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The Case of Azerbaijan: How ‘Democrats’ Sacrifice Principles for Oil

The US foreign policy has invariably made it clear to the countries beyond the NATO or its nuclear club that a long and prosperous ruling is up to their loyalty to America’s strategic interests.

Ion Todescu

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An information society is a thing of curiosity. A human has always been dependent on the public opinion turning eventually into a milk-and-water illusion nourished by the mass media. Be it a federal TV channel or a popular blogger – opinion makers have successfully replaced people’s brains. And it’s a sin to take no advantage of it.

One of the US foreign policy’s priorities is promotion of democratic ideals as well as rule of humanism and human rights. Under slogans like these the US has launched numerous military operations (to make a long story short, invasions); its “color revolutions” have overthrown many a government, but none of those loyal to the USA. However, it concerns the most impudent “dictators” alone who refused to sell out their countries’ natural resources to American transnational corporations.

The US foreign policy has invariably made it clear to the countries beyond the NATO or its nuclear club that a long and prosperous ruling is up to their loyalty to America’s strategic interests. The leaders of the countries mentioned have come to a very important conclusion: convincing the US government of your loyalty shall entitle you to do whatever you may choose as long as everything across the ocean is up and running.

This is the pattern adhered by Ilham Aliev, President of Azerbaijan – an extremely oil-rich state in the South Caucasus. This guy who literally inherited power from his father Heydar Aliev in 2003, has been reigning supreme for years. It’s interesting to know the state machine of Azerbaijan fused with a criminal group headed by the president himself quite a long time ago.

Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and the US Department of State’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (the latter is a most peculiar) report that the situation around these very rights protection in Azerbaijan leaves much to be desired. Everything to be avoided like the plague is there to be seen: media censorship, free speech violations, political prisoners, executions, and tortures.

The Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) has named Azerbaijani President Aliyev Corruption’s “Person of the Year”; what is more, he is featured in the scandalous Panama Papers. But every cloud has a silver lining, and Aliyev’s only positive trait is that he’s anything but anti-Semite. Probably that must have been the reason for Israeli Ambassador in Azerbaijan Rafael Harpaz to claim that Azerbaijani tolerance was to be followed by the rest of the world. Lord forbid, Mr. Harpaz!

The White House, OSCE and other organizations have been criticizing Baku for disastrous human rights situation for years. One might think it would far sooner have brought the US Special Forces to the Caspian Sea shore to finally have the poor Caucasian Republic democratized. And overseas oil companies, in turn, would have laid their hands on Caspian oil fields as it already took place in Iraq, for instance.

An old dictator is a wise dictator though. Aliyev knew perfectly well that one of his throne legs was unsteady. The President of Azerbaijan thinking over an upcoming arrival of “the American democracy” realized it would be much more profitable to buy confidence by proving Azerbaijani liking for the West and its loyalty.

Lobbying is quite legal and wide-spread activity in this country. Many go-ahead people rich in high-level ties are busy bringing together businessmen and senators, magnates and congressmen, trade union chiefs and parties’ leaders. They search and hire journalists ready to write an article or two for popular news outlets at a moderate charge. Most esteemed and respected top-dogs are invited to federal TV channels on their order to give out their expert judgment on whichever the occurrence may be. You think it’s hoax altogether, don’t you? No, it’s honest business. The public opinion is legally bought from those who are able enough to generate it.

Aliyev made up his mind not to put all his eggs in one basket and hired several lobbying companies at a time through different channels. The largest and most powerful ones were Tool Shed Group, Roberti Global, DCI Group and attention! – Podesta Group. True, they consented to have Aliyev’s chair concreted for a far from modest consideration.

Let us have a look at the list of politicians financed by DCI Group AZ LLC, a department specially established for Azerbaijani Affairs. Below are the people to do the spadework aimed at projecting an image of the “right Azerbaijan” for Aliyev’s funds: Claire McCaskill, Mitt Romney, Deb Fisher, etc.

There is an extract from DCI Group AZ foreign agent registration statement, i.e. it’s posed as a company acting at an order of a foreign principal. The extract pictures politicians and their financial “backing” allocated from Azerbaijani tranches.

