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US in Syria: taking the world to the brink of annihilation

Obsessive regime change policy threatens uncontrolled escalation

Rick Sterling

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Introduction

Western neoconservatives and hawks are driving the international situation to increasing tension and danger. Not content with the destruction of Iraq and Libya based on false claims, they are now pressing for a direct US attack on Syria.

As a dangerous prelude, Israeli jets flying over Lebanese airspace fired missiles against the T4/Tiyas Airbase west of Palmyra.

This was Predicted

As reported at Tass, the Chief of Russia’s General Staff, Valery Gerasimov, predicted the current events almost a month ago. The report from March 13 says, “Russia has hard facts about preparations for staging the use of chemical weapons against civilians by the government forces. After the provocation, the US plans to accuse Syria’s government forces of using chemical weapons … furnish the so-called ‘evidence’ … and Washington plans to deliver a missile and bomb strike against Damascus’ government districts.”

Gerasimov noted that Russian military advisors are staying in the Syrian Defense Ministry’s facilities in Damascus and “in the event of a threat to our military servicemen’s lives, Russia’s Armed Forces will take retaliatory measures to target both the missiles and their delivery vehicles.”

The situation is clearly dangerous with risk of sliding into international conflict and even WW3. If that happens, it would mean the demise of civilization. All of this so that the West can continue supporting the sectarian armed groups seeking to overthrow the Assad government … in violation of international law and the UN Charter.

The most powerful country in the world is now led by a real estate, hotel and entertainment mogul without political experience. Behind the scenes, there is a powerful foreign policy establishment determined to maintain and reclaim US unilateral “leadership” of the world. They don’t like the fact that the US is losing influence, prestige and power around the world. Israel and Saudi Arabia are especially upset that their plans for regional domination are failing.

East Ghouta, Damascus

East Ghouta is a district of farms and towns on the north-east outskirts of Damascus. For the past six years, various armed factions controlled the area. On a nearly daily basis, they launched mortar and hell cannon missile attacks into Damascus, killing many thousands. This author personally witnessed two such mortar attacks in April 2014.

By the end of March most of East Ghouta had been retaken by the government. With the peaceful evacuation of armed militants, civilians flooded into the humanitarian corridors and then government camps for the displaced. The campaign was proceeding quickly with minimal loss of life as the Russian Reconciliation officers negotiated agreements which allowed the militants to keep small weapons and be transported to Idlib in the north. Vanessa Beeley documented the situation including the happiness and relief of many civilians as they finally made it to safety. One described the feeling as “like being reborn”. Robert Fisk was on site and reported what he saw first hand in stories titled Watching on as Islamist fighters are evacuated from war-torn Eastern Ghouta and Western howls of outrage over the Ghouta siege ring hollow.

As reported at the Russian Reconciliation Centre, by the end of March, 105,857 civilians had moved into government controlled areas while 13,793 militants plus 23,433 family members had been transported north. Those who wanted to stay, including former fighters, were welcomed. They could rejoin Syrian society with the same rights and obligations as other Syrians.

The last remaining opposition stronghold was the town of Douma, controlled by the Saudi funded Jaish al Islam. Negotiations were prolonged because Jaish al Islam did not want to go to Idlib which is dominated by another militant opposition group, Jabhat al Nusra also known as Hayat Tahrir al Sham.

The Chemical Incident

On Saturday April 7 video and stories claiming a chemical weapons attack in Douma were broadcast. The video showed dozens of dead children. On Sunday the story grabbed western mainstream media headlines.  US President Trump quickly come to a conclusion: “President Putin, Russia and Iran are responsible for backing Animal Assad. Big price to pay”. 

There has been no objective investigation. The media claims are based on statements and videos from members of the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) and White Helmets. Both organizations receive significant funding from the US government and call for Western intervention in Syria.

Chemical weapons have emerged as the quick and easy justification for aggression.  One year ago, in April 2017, it was the incident at Khan Shaykoun. That resulted in a US attack on a Syrian air base just days later. The subsequent investigation discovered that dozens of victims had shown up in hospitals in diverse locations and up to 100 kms away from the scene of crime BEFORE the event happened. Strangely, and indicating the investigation team bias, this red flag pointing to fraud was not investigated further. If it was just a few victims or just one location, it might be a mistake in time record-keeping. However in this case there were dozens of discrepancies in multiple locations, clearly raising the possibility of fraud.     

