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Al-Qaeda in retreat, Turkey calls it quits: Syria is winning the war

Turkish announcement of end of Operation Euphrates Shield and Tillerson comment about Assad’s fate being decided by Syrian people, coming after Jihadi defeats in Damascus and northern Hama, may be a sign of US and Turkish acceptance that the ‘regime change’ war in Syria has finally failed.

Alexander Mercouris

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An offensive launched two weeks ago by Al-Qaeda in the northern areas of Syria’s Hama province appears to be unravelling, with Jihadi forces in the area coming under heavy bombing by the Russian air force and forced onto the retreat by a counter-attack launched by the Syrian army.

My opinion, together with that of many other observers, is that the green light for this offensive and for the simultaneous offensive Al-Qaeda launched in eastern Damascus, came from Turkish President Erdogan, who has been struggling to achieve some gains for Turkey in Syria to justify his intervention in that country.

The fact that Turkish backed Jihadi groups were involved in both the Damascus and the Hama offensives to my mind all but confirms this fact, though in fairness to Erdogan these groups are difficult to control.  However the fact that Erdogan and the Turkish authorities failed to call on these Turkish backed Jihadi groups to observe the ceasefire and desist from joining these offensives to my mind all but confirms that at the very least he gave the green light to them.

In the event the failure of these offensives has – as I discussed previously – left the Jihadis and Erdogan in an even weaker position than they were before.

The fact that Erdogan has now formally announced the end of Operation Euphrates Shield, and that US Secretary of Tillerson has announced during a visit to Turkey that Syrian President Assad’s fate will be decided by the Syrian people and not by the US and its allies, both look as if they might be the result of this.

If so then the Jihadi offensives in Damascus and Hama may have been the last desperate throw of the ‘regime change’ coalition which has been driving the Syrian war since the conflict in Syria began in 2011.

In that case the fact the demand for ‘regime change’ is being dropped following these defeats would mark the first occasion since the USSR’s collapse in 1991 when a NATO backed ‘regime change’ war – albeit one which in this case has been fought covertly – has been defeated, both diplomatically and on the battlefield.

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Second Canadian Citizen Disappears In China

According to the he Globe and Mail, the man was identified as Michael Spavor, a Canadian whose company Peaktu Cultural Exchange brings tourists and hockey players into North Korea.

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Via Zerohedge…


For a trade war that was supposed to be between the US and China, Canada has found itself increasingly in the middle of the crossfire. And so after the arrest of a former Canadian diplomat in Beijing in retaliation for the detention of the Huawei CFO in Vancouver, Canada said a second person has been questioned by Chinese authorities, further heightening tensions between the two countries.

The second person reached out to the Canadian government after being questioned by Chinese officials, Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said, at which point Canada lost contact with him. His whereabouts are currently unknown and Global Affairs Canada said they are in contact with his family.

“We haven’t been able to make contact with him since he let us know about this,” Freeland told reporters Wednesday in Ottawa. “We are working very hard to ascertain his whereabouts and we have also raised this case with Chinese authorities.”

According to the he Globe and Mail, the man was identified as Michael Spavor, a Canadian whose company Peaktu Cultural Exchange brings tourists and hockey players into North Korea. He gained fame for helping arrange a visit to Pyongyang by former NBA player Dennis Rodman, and he met North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on that trip, the newspaper reported. Attempts to reach Spavor on his contact number either in China, or North Korean went straight to voicemail.

Spavor’s personal Facebook page contains several images of him with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un including one of him with both Jong-un and former Dennis Rodman at an undisclosed location.

Michael P. Spavor, right, pictured here with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, second from right, and Dennis Rodman.

Another image shows the two sharing a drink on a boat.

The unexplained disappearance takes place after China’s spy agency detained former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig in Beijing on Monday, who was on leave from the foreign service. The arrest came nine days after Canada arrested Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou at the request of U.S. DOJ. While Canada has asked to see the former envoy after it was informed by fax of his arrest, Canada is unaware of Kovrig current whereabouts or the charges he faces.

“Michael did not engage in illegal activities nor did he do anything that endangered Chinese national security,” Rob Malley, chief executive officer of the ICG, said in a written statement. “He was doing what all Crisis Group analysts do: undertaking objective and impartial research.”

One possibility is that Kovrig may have been caught up in recent rule changes in China that affect non-governmental organizations, according to Bloomberg. The ICG wasn’t authorized to do work in China, Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Lu Kang said during a regular press briefing in Beijing Wednesday.

“We welcome foreign travelers. But if they engage in activities that clearly violate Chinese laws and regulations, then it is totally another story,” he said, adding he had no information on Kovrig specifically.