One of the most effective ways to have an opposition formed and an intelligence network set up (which is in great use by the US) is starting a non-government organization under the auspices of the State Department and its subsidiary commissions. Their operations and reports determine largely the US foreign policy. And what did Aliyev do? He just bribed NGO heads and their supervisors in Washington, D.C. Hats off to Mr. Aliyev, the Mafiosi dictator is smart enough to have done what the other less enterprising oil Republic leaders overlooked. They might have found it too disgusting to do the same though.

And now let’s watch a new reality being created as soon as pros get down to business. The story culminated in the US. Helsinki Commission sitting. The organization is designed to promote human rights and all the other humanistic values and is liable to account to the Bureau for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor and then higher to the State Department. Many outstanding people took part in the sitting mentioned, among them Ben Cardin (Democratic Senator from Maryland), Tom O.Melia (the then Bureau head and current USAID Assistant Administrator), Eric Rubin (ex-Chief of the European and Eurasian Affairs Bureau), Miriam Lanskoy (Senior Director for Russia and Eurasia at the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), and Brenda Shaffer (a visiting professor at Georgetown University’s Center for Russia, Eurasia and Eastern Europe Studies).

In a nutshell, all those most esteemed persons differently described the well-living of Azerbaijanis. Had they really heard of human rights before, they still failed to follow them as we have earlier seen. Who were those people? Ms. Miriam Lanskoy is quite noteworthy for her spending quite much time in the city of Baku; as far as Nagorno-Karabakh developments (the disputed border region between Armenia and Azerbaijan) are concerned she would always back Illham Aliyev, with her statements often contradicting official observers’ reports. Brenda Shaffer cooperates with a number of analytical centers close to the US government and above all holds the office of Adviser to the President of SOCAR for Strategic Affairs. The oil company of Azerbaijan is known to be co-headed by Mr. Aliyev. The information about it is provided here.

SOCAR turns out be one of the biggest US financial donors.  The above-stated DCI Group, Roberti White and Tool Shed Group have won contracts through the SOCAR’s leadership.

As indicated below, Roberti White LLC is registered as a foreign agent subsidized by SOCAR.

Additionally, SOCAR was responsible for an all-expense-paid trip to Azerbaijan for US Congressmen

Despite this financial channel’s huge capacities it is by far not the only one. Aliyev has set a diplomatic field in motion to faster have his goals achieved. The Ambassador of Republic of Azerbaijan to the United States Elin Suleymanov and his wife Lala Abdurahmanova are absolutely confident in doing what they’re supposed to do. It was Mr. Suleymanov himself, who signed a collaboration agreement with Podesta Group. There is a Podesta CEO Kimberley Fritts’s signature to be seen on the paper; however he’s got another principal ally in America’s political establishment rather than her.

Have a look at the amendment to Azerbaijani government-Podesta Group agreement:

Podesta Group is considered one of the most influential lobbying companies. It was founded in 1988 by brothers John and Tony Podesta.  Kimberley Fritts and Tony Podesta are reported to be the CEO and the Chairman respectively. John is de jure no company’s member since he left his office for the high politics, de facto is he a grey cardinal of the Democratic Party, while Tony’s doing big business. The two together have succeeded in setting up an effective system designed for financial elite and the Democratic leadership cooperation.

It’s worth noting, that Suleymanov is in most friendly relations  with the Podesta brothers, his wife is fairly well-received not only by prominent Democrats, but also by Hilary Clinton’s entourage; that is especially topical on the threshold of the election to come.   

Suffice it to mention, that Lala Abdurahmanova throws receptions on a regular basis, with Capricia Marshall (the Atlantic Council member, ex-States Department employee, Hillary Clinton’s confidante) and Debbie Dingel (Michigan congresswoman and a vocal supporter of Hillary Clinton) being frequent guests. John Podesta, a great buddy of Ambassador Suleymanov, chairs the very presidential campaign of Ex-State Secretary. It would be interesting to find out whether Mr. Aliyev makes his own plans on Clinton’s presidency in this connection.

To sum up, I’d like to present you a couple of diagrams for simpler understanding.