Now we have the incident in Douma, at town on the outskirts of Damascus. The armed opposition is in retreat. They have tried to pressure the US and NATO to intervene directly since 2012. They have access to chemical weapons in East Ghouta and motive. They also have thousands of prisoners. This is the group which put hundreds of prisoners, primarily women and children, in cages on the streets of Douma.

Who Benefits?

The timing of the chemical weapons incidents is also noteworthy. As documented here, one year ago on 30 March 2017 Ambassador Haley said the US policy was no longer focused on getting Assad out. Five days later the chemical incident at Khan Sheikhoun happened, quickly followed by blaming the Syrian government, a US attack and a restoration of the demand that “Assad must go”. On March 29 Trump said that US forces will withdraw from Syria “very soon”. This was followed by outcries from the media and political establishment. Now, following the Saturday chemical weapons incident, the US is again threatening to intervene directly. The chemical weapons incidents have consistently resulted in the reversal of a proposed change in hostility toward Syria. 

Neoconservatives and the supporters of ‘regime change’ foreign policy have various theories why the Assad government would perpetrate a chemical weapons attack. Senator John McCain says the Syrian President was “emboldened” by the previous Trump statement.

Juan Cole, an academic who promoted the assaults on Libya in 2011, has a different theory. He says 

Chemical weapons are used by desperate regimes that are either outnumbered by the enemy or are reluctant to take casualties in their militaries. Barrel-bombing Douma with chem seems to have appealed to the regime as a tactic for this reason. It had potential of frightening the Douma population into deserting the Army of Islam.

In contrast with his theory, chemical weapons were used extensively by the US in Vietnam and Iraq when they were far from desperate. As evidenced in the flow of civilians into government held areas, most of the civilian population are happy to get away from the sectarian and violent Army of Islam (“Jaish al Islam”). Cole seems to be basing his theories on inaccurate western media coverage just as he did regarding Libya where sensational claims about a looming massacre in Benghazi were later shown to be fraudulent.

It’s clear who benefits from sensational media coverage about a chemical weapons incident: those who seek to demonize the Syrian government and President and want the US government to intervene militarily. Every time there is an incident, it is quickly accepted and used by the governments and organizations who have been seeking ‘regime change’ in Syria for many years.

Manipulating Public Opinion

The manipulation of western opinion about the Syrian conflict using fake events is not theory; it has been proven.  A good example is the fake kidnapping of NBC reporter Richard Engel in December 2012.  Engel and his media team were reportedly kidnapped and threatened with death by “shabiha” supporters of the Syrian president. After days in captivity the American team was supposedly rescued by Free Syrian Army “rebels” after a shootout. In 2015 it was confirmed this was a hoax perpetrated by the FSA and their American supporters. The entire charade was carried out by the “rebels”. The goal was to demonize the Assad government and its supporters, and to romanticize and increase support for the armed opposition. Neither Engel nor NBC confessed to the reality until it was about to be exposed years later, pointing to duplicity and collusion in the deception.

Four and half years ago, on 21 August 2013, the most famous chemical weapons incident occurred. The Syrian government was immediately accused of launching a sarin attack which killed hundreds of children and civilians. Over the next six months investigations were carried out. The conclusions of Seymour Hersh, Robert Parry and the research site whoghouta.com concluded that the attack was almost certainly NOT from the government but actually from one of the ‘rebel’ factions with support from Turkish intelligence services. Two Turkish parliamentary deputies held a press conference and publicly revealed some of the evidence. The intent then, as now, was to provide justification and provocation for the US and NATO to intervene directly.

Conclusion

Today there is the imminent possibility of a major attack based on the allegations of a clearly biased source. What ever happened to international law and legal due process? Why is violence being threatened before there is a serious objective investigation of the chemical incident? If the accusations against Syria are true, why not have a serious investigation, especially now that the area has been liberated today (9 April) and safe access can be provided? 

The drums of war are pounding. After over one year of incessant Russia bashing and disinformation, is the public ready to go to war with Russia over Syria? Neoconservative hawks and their Israeli and Saudi allies seem to want this. Their plans and predictions for Iraq, Libya and Yemen were delusional fantasies with the price paid in blood by the people of those countries and in treasure by Americans as well. Sadly, there has not been any accountability for the media and political establishment that promoted and launched these wars. Now they want to escalate the aggression by attacking Syria, causing vastly more blood to flow and risking confrontation with a country which can fight back.

….………..

Rick Sterling is an investigative journalist based in the San Francisco Bay Area.

He can be contacted at [email protected]

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Russian Il-20 downed by Syrian missile. Russia blames Israel. Israel blames Syria (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 110.

