far stopped short of blaming Saudi Arabia for the killing.

Turkish investigators, however, say they have audio and video evidence which shows Mr Khashoggi was killed by a team of Saudi agents inside the consulate and dismembered. Reports in Turkish media this week gave gruesome details of what are said to be his final minutes.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke to Saudi King Salman on Friday evening, and the two agreed to continue co-operating in the investigation.

How have Saudi’s Western allies reacted?

President Trump praised the kingdom for acting quickly and said the official explanation was “credible”, despite many US lawmakers expressing disbelief over the Saudi account.

Mr Trump stressed the importance of Saudi Arabia as a counterbalance to Iran in the Middle East, and pushed back against the need for sanctions against the country in light of the new information, talking about the effect of such a move on the US economy.

Earlier this week he warned of “very severe” consequences if Saudi Arabia was proved to have killed the journalist.

A number of US lawmakers, including a Republican highly critical of the Saudis, Senator Lindsey Graham, said they were sceptical about the report on the journalist’s death.

The UK Foreign Office described it as “a terrible act” and said the people behind the killing “must be held to account”.

RT CrossTalk host Peter Lavelle and The Duran’s Alex Christoforou take a quick look at Saudi Arabia’s admission to killing journalist Jamal Khashoggi during a fist fight inside the Istanbul consulate…a story that the Trump White House has so far accepted, but many US Congressmen and mainstream media pundits outright reject.

Remember to Please Subscribe to The Duran’s YouTube Channel.

Meanwhile Reuters floated this story on turmoil inside the Saudi Kingdom as a trial balloon to see if anyone has the might to challenge a very unstable crown prince, by appealing to the frail King and his western allies.

Since he acceded to the throne in January 2015, the king has given MbS, his favorite son, increasing authority to run Saudi Arabia. But the king’s latest intervention reflects growing disquiet among some members of the royal court about MbS’s fitness to govern, the five sources said.

MbS, 33, has implemented a series of high-profile social and economic reforms since his father’s accession, including ending a ban on women driving and opening cinemas in the conservative kingdom.

But he has also marginalized senior members of the royal family and consolidated control over Saudi’s security and intelligence agencies.

His reforms have been accompanied by a crackdown on dissent, a purge of top royals and businessmen on corruption charges, and a costly war in Yemen.

Khashoggi’s disappearance has further tarnished the crown prince’s reputation, deepening questions among Western allies and some Saudis about his leadership.

“Even if he is his favorite son, the king needs to have a comprehensive view for his survival and the survival of the royal family,” said a fourth Saudi source with links to the royal court.

“In the end it will snowball on all of them.”

Saudi officials did not immediately respond to Reuters requests for comment.

MISCALCULATION

Saudi Arabia has repeatedly denied any role in Khashoggi’s disappearance. But the sources familiar with the royal court said the reaction from the United States, an ally for decades, had contributed to the king’s intervention.

“When the situation got out of control and there was an uproar in the United States, MbS informed his father that there was a problem and that they have to face it,” another source with knowledge of the royal court said.

The crown prince and his aides had initially thought the crisis would pass but they “miscalculated its repercussions”, this source said.

Turkish officials have made clear they believe Khashoggi was killed inside the consulate, and two Turkish sources have told Reuters police have audio recordings to back up that assertion.

U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican close to President Donald Trump, on Tuesday accused MbS of ordering Khashoggi’s murder and called him a “wrecking ball” who is jeopardizing relations with the United States. He did not say what evidence he was basing the allegation on.

Trump said on Thursday he presumed Khashoggi was dead but that he still wanted to get to the bottom of what exactly happened. Asked what would be the consequences for Saudi Arabia, Trump said: “Well, it’ll have to be very severe. I mean, it’s bad, bad stuff. But we’ll see what happens.”

Trump has previously said “rogue killers” may have been responsible and has ruled out cancelling arms deals worth tens of billions of dollars. On Tuesday, Trump said he had spoken with MbS and that the crown prince told him he did not know what had happened in the consulate where Khashoggi went missing.