There is an outline of Azerbaijan’s lobbying activity financing in the USA.

The companies pictured are the way to buy expert opinions, politicians’ ayes and noes as well to have favorable decisions promoted. They are essentially Aliyev’s attorneys in the eyes of American political elite.

The second diagram depicts in minute detail the way the Democratic Party opens out its arms to oil money inflow and appears to clean forget their principles allegedly to be topped in the list. It’s not as easy as falling off the log to make the diagram out; nevertheless, I would ask you to spend a little time of yours and obtain further insight into it. It’s bound to be a sort of novelty for you.

As to power race, people would always take any steps imaginable going back on their promises and dishonoring the ideals they used believe in. Hillary Clinton is not apparently a book to take a page out. She seems to be able to abandon the genuine goals which the Democratic Party has been intent on throughout the history. And it doesn’t matter in the least that the election campaign is being paid out by a mere dictator neglecting human rights in his own country. Who cares?  It is all solely for the election victory! 

At the end of the day John Podesta has promised to open UFO X-files to the public domain given Hillary comes through with flying colors. Perhaps he has no trouble disclosing the truth about extraterrestrials which is not the case with the US-oil magnates’ cooperation.

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Russia and China Are Containing the US to Reshape the World Order

China and Russia are leading this historic transition while being careful to avoid direct war with the United States.

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Authored by Federico Pieraccini via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


Fortunately the world today is very different from that of 2003, Washington’s decrees are less effective in determining the world order. But in spite of this new, more balanced division of power amongst several powers, Washington appears ever more aggressive towards allies and enemies alike, regardless of which US president is in office.

China and Russia are leading this historic transition while being careful to avoid direct war with the United States. To succeed in this endeavor, they use a hybrid strategy involving diplomacy, military support to allies, and economic guarantees to countries under Washington’s attack.

The United States considers the whole planet its playground. Its military and political doctrine is based on the concept of liberal hegemony, as explained by political scientist John Mearsheimer. This imperialistic attitude has, over time, created a coordinated and semi-official front of countries resisting this liberal hegemony. The recent events in Venezuela indicate why cooperation between these counter-hegemonic countries is essential to accelerating the transition from a unipolar to a multipolar reality, where the damage US imperialism is able to bring about is diminished.

Moscow and Beijing lead the world by hindering Washington

Moscow and Beijing, following a complex relationship from the period of the Cold War, have managed to achieve a confluence of interests in their grand objectives over the coming years. The understanding they have come to mainly revolves around stemming the chaos Washington has unleashed on the world.

The guiding principle of the US military-intelligence apparatus is that if a country cannot be controlled (such as Iraq following the 2003 invasion), then it has to be destroyed in order to save it from falling into Sino-Russian camp. This is what the United States has attempted to do with Syria, and what it intends to do with Venezuela.

The Middle East is an area that has drawn global attention for some time, with Washington clearly interested in supporting its Israeli and Saudi allies in the region. Israel pursues a foreign policy aimed at dismantling the Iranian and Syrian states. Saudi Arabia also pursues a similar strategy against Iran and Syria, in addition to fueling a rift within the Arab world stemming from its differences with Qatar.

The foreign-policy decisions of Israel and Saudi Arabia have been supported by Washington for decades, for two very specific reasons: the influence of the Israel lobby in the US, and the need to ensure that Saudi Arabia and the OPEC countries sell oil in US dollars, thereby preserving the role of the US dollar as the global reserve currency.

The US dollar remaining the global reserve currency is essential to Washington being able to maintain her role as superpower and is crucial to her hybrid strategy against her geopolitical rivals. Sanctions are a good example of how Washington uses the global financial and economic system, based on the US dollar, as a weapon against her enemies. In the case of the Middle East, Iran is the main target, with sanctions aimed at preventing the Islamic Republic from trading on foreign banking systems. Washington has vetoed Syria’s ability to procure contracts to reconstruct the country, with European companies being threatened that they risk no longer being able to work in the US if they accept to work in Syria.