Alex Christoforou

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The unthinkable has happened in Syria.

The world now teeters on the brink of all out war in Syria as a Russian Il-20 was downed by Syrian missile after Israeli F-16s used it as cover during attack, according to statements made by the Russian Ministry of Defense.

President Vladimir Putin, answering a reporter’s question during a press conference with Hungarian PM Viktor Orban, said the downing of the Russian Il-20 plane looks like “a chain of tragic circumstances.” 

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the tripwire triggered that has the potential to tip the fragile balance in Syria towards conflict between Russia, Iran and Israel.

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The Russian military says an Israeli raid on Syria triggered a chain of events that led to its Il-20 plane being shot down by a Syrian S-200 surface-to-air missile. Moscow reserves the right to respond accordingly.

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said…

“Israel did not warn the command of the Russian troops in Syria about the planned operation. We received a notification via a hotline less than a minute before the strike, which did not allow the Russian aircraft to be directed to a safe zone.”

The statement by the Russian Defense Ministry said that four Israeli F-16 fighter jets attacked targets in Syria’s Latakia after approaching from the Mediterranean.

The Israeli warplanes approached at a low altitude and “created a dangerous situation for other aircraft and vessels in the region.”

The statement further said that 15 Russian military service members have died as a result…

“The Israeli pilots used the Russian plane as cover and set it up to be targeted by the Syrian air defense forces. As a consequence, the Il-20, which has radar cross-section much larger than the F-16, was shot down by an S-200 system missile.”

According to reports from RT, the Russian military said that the French Navy’s frigate ‘Auvergne,’ as well as a Russian Il-20 plane were in the area during the Israeli operation.

Map of the incident on September 17 in Syria provided by the Russian defense ministry.

The Russian ministry said the Israelis must have known that the Russian plane was present in the area, but this did not stop them from executing “the provocation.” Israel also failed to warn Russia about the planned operation in advance. The warning came just a minute before the attack started, which “did not leave time to move the Russian plane to a safe area,”the statement said.

The statement gives a larger death toll than earlier reports by the Russian military, which said there were 14 crew members on board the missing Il-20. It said a search and rescue operation for the shot-down plane is underway.

A later update said debris from the downed plane was found some 27km off the Latakia coast. The search party collected some body parts, personal possessions of the crew, and fragments of the plane.

Meanwhile Israel has come out to blame the Syrian government for the downing of the military plane, according to an IDF statement.

Israel said that it “expresses sorrow for the death of the aircrew members” of the Russian plane. However, it stated that the government of Bashar Assad “whose military shot down the Russian plane,” is “fully responsible” for the incident.

Israel further blamed Iran and Hezbollah for the incident.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) explained that its jets were targeting a Syrian facility “from which systems to manufacture accurate and lethal weapons were about to be transferred on behalf of Iran to Hezbollah in Lebanon.”

Israel claimed that the weapons were “meant to attack Israel.”

Via RT

The IDF assumed that the Syrian anti-air batteries “fired indiscriminately” and didn’t “bother to ensure that no Russian planes were in the air.” The Israelis said that when the Syrian military launched the missiles which hit the Russian plane, its own jets were already within Israeli airspace. “During the strike against the target in Latakia, the Russian plane that was then hit was not within the area of the operation.”

According to the Israeli military, both IDF and Russia have “a deconfliction system,” which was agreed upon by the leadership of both states, and “has proven itself many times over recent years.” The system was in use when the incident happened, the IDF stated. The IDF promised to share “all the relevant information” with Russia “to review the incident and to confirm the facts in this inquiry.”

The military presented a four-point initial inquiry into events in Latakia. It insisted that “extensive and inaccurate” Syrian anti-aircraft fire caused the Russian jet “to be hit and downed.”

The Russian Il-20 aircraft, with 15 crew on board, went off radar during an attack by four Israeli jets on Syria’s Latakia province late Monday. Later on Tuesday the Russian Defense Ministry said that an Israeli raid on Syria triggered a chain of events that led to its plane being shot down by a Syrian S-200 surface-to-air missile.

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Trump Orders Immediate Release Of All Text Messages, Carter Page FISA Application From Russia Investigation

Trump has ordered the DOJ to release all text messages related to the Russia investigation with no redactions.

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Via Zerohedge

President Trump has ordered the Department of Justice to release all text messages related to the Russia investigation with no redactions, of former FBI Director James Comey, his deputy Andrew McCabe, now-fired special agent Peter Strzok, former FBI attorney Lisa Page and twice-demoted DOJ official Bruce Ohr.