The case poses a dilemma for the United States, as well as Britain and other Western nations. Saudi Arabia is the world’s top oil exporter, spends lavishly on Western arms and is an ally in efforts to contain the influence of Iran.

But in a sign of the damage, a succession of international banking and business chiefs, including IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde, JP Morgan Chief Executive Jamie Dimon and Ford Chairman Bill Ford, have pulled out of a high-profile investment conference in Saudi Arabia this month.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Thursday also abandoned plans to attend, as did Britain’s trade minister and the French and Dutch finance ministers, putting the event in question.

Saudi officials have said they plan to move forward with the conference, scheduled for Oct. 23-25, despite the wave of cancellations.

Neither JP Morgan nor Ford would elaborate on the reasons for the decision not to attend and did not comment on whether concerns about the disappearance of Khashoggi were a factor.

Lagarde had previously said she was “horrified” by media reports about Khashoggi’s disappearance. An IMF spokesperson did not give a reason for her deferring her trip to the Middle East.

TAKING CONTROL

Before the king’s intervention, Saudi authorities had been striking a defiant tone, threatening on Sunday to retaliate with greater action against the U.S. and others if sanctions are imposed over Khashoggi’s disappearance. A Saudi-owned media outlet warned the result would be disruption in Saudi oil production and a sharp rise in world oil prices.

“Reaction and threats to the possible sanctions of the last 24 hours were still (coming) from the crown prince,” the businessman close to royal circles said on Monday. “The king is now holding the file personally … and the tone is very different.”

The king has spoken directly with Erdogan and Trump in recent days. Both the king and his son met U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo when he visited Riyadh on Tuesday.

King Salman, 82, spent decades as part of the inner circle of the Al Saud dynasty, which long ruled by consensus. In four decades as governor of Riyadh, he earned a reputation as a royal enforcer who punished princes who were out of line.

Whether he is willing or able to resume that role in this crisis remains unclear, palace insiders say. One source with links to the royal court said the king was “captivated” by MbS and ultimately would protect him.

Still, there is precedent for the king’s intervention.

He stepped in this year to shelve the planned listing of national oil company Saudi Aramco, the brainchild of MbS and a cornerstone of his economic reforms, three sources with ties to government insiders told Reuters in August. Saudi officials have said the government remains committed to the plans.

And when MbS gave the impression last year that Riyadh endorsed the Trump administration’s still nebulous Middle East peace plan, including U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the king made a public correction, reaffirming Riyadh’s commitment to the Arab and Muslim identity of the city.

Despite these rare instances of pushback, several of the sources close to the royal family said that King Salman had grown increasingly detached from decisions taken by MbS.

“He has been living in an artificially-created bubble,” said one of the sources. Lately, though, the king’s advisers have grown frustrated and begun warning him of the risks of leaving the crown prince’s power unchecked.

“The people around him are starting to tell him to wake up to what’s happening,” the source said.

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Kiev ‘Patriarch’ prepares to seize Moscow properties in Ukraine

Although Constantinople besought the Kiev church to stop property seizures, they were ignored and used, or perhaps, complicit.

Seraphim Hanisch

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The attack on the Eastern Orthodox Church, brought about by the US State Department and its proxies in Constantinople and Ukraine, is continuing. On October 20, 2018, the illegitimate “Kyiv (Kiev) Patriarchate”, led by Filaret Denisenko who is calling himself “Patriarch Filaret”, had a synodal meeting in which it changed the commemoration title of the leader of the church to include the Kyiv Caves and Pochaev Lavras.

This is a problem because Metropolitan Onuphry of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church which is canonically accepted and acts as a very autonomous church under the Moscow Patriarchate has these places under his pastoral care.

This move takes place only one week after Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople unilaterally (and illegally) lifted the excommunications, depositions (removal from priestly ranks as punishment) and anathemas against Filaret and Makary that were imposed on them by the hierarchy of the Moscow Patriarchate.