Beijing and Moscow have a clear diplomatic strategy, jointly rejecting countless motions advanced by the US, the UK and France at the United Nations Security Council condemning Iran and Syria. On the military front, Russia continues her presence in Syria. China’s economic efforts, although not yet fully visible in Syria and Iran, will be the essential part of reviving these countries destroyed by years of war inflicted by Washington and her allies.

China and Russia’s containment strategy in the Middle East aims to defend Syria and Iran diplomatically using international law, something that is continuously ridden roughshod over by the US and her regional allies. Russia’s military action has been crucial to curbing and defeating the inhuman aggression launched against Syria, and has also drawn a red line that Israel cannot cross in its efforts to attack Iran. The defeat of the United States in Syria has created an encouraging precedent for the rest of the world. Washington has been forced to abandon the original plans to getting rid of Assad.

Syria will be remembered in the future as the beginning of the multipolar revolution, whereby the United States was contained in military-conventional terms as a result of the coordinated actions of China and Russia.

China’s economic contribution provides for such urgent needs as the supply of food, government loans, and medicines to countries under Washington’s economic siege. So long as the global financial system remains anchored to the US dollar, Washington remains able to cause a lot of pain to countries refusing to obey her diktats.

The effectiveness of economic sanctions varies from country to country. The Russian Federation used sanctions imposed by the West as an impetus to obtain a complete, or almost autonomous, refinancing of its main foreign debt, as well as to producing at home what had previously been imported from abroad. Russia’s long-term strategy is to open up to China and other Asian countries as the main market for imports and exports, reducing contacts with the Europeans if countries like France and Germany continue in their hostility towards the Russian Federation.

Thanks to Chinese investments, together with planned projects like the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the hegemony of the US dollar is under threat in the medium to long term. The Chinese initiatives in the fields of infrastructure, energy, rail, road and technology connections among dozens of countries, added to the continuing need for oil, will drive ever-increasing consumption of oil in Asia that is currently paid for in US dollars.

Moscow is in a privileged position, enjoying good relations with all the major producers of oil and LNG, from Qatar to Saudi Arabia, and including Iran, Venezuela and Nigeria. Moscow’s good relations with Riyadh are ultimately aimed at the creation of an OPEC+ arrangement that includes Russia.

Particular attention should be given to the situation in Venezuela, one of the most important countries in OPEC. Riyadh sent to Caracas in recent weeks a tanker carrying two million barrels of oil, and Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) has taken a neutral stance regarding Venezuela, maintaining a predictable balance between Washington and Caracas.

These joint initiatives, led by Moscow and Beijing, are aimed at reducing the use of the US dollar by countries that are involved in the BRI and adhere to the OPEC+ format. This diversification away from the US dollar, to cover financial transactions between countries involving investment, oil and LNG, will see the progressive abandonment of the US dollar as a result of agreements that increasingly do away with the dollar.

For the moment, Riyadh does not seem intent on losing US military protection. But recent events to do with Khashoggi, as well as the failure to list Saudi Aramco on the New York or London stock exchanges, have severely undermined the confidence of the Saudi royal family in her American allies. The meeting between Putin and MBS at the G20 in Bueno Aires seemed to signal a clear message to Washington as well as the future of the US dollar.

Moscow and Beijing’s military, economic and diplomatic efforts see their culmination in the Astana process. Turkey is one of the principle countries behind the aggression against Syria; but Moscow and Tehran have incorporated it into the process of containing the regional chaos spawned by the United States. Thanks to timely agreements in Syria known as “deconfliction zones”, Damascus has advanced, city by city, to clear the country of the terrorists financed by Washington, Riyadh and Ankara.

Qatar, an economic guarantor of Turkey, which in return offers military protection to Doha, is also moving away from the Israeli-Saudi camp as a result of Sino-Russian efforts in the energy, diplomatic and military fields. Doha’s move has also been because of the fratricidal diplomatic-economic war launched by Riyadh against Doha, being yet another example of the contagious effect of the chaos created by Washington, especially on US allies Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Washington loses military influence in the region thanks to the presence of Moscow, and this leads traditional US allies like Turkey and Qatar to gravitate towards a field composed essentially of the countries opposed to Washington.