As Bloomberg further notes, foreign non-governmental organizations are now required to register with the Chinese authorities under a 2017 law that subjects them to stringent reporting requirements. Under the law, organizations without a representative office in China must have a government sponsor and a local cooperative partner before conducting activities. ICG said this is the first time they’ve heard such an accusation from the Chinese authorities in a decade of working with the country. The company closed its Beijing operations in December 2016 because of the new Chinese law, according to a statement. Kovrig was working out of the Hong Kong office.

Meanwhile, realizing that it is increasingly bearing the brunt of China’s retaliatory anger, Trudeau’s government distanced itself from Meng’s case, saying it can’t interfere with the courts, but is closely involved in advocating on Kovrig’s behalf.

So far Canada has declined to speculate on whether there was a connection between the Kovrig and Meng cases, with neither Freeland nor Canadian Trade Minister Jim Carr saying Wednesday that there is any indication the cases are related. Then again, it is rather obvious they are. Indeed, Guy Saint-Jacques, who served as ambassador to China from 2012 to 2016 and worked with Kovrig, says the link is clear. “There’s no coincidence with China.”

“In this case, they couldn’t grab a Canadian diplomat because this would have created a major diplomatic incident,” he said. “Going after him I think was their way to send a message to the Canadian government and to put pressure.”

Even though Meng was granted bail late Tuesday, that did not placate China, whose foreign ministry spokesman said that “The Canadian side should correct its mistakes and release Ms. Meng Wanzhou immediately.”

The tension, according to Bloomberg,  may force Canadian companies to reconsider travel to China, and executives traveling to the Asian country will need to exercise extra caution, said Andy Chan, managing partner at Miller Thomson LLP in Vaughan, Ontario.

“Canadian business needs to look at and balance the reasons for the travel’’ between the business case and the “current political environment,’’ Chan said by email. Chinese officials subject business travelers to extra screening and in some case reject them from entering, he said.

Earlier in the day, SCMP reported that Chinese high-tech researchers were told “not to travel to the US unless it’s essential.”

And so, with Meng unlikely to be released from Canada any time soon, expect even more “Chinese (non) coincidences”, until eventually China does detain someone that the US does care about.

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Truth and Free Speech Are Being Taken Away From Us

A population that does not respect and defend free speech, debate, and truth will not long have the liberty that results from free speech, debate, and truth.

Paul Craig Roberts

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Authored by Paul Craig Roberts:


Dear Readers:

This is my quarterly request for your support.

Many supporters are now monthly donors. This call is a reminder to those who respond to the quarterly requests and to the many who are yet to respond. In keeping with a decision made by the regular donors, those of limited means are exempt from the request.

Free speech and the ability to speak truth are being shut down. It is happening with the complicity of the print and TV media, the liberal/progressive/left, the US Department of Justice (sic), the law schools and bar associations, Congress, and the federal judiciary.

The attack on Julian Assange is the arrow aimed at the heart of the ability to publish the truth. If a journalist can be indicted for espionage for publishing leaked documents that a corrupt government has classified in order to conceal its crimes, the First Amendment is dead.

Moreover, as the claim is that government was harmed by Wikileaks publishing the truth, Assange’s secret indictment sets the precedent that truth is harmful to government. This precedent will be extended to include the publication of any information or opinion, classified or not, that the government regards as harmful. The media then officially becomes what it mainly already is in effect—a Ministry of Propaganda for the government and those who control it.

As a person who has held high security clearances, I can say with confidence that no more than one percent of classified information falls in the realm of national security. Most classification is simply to prevent the people and Congress from knowing what is going on. Classification allows the various components of government to put the spin where they want it. “National security” has always been an excuse accepted by patriots for the government to conceal its wrong doings and hidden agendas.

Give thought to the alleged harm done by Wikileaks publishing the information leaked by Bradley Manning and the Clinton emails that were downloaded onto a thumb drive and not hacked as security experts have proved. Give thought to the documents proving the warrantless and thereby illegal spying by the NSA that Edward Snowden revealed. How was government hurt by the information? Government should have been hurt, but it was not. The presstitutes did not take up the issue. No one in government was punished for the war crimes, lies, and illegal and unconstitutional acts that the publication of the leaked documents revealed. None of Washington’s vassal governments renounced its vassalage on the basis of the information that revealed they were spied on and deceived. Washington’s vassal governments already knew that Washington lies and deceives them. The Chancellor of Germany simply accepted that Washington listens to her private telephone calls. Vassals simply accept indignities as a consequence of their vassalage. The only people punished were those who revealed the truth—Manning, Snowden, and Assange.