Also released will be specific pages from the FBI’s FISA surveillance warrant application on former Trump campaign aide Carter Page, as well as interviews with Ohr.

The statement reads in full:

“At the request of a number of committees of Congress, and for reasons of transparency, the President has directed the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Justice (including the FBI) to provide for the immediate declassification of the following materials: (1) pages 10-12 and 17-34 of the June 2017 application to the FISA court in the matter of Carter W. Page; (2) all FBI reports of interviews with Bruce G. Ohr prepared in connection with the Russia investigation; and (3) all FBI reports of interviews prepared in connection with all Carter Page FISA applications.

In addition, President Donald J. Trump has directed the Department of Justice (including the FBI) to publicly release all text messages relating to the Russia investigation, without redaction, of James Comey, Andrew McCabe, Peter Strzok, Lisa Page, and Bruce Ohr

***

As we reported last Monday, Trump had been expected to release the documents any time – with specific attention to the Page documents and the “investigative activities of Justice Department lawyer Bruce Ohr” – who was demoted twice for lying about his extensive relationship  with Christopher Steele – the former MI6 spy who assembled the sham “Steele Dossier” used by the FBI in a FISA surveillance application to spy on Page.

Republicans on the House Intelligence and Judiciary committees believe the declassification will permanently taint the Trump-Russia investigation by showing the investigation was illegitimate to begin with. Trump has been hammering the same theme for months.

  • They allege that Bruce Ohr played an improper intermediary role between the Justice Department, British spy Christopher Steele and Fusion GPS — the opposition research firm that produced the Trump-Russia dossier, funded by Democrats. (Ohr’s wife, Nellie, worked for Fusion GPS on Russia-related matters during the presidential election — a fact that Ohr did not disclose on federal forms.)
  • And they further allege that the Obama administration improperly spied on Carter Page — all to take down Trump. –Axios

Ohr, meanwhile, met with Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska in 2015 to discuss helping the FBI with organized crime investigations, according to The Hill‘s John Solomon. The meeting with the Putin ally was facilitated by Steele.

Last month Trump called Ohr a disgrace, while also tweeting: “Will Bruce Ohr, whose family received big money for helping to create the phony, dirty and discredited Dossier, ever be fired from the Jeff Sessions  “Justice” Department? A total joke!”

Trump’s threat came one day after two tweets about Ohr, noting a connection to former FBI agent Peter Strzok, as well as a text sent by Ohr after former FBI Director James Comey was fired in which Ohr says “afraid they will be exposed.”

According to emails turned over to Congressional investigators in August, Christopher Steele was much closer to Bruce Ohr and his wife Nellie than previously disclosed.

Steele and the Ohrs would have breakfast together on July 30, 2016 at the Mayflower Hotel in downtown Washington D.C., days after Steele turned in installments of his infamous “dossier” on July 19 and 26. The breakfast also occurred one day before the FBI formally launched operation “Crossfire Hurricane,” the agency’s counterintelligence operation into the Trump campaign.

“Great to see you and Nellie this morning Bruce,” Steele wrote shortly following their breakfast meeting. “Let’s keep in touch on the substantive issues/s (sic). Glenn is happy to speak to you on this if it would help.”

“After two years of investigations and accusations from both sides of the aisle about what documents indicate, it is past time for documents to be declassified and let the American people decide for themselves if DoJ and FBI acted properly,” Freedom Caucus chairman Mark Meadows told Axios earlier Sunday.

In early August, journalist Paul Sperry tweeted that Trump may use his presidential authority to declassify “20 redacted pages of a June, 2017 FISA renewal, “and possibly” 63 pages of emails and notes between “Ohr & Steele,” and FD-302 summaries of 12 interviews.”

President Trump threatened to declassify documents two weeks ago – one day after the New York Times allegedly published an anonymous Op-Ed claiming to be from a White House official claiming to be part of an unelected “resistance” cabal within the Trump administration.

“The Deep State and the Left, and their vehicle, the Fake News Media, are going Crazy – & they don’t know what to do,” Trump tweeted earlier this month, adding: “The Economy is booming like never before, Jobs are at Historic Highs, soon TWO Supreme Court Justices & maybe Declassification to find Additional Corruption. Wow!”

Trump’s threat comes as calls by frustrated GOP legislators to release the documents have hit a fevered pitch. Spearheading the effort are Republican Reps. Meadows, Jim Jordan, Matt Gaetz and Lee Zeldin – who have repeatedly asked Trump to declassify more of the heavily redacted FISA surveillance warrant on former Trump campaign aide Carter Page in late 2016.