These two censures are very serious matters in the Orthodox Church. Excommunication means that the person or church so considered cannot receive Holy Communion or any of the other Mysteries (called Sacraments in the West) in a neighboring local Orthodox Church. Anathema is even more serious, for this happens when a cleric disregards his excommunication and deposition (removal from the priesthood), and acts as a priest or a bishop anyway.

Filaret Denisenko received all these censures in 1992, and Patriarch Bartholomew accepted this decision at the time, as stated in a letter he sent to Moscow shortly after the censures. However, three years later, Patriarch Bartholomew received a group of Ukrainian autocephalist bishops called the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the USA, who had been in communion with Filaret’s group. While this move may have been motivated by the factor of Bartholomew’s almost total isolation within Istanbul, Turkey, it is nonetheless non-canonical.

This year’s moves have far exceeded previous ones, though, and now the possibility for a real clash that could cost lives is raised. With Filaret’s “church” – really an agglomeration of Ukrainian ultranationalists and Neo-Nazis in the mix, plus millions of no doubt innocent Ukrainian faithful who are deluded about the problems of their church, challenging an existing arrangement regarding Ukraine and Russia’s two most holy sites, the results are not likely to be good at all.

Here is the report about today’s developments, reprinted in part from OrthoChristian.com:

Meeting today in Kiev, the Synod of the schismatic “Kiev Patriarchate” (KP) has officially changed the title of its primate, “Patriarch” Philaret, to include the Kiev Caves and Pochaev Lavras under his jurisdiction.

The primate’s new official title, as given on the site of the KP, is “His Holiness and Beatitude (name), Archbishop and Metropolitan of Kiev—Mother of the cities of Rus’, and Galicia, Patriarch of All Rus’-Ukraine, Svyaschenno-Archimandrite of the Holy Dormition Kiev Caves and Pochaev Lavras.”

…Thus, the KP Synod is declaring that “Patriarch” Philaret has jurisdiction over the Kiev Caves and Pochaev Lavras, although they are canonically under the omophorion of His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine, the primate of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

Philaret and his followers and nationalistic radicals have continually proclaimed that they will take the Lavras for themselves.

This claim to the ancient and venerable monasteries comes after the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate announced that it had removed the anathema placed upon Philaret by the Russian Orthodox Church and had restored him to his hierarchical office. Philaret was a metropolitan of the canonical Church, becoming patriarch in his schismatic organization.

Representatives of the Ecumenical Patriarchate have clarified that they consider Philaret to be the “former Metropolitan of Kiev,” but he and his organization continue to consider him an active patriarch, with jurisdiction in Ukraine.

Constantinople’s statement also appealed to all in Ukraine to “avoid appropriation of churches, monasteries, and other properties,” which the Synod of the KP ignored in today’s decision.

The KP primate’s abbreviated title will be, “His Holiness (name), Patriarch of Kiev and All Rus’-Ukraine,” and the acceptable form for relations with other Local Churches is “His Beatitude Archbishop (name), Metropolitan of Kiev and All Rus’-Ukraine.”

The Russian Orthodox Church broke eucharistic communion and all relations with the Ecumenical Patriarchate over this matter earlier this week. Of the fourteen local Orthodox Churches recognized the world over, twelve have expressed the viewpoint that Constantinople’s move was in violation of the canons of the Holy Orthodox Church. Only one local Church supported Constantinople wholeheartedly, and all jurisdictions except Constantinople have appealed for an interOrthodox Synod to address and solve the Ukrainian matter in a legitimate manner.

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Claims of Khashoggi death by fistfight expose Saudi brutality

The brutality of both state claims and unproven allegations in Khashoggi’s death raise serious questions about American alliances.

Seraphim Hanisch

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On October 2, 2018, Muslim Brotherhood member and Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi entered the Saudi Arabian embassy in Turkey, never to be seen or heard from again.

This chilling report has been answered with some horrifying and grisly stories about what happened – that he was dismembered while still alive, that his body parts were dissolved completely in acid, leaving nothing left.

Now after two weeks, the Saudi official word on what happened came out: He died in an unexpected fistfight in the embassy.