Washington imprisoned Manning and seeks to imprison Assange for damage that Washington did not suffer.

As a country loses its liberty, legal scholars who formerly would have protected liberty turn against it in order to curry favor with power. Recently, I read a specious legal argument that the First Amendment did not really protect Ellsberg and the New York Times when the Pentagon Papers were published, but that no president wanted to be the first one to break the tradition of extending such protection. The author claims that Assange is not protected by the First Amendment even though he is a journalist. The author of the article did not realize that his argument means that journalists have squatters’ rights in First Amendment protection. For the Justice Department to bring a case against Assange means overturning a right that is ensconced in common law as well as in the Constitution.

Washington has shown that it is not interested in any rights but its own to do what it wants. The George W. Bush regime overturned the Constitutional protection of habeas corpus when the regime declared that it could detain citizens indefinitely in prison without presentation of evidence to a court. The Obama regime destroyed due process and the Constitutional right to life when the regime declared that it could assassinate citizens on suspicion alone. Both regimes ignored statutory and Constitutional prohibitions on torture and only punished those who revealed the torture. If Bush and Obama had the right to torture, what was the point of prosecuting those who revealed that torture happened?

As the truth revealed by Wikileaks has had no adverse consequence for Washington, what is the point of Washington’s assault on Assange? In part it is revenge on an individual brazen enough to stand up to Washington, and in part it is to criminalize the telling of truth that is critical of the government.

Once there was a time when the media would have been up in arms in defense of Assange and press freedom. That was before the media was illegally concentrated in a few hands by the Clinton regime and before the media became concentrated ideologically. The media hates Donald Trump and thereby hates Assange for publishing the Hillary emails that the media believes cost Hillary the election. The media is much more intent on helping the Deep State deep-six Assange than the media is in defending its First Amendment protections.

The liberal/progressive/left sees it the same way. The politics of the liberal/progressive/left is Identity Politics, and Identity Politics hates white fly-over America that elected Trump. This is why the media and the liberal/progressive/left are helping the military/security complex tie Assange to Trump, Putin, and “Russiagate.” The Guardian newspaper has destroyed what little credibility it still had by publishing obviously false information concocted to connect Assange to “Russiagate.” See: https://www.paulcraigroberts.org/2018/11/30/the-guardian-is-a-professional-liar-not-a-newspaper/and http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/50715.htm

The military/security complex planted on its media assets the fiction that Assange fled to the Ecuadorian Embassy to escape prosecution for rape.The presstitutes consistently repeat the lie, as Harriet Alexander in the UK Telegraph does, that “Mr Assange fled to the embassy to avoid charges of rape, sexual molestation and coercion. All charges were dropped by May 2017” (http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/50716.htm ).

There were never any such charges filed against Assange. Assange took asylum in the embassy, because it was clear that he was going to be extradited to Washington where he would get a show trial as a spy. It is not possible that Harriet Alexander and the editors at the Telegraph do not know this. Nevertheless, they repeat the lie, the purpose of which is to put Assange in a bad light that will aid his conviction on false charges.

Washington knew that it could tell this lie about Assange raping women because Washington knew that #MeToo and other radical feminists believe that that is what men do, and that #MeToo would be delighted to have yet another celebrity provided for their denunciation.

Washington also knew that its media whores hated Assange for having the integrity and courage that they do not have and that they would willingly stomp him to death with their hobnailed boots.

The US Justice (sic) Department knows it has concocted a false case and intentionally kept it secret, but has no worry because insouciant Americans will believe its indictment regardless.

The judiciary will permit the false case to be tried in a federal court because every judge wants to be elevated rather than criticized and even framed, and the jury will be too afraid to go against Assange’s public conviction in the media to find him innocent.

The jury’s guilty verdict will murder the First Amendment, but the jury will be able to go home to their neighborhoods without being ostracized.

It is not only the government that is attacking free speech. Free speech is under full scale attack by everyone who claims to be “offended,” by the invention of “hate speech” to control what can be said about “victim groups,” by the Israel Lobby that is having laws passed that prohibit the boycotting of Israel for its mistreatment of Palestinians and by equating criticism of the Israeli government with anti-semitism. ( See, for example, https://www.globalresearch.ca/the-film-the-israel-lobby-does-not-want-you-to-see/5661958 ). Twitter, Facebook, and Google are all active in deciding what can and cannot be said. (See, for example,https://www.paulcraigroberts.org/2018/11/30/stating-the-fact-that-men-are-not-women-gets-feminist-banned-from-twitter/ ). Public forums are denied to people who are disapproved of by other people.