Washington’s military and diplomatic defeat in the region will in the long run make it possible to change the economic structure of the Middle East. A multipolar reality will prevail, where regional powers like Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Iran will feel compelled to interact economically with the whole Eurasian continent as part of the Belt and Road Initiative.

The basic principle for Moscow and Beijing is the use of military, economic and diplomatic means to contain the United States in its unceasing drive to kill, steal and destroy.

From the Middle East to Asia

Beijing has focussed in Asia on the diplomatic field, facilitating talks between North and South Korea, accelerating the internal dialogue on the peninsula, thereby excluding external actors like the United States (who only have the intention of sabotaging the talks). Beijing’s military component has also played an important role, although never used directly as the Russian Federation did in Syria. Washington’s options vis-a-vis the Korean peninsular were strongly limited by the fact that bordering the DPRK were huge nuclear and conventional forces, that is to say, the deterrence offered by Russia and China. The combined military power of the DPRK, Russia and China made any hypothetical invasion and bombing of Pyongyang an impractical option for the United States.

As in the past, the economic lifeline extended to Pyongyang by Moscow and Beijing proved to be decisive in limiting the effects of the embargo and the complete financial war that Washington had declared on North Korea. Beijing and Moscow’s skilled diplomatic work with Seoul produced an effect similar to that of Turkey in the Middle East, with South Korea slowly seeming to drift towards the multipolar world offered by Russia and China, with important economic implications and prospects for unification of the peninsula.

Russia and China – through a combination of playing a clever game of diplomacy, military deterrence, and offering to the Korean peninsula the prospect of economic investment through the BRI – have managed to frustrate Washington’s efforts to unleash chaos on their borders via the Korean peninsula.

The United States seems to be losing its imperialistic mojo most significantly in Asia and the Middle East, not only militarily but also diplomatically and economically.

The situation is different in Europe and Venezuela, two geographical areas where Washington still enjoys greater geopolitical weight than in Asia and the Middle East. In both cases, the effectiveness of the two Sino-Russian resistance – in military, economic and diplomatic terms – is more limited, for different reasons. This situation, in line with the principle of America First and the return to the Monroe doctrine, will be the subject of the next article.

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Nearly assassinated by his own fighters, al-Baghdadi and his caliphate on its last legs (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 178.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss how the Islamic State has been rapidly losing territory over the last two years in Syria and Iraq, due to efforts by Russian and Syrian forces, as well as the US and their Kurdish allies.

The jihadist caliphate has lost most of its forces and resources, leading it to go into hiding.

Al-Masdar News is reporting that Daesh* leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was reportedly attacked in a village near Hajin by some of the terrorist organisation’s foreign fighters in an apparent coup attempt, The Guardian reported, citing anonymous intelligence sources. Baghdadi reportedly survived the alleged coup attempt, with his bodyguards taking him into hiding in the nearby desert.

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Meanwhile European leaders are shocked at US President Trump’s ISIS ultimatum. Via Zerohedge

After President Trump’s provocative tweets on Sunday wherein he urged European countries to “take back” and prosecute some 800 ISIS foreign fighters as US forces withdraw from Syria, or else “we will be forced to release them,” the message has been met with shock, confusion and indifference in Europe. Trump had warned the terrorists could subsequently “permeate Europe”.

Possibly the most pathetic and somewhat ironic response came from Denmark, where a spokesperson for Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen said Copenhagen won’t take back Danish Islamic State foreign fighters to stand trial in the country, according to the German Press Agency DPA“We are talking about the most dangerous people in the world. We should not take them back,” the spokesperson stressed, and added that the war in Syria is ongoing, making the US president’s statement premature.

Germany’s response was also interesting, given a government official framed ISIS fighters’ ability to return as a “right”.  A spokeswoman for Germany’s interior ministry said, “In principle, all German citizens and those suspected of having fought for so-called Islamic State have the right to return.” She even added that German ISIS fighters have “consular access” — as if the terrorists would walk right up to some embassy window in Turkey or Beirut!

Noting that the Iraqi government has also of late contacted Germany to transport foreign fighters to their home country for trial, she added, “But in Syria, the German government cannot guarantee legal and consular duties for jailed German citizens due to the armed conflict there.”