In June, Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee asked President Trump to declassify key sections of Carter Page’s FISA warrant application, according to a letter obtained by Fox News.

Carter Page, the DOJ/FBI’s person of interest, weighed in on the matter in late August, tweeting: “The Corrupt DOJ, co-conspirators in the DNC and their high-priced consultants correctly believed they had American democracy and the FISA Court over a barrel in 2016.”

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De-Dollarization Tops Agenda at Russia’s Eastern Economic Forum

The Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) was held in Vladivostok on Sept.11-13. Founded in 2015, the event has become a platform for planning and launching projects to strengthen business ties in the Asia-Pacific region.

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Via Strategic Culture

This year, the EEF brought together delegations from over 60 countries to discuss the topic “The Far East: Expanding the Range of Possibilities”. A total of 100 business events involving over 6,000 participants were held during the three days.

1,357 media personnel worked to cover the forum. Last year, the number of participants was 5,000 with 1,000 media persons involved in reporting and broadcasting. The EEF-18 gathered 340 foreign and 383 Russian CEOs. Nearly 80 start-ups from across South-East Asia joined the meeting.

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This year, a total of 175 agreements worth of 2.9 trillion rubles (some $4.3 billion) were signed. For comparison, the sum was 2.5 trillion rubles (roughly $3.7 billion) in 2017.

They included the development of the Baimsky ore deposits in Chukotka, the construction of a terminal for Novatek LNG at Bechevinskaya Bay in Kamchatka and the investment of Asian countries in Russia’s agricultural projects in the Far East.

Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), Mail.Ru Group, Megafon and Chinese Alibaba inked an agreement on establishing AliExpress trade joint venture. Rosneft and Chinese CNPC signed an oil exploration agreement.

The Chinese delegation was the largest (1,096 people), followed by the Japanese (570 members). The list of guests included the president of Mongolia and prime ministers of Japan and South Korea.

It was also the first time Chinese President Xi Jinping attended the event to meet his Russian counterpart. The issue of de-dollarization topped the agenda. Russia and China reaffirmed their interest in expanding the use of national currencies in bilateral deals.

During the forum, Kirill Dmitriev, the head of RDIF, said the fund intends to use only national currencies in its transactions with China starting from 2019. It will cooperate with the China Development Bank.

This “yuanification” is making visible progress with Shanghai crude futures increasing their share of oil markets up to 14 percent or even more. China has signed agreements with Canada and Qatar on national currencies exchange.

READ MORE: Eastern Economic Forum opens new chapter in US-Russia dialogue

De-dollarization is a trend that is picking up momentum across the world. A growing number of countries are interested in replacing the dollar. Russia is leading the race to protect itself from fluctuations, storms and US-waged trade wars and sanctions.

Moscow backs non-dollar trade with Ankara amid the ongoing lira crisis. Turkey is switching from the dollar to settlements in national currencies, including its trade with China and other countries. Ditching the US dollar is the issue topping the BRICS agenda. In April, Iran transferred all international payments to the euro.

The voices calling for de-dollarization are getting louder among America’s closest European allies. In August, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas called for the creation of a new payments system independent of the US.

According to him, Europe should not allow the United States to act “over our heads and at our expense.” The official wants to strengthen European autonomy by establishing independent payment channels, creating a European Monetary Fund and building up an independent SWIFT system.

Presenting his annual program, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker called on Sept. 12 for the European Union to promote the euro as a global currency to challenge the dollar.

According to him, “We must do more to allow our single currency to play its full role on the international scene.” Mr. Juncker believes “it is absurd that Europe pays for 80 percent of its energy import bill – worth 300 billion euros a year – in US dollars when only roughly 2 percent of our energy imports come from the United States.” He wants the raft of proposals made in his state of the union address to start being implemented before the European Parliament elections in May.

70% of all world trade transactions account for the dollar, while 20% are  settled in the euro, and the rest falls on the yuan and other Asian currencies. The dollar value is high to make the prices of consumer goods in the US artificially low. The demand for dollars allows refinancing the huge debt at low interest rates. The US policy of trade wars and sanctions has triggered the global process of de-dollarization.

Using punitive measures as a foreign policy tool is like shooting oneself in the foot. It prompts a backlash to undermine the dollar’s status as the world reserve currency – the basis of the US economic might. The aggressive policy undermines the US world standing to make it weaker, not stronger.

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