A population that does not respect and defend free speech, debate, and truth will not long have the liberty that results from free speech, debate, and truth. This website respects truth, and it requires your support.

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FBI recommended Michael Flynn not have lawyer present during interview, did not warn of false statement consequences

Flynn is scheduled to be sentenced on Dec. 18.

Washington Examiner

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Via The Washington Examiner…


Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, who arranged the bureau’s interview with then-national security adviser Michael Flynn at the White House on Jan. 24, 2017 — the interview that ultimately led to Flynn’s guilty plea on one count of making false statements — suggested Flynn not have a lawyer present at the session, according to newly-filed court documents. In addition, FBI officials, along with the two agents who interviewed Flynn, decided specifically not to warn him that there would be penalties for making false statements because the agents wanted to ensure that Flynn was “relaxed” during the session.

The new information, drawn from McCabe’s account of events plus the FBI agents’ writeup of the interview — the so-called 302 report — is contained in a sentencing memo filed Tuesday by Flynn’s defense team.

Citing McCabe’s account, the sentencing memo says that shortly after noon on Jan. 24 — the fourth day of the new Trump administration — McCabe called Flynn on a secure phone in Flynn’s West Wing office. The two men discussed business briefly and then McCabe said that he “felt that we needed to have two of our agents sit down” with Flynn to discuss Flynn’s talks with Russian officials during the presidential transition.

McCabe, by his own account, urged Flynn to talk to the agents alone, without a lawyer present. “I explained that I thought the quickest way to get this done was to have a conversation between [Flynn] and the agents only,” McCabe wrote. “I further stated that if LTG Flynn wished to include anyone else in the meeting, like the White House counsel for instance, that I would need to involve the Department of Justice. [Flynn] stated that this would not be necessary and agreed to meet with the agents without any additional participants.”

Within two hours, the agents were in Flynn’s office. According to the 302 report quoted in the Flynn sentencing document, the agents said Flynn was “relaxed and jocular” and offered the agents “a little tour” of his part of the White House.

“The agents did not provide Gen. Flynn with a warning of the penalties for making a false statement under 18 U.S.C. 1001 before, during, or after the interview,” the Flynn memo says. According to the 302, before the interview, McCabe and other FBI officials “decided the agents would not warn Flynn that it was a crime to lie during an FBI interview because they wanted Flynn to be relaxed, and they were concerned that giving the warnings might adversely affect the rapport.”

The agents had, of course, seen transcripts of Flynn’s wiretapped conversations with Russian then-ambassador Sergey Kislyak. “Before the interview, FBI officials had also decided that if ‘Flynn said he did not remember something they knew he said, they would use the exact words Flynn used … to try to refresh his recollection. If Flynn still would not confirm what he said … they would not confront him or talk him through it,'” the Flynn memo says, citing the FBI 302.

“One of the agents reported that Gen. Flynn was ‘unguarded’ during the interview and ‘clearly saw the FBI agents as allies,'” the Flynn memo says, again citing the 302.

Later in the memo, Flynn’s lawyers argue that the FBI treated Flynn differently from two other Trump-Russia figures who have pleaded guilty to and been sentenced for making false statements. One of them, Alexander Van der Zwaan, “was represented by counsel during the interview; he was interviewed at a time when there was a publicly disclosed, full-bore investigation regarding Russian interference in the 2016 election; and he was given a warning that it is a federal crime to lie during the interview,” according to the memo. The other, George Papadopoulos, “was specifically notified of the seriousness of the investigation…was warned that lying to investigators was a ‘federal offense’…had time to reflect on his answers…and met with the FBI the following month for a further set of interviews, accompanied by his counsel, and did not correct his false statements.”

The message of the sentencing memo is clear: Flynn, his lawyers suggest, was surprised, rushed, not warned of the context or seriousness of the questioning, and discouraged from having a lawyer present.

That is all the sentencing document contains about the interview itself. In a footnote, Flynn’s lawyers noted that the government did not object to the quotations from the FBI 302 report.

In one striking detail, footnotes in the Flynn memo say the 302 report cited was dated Aug. 22, 2017 — nearly seven months after the Flynn interview. It is not clear why the report would be written so long after the interview itself.

The brief excerpts from the 302 used in the Flynn defense memo will likely spur more requests from Congress to see the original FBI documents. Both House and Senate investigating committees have demanded that the Justice Department allow them to see the Flynn 302, but have so far been refused.

In the memo, Flynn’s lawyers say that he made a “serious error in judgment” in the interview. Citing Flynn’s distinguished 30-plus year record of service in the U.S. Army, they ask the judge to go along with special counsel Robert Mueller’s recommendation that Flynn be spared any time in prison.

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