France, for its part, has already agreed to repatriate over 130 French Islamic State members as part of a deal reached in January with US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) who are holding them, after which they will go through the French legal system. However, French Secretary of State Laurent Nuñez still insisted that the west’s Kurdish allies would never merely let ISIS terrorists walk out their battlefield prisons free.

“It’s the Kurds who hold them and we have every confidence in their ability to keep them,” Nuñez told French broadcaster BFMTV on Sunday. “Anyway, if these individuals return to the national territory, they all have ongoing judicial proceedings, they will all be put on trial, and incarcerated,” he said, in comments which appeared to leave it up to others to make happen.

And representing the Belgian government, Justice Minister Koen Geens charged Trump with blindsiding his European allies with the demand, which included Trump underscoring that it is “time for others to step up and do the job” before it’s too late. “It would have been nice for friendly nations to have these kinds of questions raised through the usual diplomatic channels rather than a tweet in the middle of the night,” Geens said during a broadcast interview on Sunday, according to the AFP.

Meanwhile in the UK the issue has recently become politically explosive as debate over so-called British jihadist bride Shamima Begum continues. The now 19-year old joined Islamic State in 2015 after fleeing the UK when she was just 15. She’s now given birth in a Syrian refugee camp and is demanding safe return to Britain for fear that she and her child could die in the camp, so near the war zone.

Conservatives in Britain, such as Interior Minister Sajid Javid have argued that “dangerous individuals” coming back to the UK from battlefields in the Middle East should be stripped of their British citizenship. He said this option has already been “so far exercises more than 100 times,” otherwise he also advocates prosecution of apprehended returning suspects “regardless of their age and gender.”

Identified as French nationals fighting within ISIS’ ranks, via Khaama press news agency

The UN has estimated that in total up to 42,000 foreign fighters traveled to Iraq and Syria to join IS — which appears a very conservative estimate — and which includes about 900 from Germany and 850 from Britain.

SDF leaders have previously complained about the “lack the capacity” for mass incarceration of ISIS terrorists and the inability to have proper battlefield trials for them. Recent estimates have put the number of ISIS militants in US-SDF battlefield jails at over 1000, though Trump put the number at 800 in his tweet.

However, even once they do return to Europe it’s unclear the extent to which they’ll be properly prosecuted and locked in prison by European authorities.

For example, another fresh controversy that lately erupted in Britain involved a 29-year old UK woman who traveled to join ISIS, and was convicted for membership in a terrorist group upon her return to Britain. She was jailed on a six year sentence in 2016, but is now already walking free a mere less than three years after her conviction.

 

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‘End of free speech’: Maffick CEO, host slam Facebook’s unprovoked ‘censorship’ after CNN report

This is because of the political content that challenges the US wars. It is absolutely an act of censorship.

RT

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Via RT…


Facebook blocking several pages operated by Maffick Media is nothing short of outright censorship, the company’s CEO Anissa Naouai said, after a US-funded think tank pointed them out to CNN for a ‘hit-piece’.

The actions of the social media giant, which suspended the accounts of In the Now, Soapbox, Back Then and Waste-Ed last Friday without providing any explanation or even contacting the company that ran the pages, is nothing but a simple attempt to get rid of dissenting voices critical of Washington’s policies, Naouai told RT.

It is blatant censorship. What else can you call it?

Unexplained ban

The ban came literally out of the blue even though Maffick did not violate any existing Facebook regulations. “There is no rule that you have to post anything about your funding or personal funding. No one does it, not any of the US-sponsored outlets,” Naouai said. However, that was apparently the stated reason for the blocking as a Facebook spokesperson said the social media giant wanted the pages to become more transparent by disclosing their funding and “Russian affiliations.”

Facebook never contacted Maffick Media directly, though. In fact, it did not even answer the company’s emails and stayed conspicuously silent about the ways that would allow the accounts to be reinstated. “We have not heard a word from Facebook and it has been over three days now,” Naouai said.