Really. That is the Saudi’s explanation. A fistfight. In an embassy. With 18 people detained as suspects in the investigation.

And apparently the Saudi government expects the world to accept this explanation and just let it go.

This situation has just exposed the true nature of this “ally” of the United States. Even Rush Limbaugh, a staunch supporter of all conservative positions in America, has spoken from time to time about the amazing disconnect in American foreign policy with regards to Saudi Arabia. He continued that on his radio programs on both October 18th and 19th, 2018, as shown in this excerpted transcript, with emphasis added:

I’m simplifying this, folks, but generally that’s what happens. So, by the same token, you could say that this militant terrorist Islam that we’ve known since 9/11 and maybe 10, 15 years prior, that has been sponsored by Saudi Arabia, by the Saudi royal family. It’s why so many people have been upset with so many American presidents being buddy-buddy with the king, whoever he happens to be. The Saudis always fund former presidents’ libraries. I mean, the Saudis had a good thing going. They had relationships with every president, former president and so forth.

And while they were selling us oil, sometimes. Cooperative or uncooperative, depending on the time, with price. But during all of that, they were the primary thrust for Wahhabi Islam. Now, here comes MbS (Mohammed bin Salman, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia), and he wants to just reform the hell out of the country, get rid of Wahhabism, bring in petrodollars competitors such as Hollywood and Silicon Valley and basically bring Saudi Arabia into the twenty-first century instead of the seventh. And there’s some people that don’t want that to happen.

And from the 19th:

Wahhabi Islam is where the really radical clerics and Imams are who are welcoming anybody they can into their mosques and just literally converting them into suicide bombers, terrorists, and what have you, under the auspices of Islam. And the Saudi royal family stood by and let it all happen. Whether they were instrumental in advocating it, don’t know, but Saudi-funded charities all over the world promoted Wahhabism.

And that’s when I went back to Mr. Buckley and said, “I don’t see how the Saudi royal family, the Saudi government can be separated from these 19 hijackers.”

Now in the rest of these transcripts, which are very interesting, Rush explains that Khashoggi was a Muslim Brotherhood member, and as such, stood opposed to MbS’ reform plans and actions. However the brutality of the alleged murder of Mr. Khashoggi, and the official “State version” account of his death are almost equally brutal. Death by fists? How is it that the United States considers such people allies?

President Trump is on record as saying that this explanation by the Saudi government is “credible.” However, this statement alone is out of context, so we bring you the entire statement:

This is not to be misunderstood as a Trump endorsement of belief. He points out that this is a first step, and that in his view it is a good one, but that is all.

Still, these events throw the real nature of the Saudi kingdom into sharp relief. They are the number one customer for US military equipment, now considered allies against Iran. In the complicated field of Middle East relations, the president’s caution is probably very wise for the moment. However, this is a nation which produced most of the 9/11 hijackers, which is said to be the last voice in what Islam is, and so promotes a very violent interpretation of an already violent faith.

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The news and information media got a great lesson in following something like “due process” with this matter, and while the President is doing that, this situation still invites some strong speculation. Allies that simultaneously seek an allied nation’s destruction do not seem like allies much at all. And embassies are usually held to be very safe places for people, not places where they meet their death in any way at all, let alone the cruel means alleged and later claimed.

This event may actually be very damaging to the Saudi Crown Prince’s effort to bring his nation out of Wahhabism and into some more kind interpretation of Islam, and indeed the West’s assessment of Khashoggi has taken to calling him a “teddy bear” when he is a Muslim Brotherhood member. Former US President Obama supported the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, and these people were so violent, killing Christians and destroying homes and businesses, that the Muslim Brotherhood’s uprising was followed by a second uprising from the more reasonable people in Egypt (which Obama promptly dropped).

If reports are to be believed, Mohammed bin Salman wants to end Wahhabism. It would seem to logically make sense that his agencies were involved in what happened to Kashoggi, who is a known critic of bin Salman. But if it really is true that the Saudi royals were not involved, then whoever it was certainly succeeded in stopping bin Salman’s efforts to modernize his country, at least for now.

 

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