The whole situation makes one think that the suspension is in fact connected to the pages’ popularity as well as their critical stance towards US policies, the Maffick CEO said. “We have hosts that talk about things that are not allowed to talk about on other networks like CNN,” she explained.

“If a video that says that gets hundreds of thousands of views on a page that has millions of views, people [in Washington] start to notice that and they get upset. I believe that is why we were targeted: because of our success and because of, as CNN said, high quality of our videos,” Naouai added.

The Maffick CEO also assumed that a recent piece on the US-sponsored coup attempt in Venezuela might have become a trigger for this drastic measure taken by Facebook. “There is a very … divisive and obnoxious policy taking place right now against Venezuela,” she said, “we do not know if this was the segment that triggered [the suspension] but the timing is convenient.”

“When someone calls out what is happening in Venezuela as a blatant coup it ruffles the feathers of think tanks that spent millions if not billions of dollars to persuade [the audience otherwise] and lobby their interests.”

‘Interrogation’ by CNN

Some details of this whole case may indeed seem odd. Just about an hour after the pages were blocked, CNN published a report on the issue as if they broke the news. “CNN knew that we were going to be blocked before we did,” Naouai said, explaining that, when she found out her company’s pages were suspended, CNN had already published its piece.

Weeks before the blocking, CNN sought to interview some freelancers working with Maffick in an apparent attempt to “dig up some dirt,” Rania Khalek, the American host of Soapbox – one of the video shows Maffick ran on Facebook – recalled.

When the company’s leadership “got wind of it” and offered CNN an interview, it all ended up with a 45-minute “interrogation” loaded with “unethical” questions that “almost any other media organization would even think to answer.”

It felt like a police interrogation: very invasive questions about Maffick and our editorial policies. It was clear that they were doing a hit-piece.

“A CNN journalist repeatedly asked me about my political viewpoints. He was in complete disbelief that I have editorial control over my scripts. He could not understand how it was possible,” Khalek, who was one of those, who gave the interview to CNN, said.

Maffick Media assumed that CNN might in fact pressure Facebook into blocking the accounts. “It is a very competitive market existing in a very political atmosphere that is toxic right now in the US,” Naouai said.

Loophole for state censorship?

CNN itself admits in its piece that it did not just stumble upon the Facebook pages in question independently. Instead, this issue was brought to its attention by the Alliance for Securing Democracy – a part of the German Marshall Fund. This fund is a think tank, which is financed by the US and German governments and has such people as Michael Morell, the former CIA deputy head, and Jacob Sullivan, former Vice President Joe Biden’s top security aide, on its advisory board.

Now, CNN, which stepped on a slippery slope by scrutinizing other media outlets’ funding, had to go to some extraordinary lengths to persuade its audience that the Alliance for Securing Democracy “does not receive any funding” from the German Marshall Fund, while still being a part of it at the same time. However, all these facts just added a new layer to the story.

“You have this US-funded think tank prompting CNN to pressure Facebook to ban our pages. That is an act of censorship,”Khalek said. She thinks the whole scheme was used to circumvent the First Amendment banning the US authorities from directly censoring free speech. “So, they use a middleman to pressure private companies to censor us,” she added, calling it a “legal loophole.”

‘Beginning of an end’

Regardless of who is really behind the ploy, Facebook banning some media pages without any explanation sets a tremendously dangerous precedent, Maffick Media believes. “We had a verified page, which had billions of views, just disappear from online without any kind of comment, any kind of requirement, without breaking any rules. That is unprecedented,” Naouai said.

You have Facebook dictating what people can and cannot see and judging what is good content and bad content. And it is all based on the accusations and criticism coming from a government-funded outlet. If Facebook does it to us, it can do it to anyone,” Khalek warned.

This is because of the political content that challenges the US wars. It is absolutely an act of censorship.

The US establishment apparently seeks to suppress the outlets that “offer a platform to alternative voices that can speak out against US wars and the corporate control over our government in a way that you just do not hear in our corporate media,” the Soapbox host believes.

However, if the social media giant and the likes of it will just continue to randomly block media resources while having “no grounds” to do so, it could create very serious problems for society, Naouai believes.

That would be the beginning of an end of free speech.

 

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